The clock struck 7 on 30th March 2011, and Arriving at the Palace, shadows beginning to dance alongside me, I wander through the grounds alone, with the tingle of excitement that you get when you know you probably shouldn’t be here in dark at this hour…
Well, I had the privilege of attending the Museums at Night Launch at Kensington Palace! It was a very different event to last year’s launch. You see Palace on the Invite, and immediately everyone dresses very prim and proper, there was a lot of VIP looking people milling around, you could tell the Culture 24 team and the museum people a mile off from the bursts of colour coming from their fabulous outfits ( I also finally got to meet Ruth in real life – digital life fine, real life we have been missing each other at every museumy digitaly event for years).
After some excellent speeches (the highlight was Lauren Laverne the ambassador for Museums at Night 2011) and canapés we had a chance to explore the Enchanted Palace exhibition. I was very excited by this, I have been meaning to go for ages, following on from a presentation I had seen about the enhanced interpretation. Thank you to the fabulous Rosie, who if she ever decides to leave Culture 24, would make an excellent tour guide! The ideas behind the Enchanted Palace are very compelling, the building works from the £12 million renovation project are shaking the walls and have unleashed echos of the past to tell secret stories about the lives of Kensington’s princesses. It is mysterious and atmospheric, and it night it really sets you senses tingling. Walking through it is a very immersive; you are drawn in to the emotions of the princesses. My favourite room, is also the most chilling, you can feel the sadness and sorrow, surrounded by tear catchers and the most beautiful dress: Aminaka Wilmont’s Dress of Tears inspired by Queen Mary II’s Bedchamber .
The whole exhibition really is enchanting, particularly seeing it at night, you really get the sense that there are secrets seaping out of the walls and dancing around the palace in the dark. Your imagination starts to play tricks on you; you find foot prints, see silhouettes and really start to question what is real and what is not. It is very surreal, particularly interacting with performers from WILDWORKS Theatre, who taught me and Rosie how to curtsy (I wasn’t very good at it) and told us that the Palace clock stopped at 5.52 before leaving us to hunt down Peter the Wild boy. I also learnt how to make a paper rose, which are strewn around the Palace, surrounding the rooms with some melancholy Victoriana.
The Enchanted Palace was a brilliant place to hold the Museums at Night launch as it encapsulates what Museums at Night is all about; doing something different, unusual, daring. Bringing aspects of Museums to life that people don’t normally get to experience. A chance to do the unexpected, to heighten experiences and really make something special. I can’t thank Culture 24 enough for inviting me along, and for creating something really extraordinary. Long may it continue.
Museums at Night weekend (Friday 13th – Sunday 15th May)