Exploring Stockport's Staircase House: Culture24 on the road for Museums at Night 2009

By Ben Miller in Stockport | 16 May 2009
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a photo of a woman holding a bottle of beer

Beer was just one of the things on the menu in Stockport for Museums at Night. Photo © Ben Miller / Culture24

Culture24 reporters have been hitting the road this weekend to report on Museums at Night events right across the UK. Here Ben Miller looks at how historic venues across Stockport joined together for some delightfully different events for Museums at Night 2009.

"I didn't realise this were 'ere, yer know?" said a woman at the back of one of the groups touring Stockport's Staircase House, eyeing up the vast range of local cheeses on offer in the final room. "I won't have too many, they look proper fattening. Shall we ask for Brie?"

a timber framed building

Photo © Ben Miller / Culture24

It wasn't the last of the temptations on offer during the hour-long soiree, which dished out sweetbread, ale and a selection of other intoxications from bygone centuries .

A grey, damp evening can reflect unkindly on the streets of Stockport, but this excursion was a credit to the Cheshire town's heritage, opened by a magic lantern show in the historic covered market opposite the House.

Voiced by a local enthusiast brimming with eccentric enthusiasm, the presentation included illustrations of sites around the town and occasional bursts into song from the camp raconteur behind him, produced in an engaging and witty style which made use of a genuine projector from the 1920s.

a costumed interpreter dressed as domestic servant before a fireplace

Photo © Ben Miller / Culture24

He received a hearty round of applause from a full marquee for his troubles, before escorting the gang over the road for a glimpse inside the House, full of low ceilings, ancient old brick walls, carved fireplaces and window panes straight out of old black and white films on Channel 4 in the afternoon.

a photo of a cheese stall

Photo © Ben Miller / Culture24

Organiser Gillian Sherwood heralded the event as a huge success for the site, having begun the festivities on Thursday (May 14 2009) and overcome predictable Powerpoint problems and the slings and arrows of oncoming rain along the way.

a photo of two women

Photo © Ben Miller / Culture24

Feedback - how was it for you?

a photo of a man with short shaved red hair and goatee

Brendan Short, 44, from Romley: "It was really good and very interesting, certainly. I saw the information come through the door, then had a look at it on the internet. I also thought that doing it across two sites was excellent, and perhaps it could be expanded to take in other ones, because we don't hear a lot about Stockport's past. I liked the performance part, with all the stories and myths. I'd definitely come again next year."

a photo of a smiling woman with glasses and a green scarfe

Linda Paice, 63, from Stockport: "I'm a great supporter of this place, but I never thought they'd be able to do something like this after the fire. The performance was absolutely excellent - I love storytelling. I've been to things like this here before and it shows the place in a different way when you open it after hours, so I look forward to more events like this. It felt great from the minute I walked in here, and that was before I'd even got on to the food and beer."

a photo of a smiling woman with shoulder length hair

Marcia Kovacs, 44, from Edgeley: "I particularly liked the idea of doing something specifically for adults, because often when I go to museums I have to take the children. That's part of the reason why I came, and I think it would be great to see venues putting on more events like this. I thought the magic lantern could have been a lot scarier. But generally I thought it was a brilliant idea."

Over 150 museums and galleries across the UK took part in Museums at Night 2009, which ran from May 15 - May 17. We hope next year's event will be even bigger and better, so watch out for news of Museums at Night 2010 on Culture24!

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:

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