It is approximately a year and a half ago that I was approached by Barnsley Museums to put together a playlist of Barnsley music for their sound archives in the then yet-to-be-opened Experience Barnsley Museum. I submitted around forty acts from the last fifty years, including folk, post-punk, rock and as well as handful of current acts writing songs inspired by Barnsley. Of those submitted, the curators selected acts such as Danse Society, Seventh Son, Kate Rusby, Kathryn Roberts, and current acts like The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican and The Black Lamps.
I am now lucky enough to work in the museum with a great team of curators, archivists, enablers and a great visitor services team. After a first incredibly successful year and a number of awards commending our community engagement and offer to families, it is time for a refresh.
Over Monday 14th and Tuesday 15th July, the museum galleries closed it doors while important changes were made to its collections and displays. These included changes and additions to signage for accessibility; new dementia friendly signs, new exhibit descriptions and re-ordering, new directional signs etc. A number of new objects have been introduced including new additions to the ‘Home’ and ‘Work’ displays cases. These included new Co-op exhibits in the work case and new objects in the childhood area, including as DJ Simon Hirst’s Fisherprice Record Player. A new ‘community case’ has been installed which currently features personal objects selected by pupils at Birdwell Priary School; with a new community group being selected to curate the case at regular intervals.
A new interactive exhibition case has been introduced into the children’s Making History Gallery.
Something I have been working on, alongside Michael Hardy from Barnsley Archives, is changes and additions to the Barnsley Performs area of the museum. This area includes the Barnsley Performs wall of images of notable Barnsley entertainers, a handset which plays music often used by children and an a room with touch screen that plays archived film and music videos.
We have added to the Barnsley Performs wall new images including Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman with Jamie Roberts & Katriona Gilmore at the BBC 2013 Folk Awards, where both siblings were nominated for Best Duo Award (Kathryn and Sean won), The Hurriers who are a special contemporary Punk who spread an important message in their music, by telling stories of a socially historical importance (a similarity that punk music shares with folk music). The two generations that make up the band even played Glastonbury this year. We have also added Richard Tolson, the Barnsley College music tutor who influenced so many and who sadly passed away last year, John Duttine – an actor famed for his roles in Heartbeat, Dalziel & Pascoe and Dr Who, and Jack Jackson – one of the nation’s first DJ’s and the person to coin the phrase ‘Aunty Beeb’.Of the seven tracks playing on the handset, two of them stay – Agadoo and Kathryn Robert’s Ballad of Andy Jacobs, as they have proved to be the most popular. The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican’s Tarn Life is updated to a version recorded last year with more instrumentation. We have added Groove Armada’s At The River, which will be recognisable to many adults but the aquatic sounds will hopefully create an interesting response in children. I’ll bet you didn’t know that Groove Armada originated from Barnsley did you? And that one half of the dance group played in Grimethorpe Colliery band! Also added for their for their use of local accents and local story’s is String Theory’s song The Bunny Run and local unaccompanied folk singer Ray Padgett and his version of the traditional South Riding song, The Barnsley Anthem.
On our interactive ‘infopods’, new additions include among others Barnsley folk legend Dave Burland – playing for over 50 years and still going strong, 1980s Anarcho-punks Passion Killers, 90s alt-metal titans Sunlounger, Barnsley’s favourite punk-poet Mark Jackson and his Criminal Waste of Talent, Rolo Tomassi – a band originating in Barnsley and a chaotic video recorded in The Old No7, and also an amazing song by one of our current finest exports, Exit Calm.
Alongside them is music by a relatively unknown name in Barnsley. Hannah Peel was brought up in our town and went to Kingstone School. She played in numerous brass bands as a child and also attended folk clubs. That music influences her own electronica and of that she produces in her various collaborations with synth legends John Foxx and ex-Verve/Blur/The Good The Bad & The Queen musician Simon Tong.
We also have a fantastic documentary filmed in the 1980s about the recording of post-punk band The Second Coming’s The Return EP. This is a great film that includes interviews with the band, live footage from the Centenary Rooms in The Civic, an interview with John Peel, Casa Disco and also band t-shirt printing over at Vortex. It’s the perfect snapshot of Barnsley’s thriving music scene of the 1980s. Each video or audio entry will be accompanied by full artist biography and a selection of images old and new.
We have lots more music and song included, whether it be folk, punk, metal, brass, rock or indie, and we will now continue to add to the collection and change them over time too. Michael is also adding a whole new collection of vintage and cine films of Barnsley throughout the years for people to sit and watch with family.
Barnsley Performs is just one area of the vast collections housed in Experience Barnsley, the majority of which have been kindly donated by Barnsley residents old and new. Thos ‘social’ museum and its collections have been built by Barnsley folk for Barnsley folk. It shows visitors to the museum the town’s history as told through the personal stories of its people and so has a lot to offer the community.
So if you haven’t been in yet, pop in and say hi. And if you have already, then do it again and see something new.
Keep up to date with Experience Barnsley Museum & Discovery Centre by visiting their facebook page, twitter and website.