Recently I’ve been lucky enough to do some storytelling at The Cuming Museum. It’s one of London’s strangest council-run museums; like the Horniman in Forest Hill, it’s based on the world-collection of a Victorian adventurer. Unlike the Horniman, it is urban. In fact it’s in the shadow of my favourite concrete leviathan, the Aylesbury Estate (see photo).
The collection is tiny, but fascinating. Especially worth checking are the folklore objects of Edward Lovett, who was a Victorian eccentric with a collecting mania (He had dozens of mangles that he kept on the stairs when his suburban garden was full.) Lovett was the chief cashier of a large City bank, but at night “he walked through the slums of Edwardian London, buying strange objects: amber charms and lucky left-handed whelk shells from sailors and barrow men”. He published this research in ‘Magic in Modern London’ in 1925.
The museum always has innovative exhibitions, putting its tiny budget to creative uses. In the past it hosted a show of Austin Osman Spare’s extraordinary paintings and drawings, the largest showcase of his work in a public museum since his death in 1956.
Anyway, my storytelling was for the museum’s latest temporary exhibition, Walking in my Shoes, about shoes and the journeys we make in them. Not only does the museum have a very unusual collection of footwear, but they have linked it interestingly to the journeys we make and created an innovative programme of events including cross-generational story-building, felt shoe-making and an amazing photographic project. There’s still time if you want to take part.