On my first day in residence I began a grand tour that’ll take more than a week. Shown around by Jemma from the marketing office, we covered the Royal Pavilion itself, Brighton Museum and some departments tucked away in the Old Courthouse. Still to go, in the next few days I’ll get over to Hove, up to the Booth Museum and out to the mysterious Preston Manor.
Tantalising first glimpses of places to explore and people to talk with in coming weeks. Those extraordinary tunnels underneath the Royal Pavilion. The gardener’s hut and the restorer’s workshops. The amazing old organ in the Music Room, on the public tour route. Balconies and secret spaces. The security team’s CCTV room with its wall of cameras, like something out of Homeland. In Brighton Museum, the newly opened café and brand new Chilled to the Bone: Ice Age Sussex exhibition. So many projects still in planning.
Everywhere, even in the most ‘normal’ administrative offices, artifacts spill into staff areas to remind us where we are: the PA to the Head of Museums works each day, stared down by a large stuffed penguin. And people have crazily diverse jobs here; from contract negotiators to bring in the film and TV companies; to graphic designers and press officers; from academic researchers unearthing new history; to conservationists who restore and repair priceless historic artifacts. From community outreach and education experts; to the 24 hour security team.
I sat in on my first management meeting; where senior staff talked nearly three years into the future, wrangling the costs and logistics of a proposed exhibition that won’t appear until late in 2015. My head was spinning.
The most powerful first impression I’m left with is that these extreme contrasts of person, trade, office and studio, work with remarkably, unexpectedly consistent focus. A heady vision unites them. The same few days I began this residency, in west London they have been closing down the BBC’s iconic Television Centre. The other night, watching a bit of that TV coverage and reading friends in that industry chat about it online, I sensed a parallel: a similarity in how a broad church of skills and passions can unite in long-term purpose, particularly in the service of filling up huge iconic architectural and cultural space: the blend of profane and sacred (sublime and ridiculous) exists all in one space.
Not that I’m saying the Royal Pavilion is The Voice or Only Fools And Horses in the same room or anything, but… well, actually I am: the BIBA 60s fashion retrospective is upstairs from a room full of ancient Egypt.
Maybe the romance will wear off. It always does, right? But for now I’ll revel in it. It makes easier some nervy first days trying to remember a hundred new names and job titles. I came away on Friday heartened and optimistic but a bit over-awed by the sheer scale of both task and opportunity. A couple of notes before we dive headlong into this six months of blogging: it should be obvious, I’m nobody’s pr mouthpiece (except my own!) so it goes without saying that the opinions expressed on this blog will be mine, not the ‘official’ view of the Royal Pavilion and Museums. In an emergency, they can edit me if I write something stupid or give away a secret.
But if I love something, it’s really me who loves it. And if I get something wrong, or if you disagree with something I’ve said, please feel very welcome to comment, or to engage me directly by emailing. I’m nice, I promise. firstname.lastname@example.org gets me directly.
There is also a new Tumblr blog feed on which I’ll post a brand new photo of something from somewhere around the five sites, each and every day. Here’s the page:
On most Thursdays from 3pm I’ll be in the Brighton Museum Café for a couple of hours, till it closes, writing things up. So if you’re around, please come say hello. In fact I’ll be there more often than that because the café is very nice – and I’ll tweet that I’m around.
And finally, here’s my personal Twitter feed: @christt (please note this contains unrelated opinionated tweeting, adult language and content which some readers may find offensive)
The game is afoot…
Chris T-T, Blogger in Residence