Alex Hartley inspires county for Museums at Night with Great Warwickshire Show and Tell

By Rebecca Hone | 18 May 2014

From ancient rocks to dancing binmen, Alex Hartley united Warwickshire for Museums at Night

The sun shone and hundred of people gathered to show and tell for a day emanating an overwhelming sense of community in Warwick.

From the moment Market Hall Museum applied to the Connect10 competition to win Alex Hartley, there was huge community support, there was huge local support: in January, members of the Warwickshire Museums team stood in Market Square collecting votes in a Victoria ballot box. The response from the local community was pivotal in winning the public vote.

There were 70 stallholders, all enthused by the chance to socialise with their fellow participants. Beekeepers, cheese makers, weavers, dancing binmen, ceramicists, geologist, archaeologists and biologists all played their part, as well as travelling players, the Royal Shakespeare Company and music, theatre and film from Live & Local.

Walking up Warwick High Street towards Market Hall Museum, bunting overhead, the excitement started to build. Signs were dotted all about town. Growing closer, the buzz of the stalls could be heard and suddenly the striped red and white canopies of market stalls appeared.

Hartley's stall, painting Warwickshire-inspired placards, was in full swing, with men, women and children involved. I Heart Warwick, Save the Hedgehog and Smile, go Outside were a few of the slogans being readied for a procession around the town later in the day.

Tread the Boards, a group of travelling thespians, shared their stories of past plays and current productions, while next door, a group of the Lovely Market Hall Museum staff had chosen some of the more unusual artefacts from their collection for their cabinet of curiosities, including a sweet-making machine, a bird’s skeleton and historic tools.

Music blared from the binmen, parading energetically down the aisles of the stalls. Commissions for workshops and community projects were also discussed.

A special tour of the disused Warwick County Court took part, insightfully passing through the cells and down into the dungeons.

Rugby Art Gallery and Museum represented their touring exhibitions, permanent collection and learning programme, offering learning boxes filled with Egyptian and Roman replicas from their collection. Geologists spoke of Pompeii, Iceland and the rocks upon which Warwickshire was built.

After wishing Compton Verney a very happy 10th Birthday and adding to their bunting world record challenge, I tried my hand at painting a placard. Under the pressure of having a wonderful artist beside me who was barely half my height but evidently held double my talent, I let my placard melt into the mass of them all.

Jon Radley, the curator of natural sciences, said the event had been "the biggest, and in my opinion the best, thing we've ever done." The museum's planned 18-month closure means it could be repeated to great effect if funding can be raised.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Hundreds of events took place for Museums at Night between May 15-17 2014. Visit and follow the festival on Twitter@MuseumsAtNight.

More Museums at Night 2014 reviews:

Bad tours go good as Janette Parris leads Museums at Night at The Cardiff Story

Dancing and giant lace as Cecil Sharp House counts Yan Tan Tethera for Museums at Night

Grayson Perry proves unmissable in Museums at Night visit to Yorkshire Museum
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