Eddie Izzard runs half-marathon to open £2 million Bexhill Museum revamp

By John Dowling | 27 November 2009
  • News
  • Archived article
A photo of a man in running gear opening a museum in a ribbon-cutting ceremony

Comedian Eddie Izzard made a dramatic arrival at the re-opening of Bexhill Museum in East Sussex this week.

As guest of honour at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on November 25 to mark the completion of the ten-year, £2 million-plus building extension campaign he had been due to arrive in style in a pre-war Rolls Royce New Phantom II.

Instead, he opted to ignore the rain and run the half-marathon course from Eastbourne, where he was due to appear that evening before a sell-out audience as part of his UK tour.

Demonstrating the fitness that allowed him to complete 43 marathons for Comic Relief last summer, he launched into the kind of verbal flow that has endeared him to millions without even pausing for breath.

Bexhill-on-Sea's new-look museum was a "brilliant" effort, he told crowds lining the town's Egerton Road.

Having been brought up in the town in an era when there was little for young people to do, he applauded the efforts of the Society of Bexhill Museums in providing a vibrant, active, new centre.

Izzard, 47, currently needs to keep running in order to wind down after his highly athletic summer.

But before cutting the ribbon he confessed that the main reason for choosing to do a half-marathon run-up to the ceremony was to attract as much media attention as possible for the hugely-improved museum.

A photo of a vintage car in a museum

(Above) The new-look Museum features an impressive display of vintage vehicles

The extension has been made possible by grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund, building owners Rother District Council and the Biffa Awards scheme.

Curator Julian Porter, the Museum's only paid officer, had earlier given local dignitaries and key council figures a guided tour.

The Museum, which was opened in 1914, has had one of its original exhibition galleries re-named the Sargent Gallery in memory of Henry Sargent, who devoted his entire working life as curator.

The former Bexhill Museum of Costume and Social History collection amassed by Christine Portch and Isobel Overton has been incorporated into the first of two new galleries.

A new motor heritage gallery stars three cars featuring three methods of propulsion and unique links to Bexhill.

A replica of the steam car on which M Leon Serpollet won the 1902 Bexhill Motor Trials marks the first international motorsport event in Britain.

The Volta electric car was built by students of St Richard's Catholic College in the town and holds a class world land speed record which, due to the classification system changing since, can never be bettered.

Veteran craftsmen from the former Elva car company, founded by Bexhillian Frank Nichols, have restored a Mark III Elva sports-racer, built in the town in 1958.

"It's the first time I've had Eddie Izzard as my warm-up act," quipped Jane Weeks, regional manager of the Heritage Lottery Fund, speaking at the opening.

She said volunteers, many of whom had often worked into the small hours to arrange the galleries, had done "a great job".

"The museum is great," Izzard told Culture24. "Museums are the stuff of history. I do believe that if you study history you can look at your future in a positive light.

"I love it. They have a shop here, which I love. Most of all, it is great for young people. They can bring their finds in here and fire their interest."

Izzard's first job was running a council kiosk in Egerton Park, behind the Museum.

"Bexhill needs tourism," he argued. “People now go to Spain and the sun. A museum like this is one of the ways of attracting them to the South coast."

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned: