Posts Tagged ‘museums’

I’m so excited. I’ve just signed up for a National Art Pass, thanks to a tip off from my niece. She has a degree in fine art and is striving towards an illustrious career as an illustrator.  (As I’m keen on promoting creativity within the family, you can check out her work here). When she first mentioned it to me I thought it was probably something only available to students or recent graduates, but no, it’s for everyone so I’m passing on the message. The Art Fund is the national fundraising charity for art and by supporting them in this way I am indirectly responsible for helping museums and galleries across the country add to their collections.

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For around £40 a year, this little piece of plastic allows me free entry to over two hundred galleries, castles and historic houses all over the country as well as half price admission to major exhibitions. I shall recoup my money in no time! My welcome pack arrived over the weekend and includes a comprehensive guide-book to all the participating venues.

With the school summer holiday fast approaching I am filling my August calendar with days out inspired by the contents of the Art Pass guide-book. I had already earmarked the Lowry at Tate Britain so while I’m there I’ll pop in to see the Patrick Caulfield – double whammy.

There is one place that I went to last year to which I would return time and again if it wasn’t such a horrible drive from home. Henry Moore’s home at Perry Green in Hertfordshire is one of the most interesting places I have ever visited and is worth a post in its own right, so watch this space. As it is covered by my Art Pass I don’t think that making the drive through the M25 road works is a good enough excuse not to go… and there’s a jolly nice pub next door. There we go – I can talk myself into anything.

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Don’t get me wrong – the tapestry is fabulous – all 230 feet of it and well worth a visit. (Especially if it’s raining, which, believe me, it will. Normandy wouldn’t be Normandy without the rain – it’s what makes it so beautiful and green). Displayed under glass in the Grand old Seminary in the heart of Bayeux, the tapestry depicts, in scenes woven on linen, the Norman invasion of Britain and has survived almost intact for nine centuries. The French do museums and exhibitions with typical style: there is a good audio guide to accompany the tour which explains events scene by scene.

Bayeux Cathedral from the British cemetery

Bayeux Cathedral from the British cemetery

However, if you cross over the river Aure, towards the cathedral (also worth a look), and head south you will come to the British Military cemetery: a complete juxtaposition of historical events within a ten minute walk.

Bayeux was the first town liberated by the allies on June 7, 1944. Over 4 500 commonwealth soldiers are buried in the cemetery; a further 1800 are commemorated on a memorial opposite the regimented rows of white gravestones. Along the frieze of this memorial is an inscription in Latin which translates as

“We, once conquered by William, have now set free the Conqueror’s native land.”

The grounds are kept in immaculate order by the war graves commission; all the white crosses have floral tributes. It is a sobering experience to walk along the rows, read the ages of the dead and contrast that with our own offspring, who at around the same age, are enjoying their gap years.

Opposite the cemetery is the Musée Memorial de la Bataille de Normandie. This is probably one of the best places for a comprehensive overview of the Normandy invasion. Easy to understand, with an archive film in both French and English, there are displays of military vehicles, maps and strategies, uniforms, and lastly, a room dedicated to the work of the photo-journalist.

Outside, next to the museum, is a small, peaceful garden, dedicated to foreign correspondents all over the world, killed in the course of duty since 1944. Called the Reporter’s Memorial, it contains over 2000 names, chiselled by decade onto large white remembrance slabs. New names are added every year and, since 1994, the town has hosted the Bayeux-Calvados prize for war-correspondents.

The Reporter's Memorial Garden, Bayeux

The Reporter’s Memorial Garden, Bayeux

Wander along the winding path between the upright steles and some names may be familiar: Robert Capa, famous for bringing images of the allies arriving on Omaha beach and who died, aged 40, in Vietnam; Georgi Markov, the Bulgarian dissident who worked for the BBC and who was mysteriously and fatally stabbed in the thigh near Waterloo Bridge in 1978; the Irish cameraman, Simon  Cumbers, shot in Riyadh in 2004 – the same attack that left the BBC reporter, Frank Gardner, in a wheelchair.  Journalists are often regarded with the same disdain afforded to estate agents or tax collectors: those that go out to report global combat should be set apart; they are not given military training, they put themselves in mortal danger to send the rest of us news and pictures that we are at liberty to switch off in the comfort of our living rooms. The Reporter’s Memorial in Bayeux is a fitting tribute.

Robert Capa's image, capturing the allied advance on Omaha Beach

Robert Capa’s image, capturing the allied advance on Omaha Beach

As Robert Capa said, “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”

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