Last night I hosted a reception for Museums at Night, a weekend event when museums, galleries, libraries, galleries and heritage sites across the country stay open during the evenings for special events. I adoremuseums, I spent hours in the Natural History Museum as a child, bewitched, of course, by the diplodocus skeleton in the main hall. In fact, One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing is still the children’s movie that I most often attempt to persuade my own children to watch. Usually by pleading that it was where I went for my seventh birthday party – long enough ago for there to have been an interval for ice-creams.
Unlike the movie, activities in Museums at Night, unsurprisingly, do not involve stealing the diplodocus. Instead they range from sleepovers in Mongolian yurts (strangely tempting), to food-tastings, operas, kids’ events and ghost tours (it might be my writer’s imagination, but I scream louder than the children). Anyhow, all was inspired by an inevitably sophisticated-sounding French ‘Nuit Blanche’ a decade ago, when cultural institutions across France stayed open allnight long.
All night long…The guests I was hosting all worked in arts organisations and had come from every corner of the country. The reception was due to start at six and end a couple of hours later, but these were the very people who could stay up all night working without flagging. What would happen, I wondered slightly mischieviously, if they simply didn’t go?
It was certainly the most imaginative reception I have hosted. The food was eighteenth century and a good quarter of the people there were obviously warming up for the big weekend by circulating the room as storytellers about the history of various buildings, art collections and archives. They were joined by artists Simon Roberts, and the jellymongering duo Bompass and Parr, who ended the evening with quivering trays of domed, tipped, jellies that looked entirely inappropriate for family entertainment but were, I was assured, jellies of The Albert Hall. Does anyone remember Paul Jennings’ magical children’s book The Great Jelly of London, when the entire Albert Hall is used as a giant jelly mold?
Anyhow, yes, the party ended – at least for the moment. As the assembly of curators (what should a collective noun for curators be?) tripped down the stairs and out into the street I had a feeling that their nuit blanche was far from over…
Museums at Night is over the weekend of 18-20 May. See - http://www.culture24.org.uk/places+to+go/museums+at+night