Tudor Chair's Tale Wins 24 Hour Museum/MGM Arts Writing Prize

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 28 October 2005
Shows a photo of a high-backed, throne-like Elizabethan chair.

The chair that started it all... Elizabethan chair, c.1620. The Geffrye Museum.

The 24 Hour Museum (24 HM) is pleased to announce the winner of the 2005 24 HM/Museums and Galleries Month Arts Writing Prize.

During May this year more than 25 student journalists and 24 HM volunteers visited exhibitions, events and workshops all over the country organised as part of the annual celebration of our thousands of institutions, Museums and Galleries Month.

Helen Barrett, a newly-trained journalist living in London, submitted two pieces one of which was unanimously chosen by the judges as the winning entry. She now receives £500 for her troubles and a free English Heritage Tour Through Time.

"Entering the writing prize was great discipline, because for student journalists it's important to just get out there and write as much as possible," said Helen.

"There is lots of scope for interviewing, with museum staff and artists willing to talk, and it's a chance to find a different angle to stories."

a photographic portrait of a woman with shoulder-length hair

The winner of the 2005 24 Hour Museum/ Museums and Galleries Month Arts Writing Prize, Helen Barrett.

Helen has been contributing stories to the 24 HM for some time and has covered an extraordinary range of museum and gallery stories from the revealing of a restored medieval bone store to Bruce Nauman filling of Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall with voices.

"Students often struggle to get access to stories - sometimes just persuading people to talk to you is hard enough," she added, "but when you're writing for the 24 Hour Museum it always persuades them."

Helen submitted two articles to the competition, both about events at museums in the capital. For one she attended a particularly emotive talk on the love tokens left behind by mothers at the Foundling Museum.

But it was her story about her successful attempt to win over her six-year old son to the charms of a storytelling session about a Tudor chair at the Geffrye Museum that won the day.

The competition was judged by Maev Kennedy, Arts and Heritage Correspondent at The Guardian, and Kellie Blake, Head of Events at English Heritage, both of whom picked Helen’s piece as their favourite.

Shows a photo of a young boy sitting on the floor, wearing a mobcap, next to a woman.

The challenge was on... could the Geffrye Museum storyteller spark Jude's interest in chairs? © Helen Barrett.

Maev described the account as "endearing". She explained: "It read as entertainingly as a short story, but also did an excellent job of conveying the character of the event and indeed the museum."

Helen’s work was selected from a shortlist of five, which included pieces on an exhibition of work by sculptor William Turnbull at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the Brunel Engine House Museum in London and a contemporary art show at The Lowry in Salford.

Former 24 HM Renaissance Student Journalist for the north west region Jade Wright’s article about Phantasmagoria, an installation commissioned to celebrate The Lowry’s fifth anniversary, took the runner-up spot.

"Every year our competition entrants come up with the goods and surprise us with their creativity, skills and some really good stories," said 24 HM Editor Jon Pratty.

"At the 24 HM we rely on our volunteer writers to keep us up to date with what's going on in museums and galleries all over the country. They keep the site fresh, but also gain some valuable work experience, and of course a byline."

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