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About the Art: Linda Litchfield

The Friends’ Art Exhibition is held every year in our Conservatory and showcases paintings, prints, textile art and sculptures from South London’s artist community. 

The exhibition is a platform for new and established local artists and all proceeds contribute to Horniman Museum and Gardens projects.

This year, we are talking to some of the artists involved in the exhibition to find out more about their work. Here, we speak to textiles artist Linda Litchfield.

What is the story behind your artwork?

I like to work with slow processes, dyeing fabric and threads with plants and stitching by hand. I often incorporate found textiles which carry their own narrative of past use. The work grows and develops slowly in my own hands as I add to it.

What inspires you in day-to-day life?

Plants and the colour that can be extracted from and then used to dye fabric and thread. The feel of used and worn textiles. The slow accretion of texture that can be achieved with stitch. The organic, the ramshackle, the dilapidated, the incomplete.

  • Linda Litchfield, Linda Litchfield
    , Linda Litchfield

Why do you think it is important to support local artists?

Art enhances the quality and enjoyment of life of everyone. Artists devote their time to creating art. Local artists are part of your community and by living and working where they do, they improve your area. By supporting local artists, you are encouraging and assisting them to continue in practice and thus benefitting them, your community and yourself.

  • Linda Litchfield, Linda Litchfield
    , Linda Litchfield

About the Art: Peter Forder

The Friends’ Art Exhibition is held in our Conservatory and showcases paintings, prints, textile art and sculptures from South London’s artist community. 

The exhibition is a platform for new and established local artists, with all proceeds contribute to Horniman Museum and Gardens projects.

This year, we are talking to some of the artists involved in the exhibition to find out more about their work. Here, we speak to Peter Forder about his work in oil on canvas.

What is the story behind your artwork?

Bitterns: I was very excited to see bitterns at Minsmere in Suffolk. They are big birds (there is a stuffed one in the Horniman) and look rather odd, like primeval killing machines; they seem slow and heavy in flight. I’ve tried to suggest these things in the picture.

  • Peter Forder artwork, Peter Forder
    , Peter Forder

The fox and the moon: I wanted this to be quite an elemental picture: a wild animal out hunting, alone with the moon up in Space. I also like the way a gibbous moon seems to hang in the sky like an egg.

  • Peter Forder artwork, Peter Forder
    , Peter Forder

Allotment in June: I hope this picture, done at Grove Park, suggests the heavy lushness of a June afternoon on an allotment. Some people say not to use black in painting, but I use it like anything.

  • Peter Forder artwork, Peter Forder
    , Peter Forder

Spring flowers with quinces: I am inspired by the flower pieces of British painter Sir Cedric Morris (1889-1981), and I think this picture has something of a period feel. It contains tulips, narcissi, bluebells, cornflowers and woad.

  • Peter Forder artwork, Peter Forder
    , Peter Forder

Tulips with quinces and broccoli: I like the rich colours of tulips and the crazy shapes of the parrot ones. I grow them on the allotment - an easy early crop.

  • Peter Forder artwork, Peter Forder
    , Peter Forder

What inspires you in day-to-day life?

Gardens and allotments, wildlife and nature, paintings and ceramics.

Why do you think it is important to support local artists?

Arts are about people expressing themselves and hopefully touching a chord with others. This doesn’t have to be done in a grand gallery (though I like grand galleries too!).

I would like to see more people have original works of art on their walls - with the textures and brush strokes made by the artist - rather than mass reproductions. So they need to be able to see local work, and afford to buy it.

Finally, like most people, I live in the suburbs, and I suppose my pictures concern suburban things, which I think are neglected in favour of the urban, the rural and the maritime. So let’s fly the flag for art in the suburbs!

About the Art: Eleonor Rollen

The Friends’ Art Exhibition is held every year in our beautiful Conservatory. It showcases paintings, prints, textile art and sculptures from South London’s artist community.

The exhibition is a platform for new and established local artists. All proceeds contribute to Horniman Museum and Gardens projects.

This year, we are talking to some of the artists involved in the exhibition to find out more about their work. Here, we speak to textile artist Eleonor Rollen.

  • Eleonor Rollen, Eleonor Rollen
    , Eleonor Rollen

What's the story behind your work?

I enjoy creating artwork using hand embroidery. I am especially inspired by domestic architecture.

I paint the background fabric and use applique, added stitchery and foliage forms to give texture and an extra dimension to my work.

My work developed when I combined stitchery with handmade felt. Now I also experiment adding stitched to paper lamination.

  • Eleonor Rollen, Eleonor Rollen
    , Eleonor Rollen

What inspires you in day to day life?

I love to attend good art and textiles exhibitions and share ideas and knowledge with other textiles artists. I am also inspired by seeing flowers and trees blooming in parks and gardens. I enjoy travelling and my home country, Sweden, gives me inspiration.

  • Eleonor Rollen, Eleonor Rollen
    , Eleonor Rollen

Why do you think it is important to support local artists?

It is vital to support local artists to help them to develop their work. Recognition is important for their development. It is important to give them a platform to display and sell their art in the community.

  • Eleonor Rollen, Eleonor Rollen
    , Eleonor Rollen

You can see Eleonor's work in the Friends' Art Exhibition on 17-18 June.

Spring Welly Walk

This spring, a group of young explorers and their families walked the length of the Horniman Nature Trail.

They were accompanied by nature guide Shayna Soong and armed with binoculars and a Signs of Spring spotter sheet.

Only one of the families had visited the trail before, so this was a real walk on the wild side for most of the group.

The Horniman Nature Trail lies in an area that once formed part of the so-called Great North Wood. Other fragments of this wood are found in this area at One Tree Hill and Sydenham Hill Woods.

In 1865 a railway line was built to bring visitors to Crystal Palace. This was the London, Chatham and Dover line. Almost all trees and vegetation were cleared to make the railway. A railway bridge used to cross London Road here to the Lordship Lane station.

On our walk, we looked for historical clues and relics that remind us of its history as a railway line, such as the bumpy clinker underfoot.

We also looked for signs of spring. The challenge was to keep an eye out for blossom, flowers, birds and pond life and fill out a spotter sheet. Once the sheet had been filled out, they could shout out BINGO (but not too loud as to disturb the wildlife!).

We used a parabolic microphone to listen to birdsong which brought the lively chirping and tweeting so much closer.

A male newt from the pond was met with shrieks of delight as it showed off its breeding spots and crests. We also looked at the bat boxes and bird boxes along the route.

What will the Summer Welly Walk bring?  Come along on Saturday 8th July to find out!

We also have two exciting Bat Walks coming up, one for families on the 11 August and one for adults on the 18 August. Come with us to explore these exciting creatures. 

Stories of Ganesha

Dotted Line Theatre tell us about 'Stories of Ganesha', their storytelling performance happening on 5 April as part of our Big Wednesday

‘The show includes three stories about Ganesha, 'How he came to have the head of an elephant' and two others (I don't want to ruin the surprise about which ones they are). They are introduced by a storyteller guide and a surprise cheeky accomplice, who has his own agenda.

One of our challenges has been that there are many different versions of each story, and who's to say which version is the definitive one. So we've tried to balance presenting a clear narrative with providing some alternative details.

  • Stories of Ganesha, A sketch for part of the design.
    A sketch for part of the design.

The show is lyrical and visually beautiful and there is some comedy too. I took my inspiration from the stories themselves and thought about the best way of using visual language to present both the drama within the stories and the different layers of meaning.

We are using a fusion of styles, blending together some Classical Indian dance with shadow puppetry, rod puppetry and some object puppetry using objects from the Museum collection.’

  • Stories of Ganesha, A test of a shadow puppet for the show.
    A test of a shadow puppet for the show.

About Dotted Line Theatre

The performers are: dancer Maanasa Visweswaran, puppeteers Jum Faruq, Ajjaz Awad and Almudena Calvo Adalia.

Dotted Line Theatre was formed in 2012 by Rachel Warr, a theatre director, writer and puppeteer. Dotted Line Theatre create original pieces with a playful quality and a strong visual style. Rachel's work includes productions at The Barbican Centre, Little Angel Theatre, New Wolsey Theatre, Underbelly, and festivals in Prague, Berlin, France and Singapore. This will be our third production for the Horniman Museum and Gardens and we are delighted to be back.

A new full-length show!

Last summer we performed a piece called ‘Stories on a String’ at the Horniman as part of their Festival of Brasil.

The show was inspired by Brazilian Literatura de Cordel (literally translated as 'stories on string'). These are booklets with woodblock printed covers, sharing stories and news to the masses, sold at markets from carts. Literatura de Cordel are also an oral tradition performed through music and poetry. In our show, these wood block pictures came to life as puppets to tell the story of a young girl from the city on a quest for her grandmother through the Amazon forest. With music and song from Rachel Hayter (a composer/ musician who studied and specialises in music of Brazil) and the talented Camilo Menjura.

It was a 25-minute piece and we are going to be developing it into a full-length show that we can tour, for which we have some funding from the Arts Council England and some support in kind from the Little Angel Theatre. We are also fundraising to make up the rest of our financial target. See our Kickstarter campaign for more information.

Storytelling in a flash

This week is National Storytelling Week (28 Jan - 4 Feb 2017), a time to celebrate tales and yarns from the around the world. 

Stories come in all shapes and forms. They might appear when you have a conversation with a friend. They can be conjured up when cosying down with a new book. They can be told around campfires. They can even be created on Twitter.

Wait.... Twitter? With only 140 characters? 

Yes! Flash fiction, twitterature, 140-character stories, six-word-stories. Whatever you want to call it, telling a story in just a few words is a test in brevity and ingenuity.

Short stories have a long history from ancient times right through to the modern era and they are often seen as powerful things as they often hint at a larger story.

  • Japanese Fairy Tales, Japanese Fairy Tales in the Horniman Library
    Japanese Fairy Tales in the Horniman Library

To put the idea of short stories to the test, we asked children's author Margaret Bateson-Hill to come up with just six words that describe traditional fairy tales and nursery rhymes. 

Margaret rose to the challenge brilliantly. Here are her six-word fairytales:

Sleeping Beauty:

Centenarian princess receives kiss of life

Snow White:

Red blood, red apple, red shoes


Lost glass slipper is perfect match

Frog Prince

Frog in golden ball kiss swap

The Princess and the Pea:

Pea'd off at loss of sleep

 Humpty Dumpty:

Humpty cracks up over wall fall

Can you think of any six-word-stories? Share yours with us on Twitter

Book now for a special storytelling workshop in our Hands on Base this Sunday with Margaret Bateson-Hill, where we will help families discover their inner writing talents with inspiration from our Handling Collection. 

Silver Sunday Celebration at the Horniman

Michael, from Community Connections shares his thoughts about Silver Sunday - an annual day of fun and free activities for older people across the UK. 

'We are a group (through Age Concern UK) who met regularly at the Horniman. We take on projects concerning the local area.

Our latest project is called Roots and Branches. It explores the areas in South London where some of our group members live. This covers the area in and around Lewisham, Penge, Forest Hill, Sydenham, Norwood, Anerley, etc. We currently have a small exhibition in the Education Centre at the Horniman.

We decided to celebrate Silver Sunday by opening our research to everybody visiting the Museum. You could listen to our stories by computer or add written memories to our Memory Wall, making up a collage of pictures and writings. We also had a large blown up area map on the wall where people could identify where they live and could attach a thought or picture of their memory to it.

With games and a craft table, the afternoon was a great success for all age groups.

Hope to see you all next year.'

  • Arts and Crafts on local memory, Children and Adults make arts and crafts about local memory.
    Children and Adults make arts and crafts about local memory.

Mysterious matters at the Magic Late

On 13 October 2016, we opened our doors after hours for an evening of magic, sorcery and folklore. 

We had our whole English charm collection on display in the Hands On Base where visitors could see them up close and talk to Tom, our Anthropology Curator about them. 

We were also taking photos of the modern charms our visitors brought with them. We plan on using these charms for a specially-curated display in our new World Gallery

Also in the Hands On Base, we had a fantastic talk about Magic Wands from Philip Carr Gomm, Chosen Chief of The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. We learnt about A.W. Rowlett, the old English wizard or ‘cunning man’ who collected many of our charms. We also experienced a specially commissioned work by artist Martha McGuinn and sound installation by artist and researcher Rachel Emily Taylor

In Gallery Square, we had a moving performance of 'She Who Walks' by Denise Rowe which paid honor to the women connected to the land who were persecuted during the witch hunts of the Middle Ages. 

We enjoyed watching the short film 'The Kingdom of Paul Nash' with live music to accompany it in our Conservatory, which was organised by the Cabinet of Living Cinema.

Our Museum was overrun by a wandering pigeon who led people to the Natural History Gallery where there was a specially-comissioned opera installation by Gestalt Arts called 'Feet', written from the point of view of a rock dove who's feet are one of the charms in our collection. 

The Natural History Gallery also saw our Deputy Natural History Keeper Emma-Louise Nicholls take visitors on a tour of the Gallery, pointing out links our specimens have with all things mysterious and magical.

Outside in the Gardens, Annie Horniman (aka Oliva Armstrong) was leading candlelit tours to the Bandstand where she told the tale of her life, the history of the Horniman and the occult. 

See some of the pictures our visitors' shared from the night

Afghani kite-making at the museum

This summer we held a kite-making workshop in association with one of our community partners, Southwark Day Centre for Asylum Seekers. The leader of our workshop, Ahmadzia, tells us more about this fun event. 

My name is Ahmadzia and I am a kite maker from Afghanistan. On the 27 July I had the pleasure of being invited to lead a workshop on kite-making at the Horniman.

It was a beautiful summers day and the wind was great for kite flying. I was happy to see that many people came to the workshop, both children and adults.

At the start of the workshop I gave a quick introduction to the making of kites and then everyone had a chance to make their own. We used lots of different coloured paper to make each kite unique and personal.

We then took our kites to the top of the hill in the beautiful Horniman Gardens and all flew them together.

Kite making and flying is a traditional pastime in Afghanistan, where I was born. Kite fliers of all ages come together to display the kites they have made and sometimes even compete against each other by trying to cut down each other's kites.

To see more of me making and flying a kite watch this short film.

GUDIPARAN from Nima Shahmalekpur on Vimeo.

Who is Saci Perere?

Local performance group Whippersnappers go in search of the Brazilian folklore character of Saci Perere before their show at our Festival of Brasil.

‘Saci Perere is one of the most well-known mythical characters of Brazil. We have been busy speaking to our Brazilian friends and family and asking them what they know about Saci Perere.

Everyone seems to know what Saci looks like. They all say he wears a red cap, red shorts and has one leg. Some people say he lost his leg when he escaped from his slave master in the 18th century and others say he lost his leg when playing capoeira, but most people say Saci Perere has one leg and that is just how he is.

Legend has it that if you grab Saci’s red cap you are granted a wish, but the cap’s smell is so bad, you may never rid yourself of it.

Nobody has ever seen Saki Perere but they have all heard stories about how mischievous he is! Saci is a trickster and is blamed for all the things that go wrong in life – he burns the food and hides children’s toys.

We travelled to Ghana in May where we asked local tailors to stitch some of the backdrops for our performances and had a local puppeteer, Yevo a Togalese, create a Saci mask and puppet.

We were interested in the influence that enslaved African people had over the appearance of Saci Perere in Brazil. There are similarities between the African folklore character of Anancy (a trickster spider) and Saci Perere.

The performance

Our performance at the Horniman’s Festival of Brasil is an original theatre piece entitled “Cade O Saci Perere?” (Where is Saci Perere?)

It will draw inspiration from Brazilian handcraft. Brazilian handcraft is influenced by indigenous, African and Portuguese culture and enriched with the European and Asian migration’s touch, creating unique and colourful art.

Some of our decorations are based on the Brazilian ‘fuxico’ technique. Fuxico is where a piece of fabric which is cut into a circle, the edges are sewn and then pulled into the centre to create a round decoration. The name ‘fuxico’ is old slang for gossip as traditionally women would get together to sew these and gossip.

The show is also inspired by Brazilian ‘Folguedos’. Folguedos are traditional folk celebrations that feature live music, dance and theatrical performances some of which are performed on the streets around Brazil. Some Folguedos have religious roots and have over time been modified with new choreographies, costumes and masks.

Our performance will feature live music from Alba Cabral who will be playing Berimbau, pandeiro, surdo, tamborin, reco-reco (guiros), caxixis (shakers), the guitar, ukulele and kalimba.

Our show will be suitable for all the family and will have a sensory content to ensure it is accessible to children and adults with special needs. If you want to make sure you get a comfy seat bring your own cushion as we are expecting a lot of people. The word is spreading that Saci perere is coming to Forest Hill so if you live locally watch out he doesn’t turn your milk sour or put salt in your dough!'

See Whippersnappers’ performances of Cade O Saci Perere on Wednesday 24 August and on Sunday 4 September.

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