Unexpected Conversations

I’m loving the unexpected conversations I get into, during Thursday afternoons spent sitting here in the café. You probably won’t be surprised to know that I don’t get much actual writing done, even though the original (theoretical) plan was to use this slot to write up the week’s stuff. I’ve ended up writing mostly at home (where I eat too much and get distracted by Netflix or music-making) and sometimes on other weekdays in different Royal Pavilion & Museums cafés.

On the Thursdays though, I fall into conversations. Even when I decamped for a couple of weeks downstairs to the Dome foyer bar (because there was temporarily no wifi up here) it was the same; a collection of interesting people from out of nowhere and fascinating, bonkers topics.

I’m tapping away at the laptop when this dude comes up in a dark blue three-cornered hat, like a comedy Napoleon. It’s a modern approximation, not a replica. And in every other way he’s dressed normally, jeans and a tshirt. In fact, it was a British Sea Power band tshirt, I think, yet he’s got this funny-looking hat on and he’s smiling down at me. Then what we talk about is why the Royal Pavilion wasn’t built facing out to sea and what that means about George IV’s disinterest in nature, versus people.

No, nothing to do with his hat, which neither of us mention at any point.

At the launch event for the Murder In The Manor interactive website (of which more soon – click that link for joy if you have a spare 45 minutes and like mystery stories) I was intending to speak with the young writers from Little Green Pig who contributed the short stories to the project (I still will, hopefully), yet I ended up mostly in conversation with a woman doing a thesis on bodybuilding, who has now become obsessed with it; diving into the very sub culture she was studying.

You’d also be surprised (and I am very impressed) by the number of museum staff who can hold their own discussing American underground punk and metal.

And I loved chatting with Aurella Yussuf (@rellativity on Twitter), who was here working on the World Stories exhibition. We were supposed to discuss blogging itself but that got hijacked by a messy free-range conversation about race and gender in art history. Aurella has just launched her own blog and it’s terrific, well worth checking out her piece on the Turner nominees.

I’ve been interviewed several times about the residency. Three guys including my publisher friend Jonathan (@jonathas on Twitter) rocked up last week with a state-of-the-art movie quality camera and didn’t mind what I said, so I got to waffle on about the tunnel, standing right above it in the Pavilion Gardens.

I’m learning the surprising degree to which people take such different responses away from the museums. The extent to which they can be enchanted by one exhibition, or one group of objects, while completely overlooking (or actively disliking) other sections – and allow that to become a pattern. Like (and this really happens) when someone has been a Brighton Museum regular for years, then goes into the pottery section for the first time and realises those stories are just as interesting as, say, the fashion things they normally enjoy. They’ve spent years walking through one section and not another. I do it too, almost always ignoring one or two sections that I think I won’t find interesting. I’m almost certainly wrong.

I like that. I like seeing long-time friends, or long-time Brighton & Hove residents, walk into this space they’ve not visited before. They’ll always be back soon. And so I like the Thursday afternoon routine becoming the glue that holds together the variety and fluidity of the rest of the week. Especially if you’ve never been in Brighton Museum before, come say hello.

Chris T-T


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