I paid a visit to the museum on Friday 21st May. I am a member and had been a couple of times between lockdowns last year. Although most of it is the same, the main exhibition space upstairs changes periodically, and it is worth popping back on a regular basis to see what the current exhibition is. I will touch on the current exhibition (at the time) later.
Although I have been before, Helen hadn’t. Well, not recently, the last time she had gone to the Crawley Museum it had been at Goffs Park. Even with having been before, I find there is always something else I notice that I didn’t on the previous visit.
Wandering around, the museum is deceptive in that it initially looks quite small, but the way the space is set up on both floors, and how the exhibits are laid out, it crams a lot in and it seems to be a lot bigger than you first think. The ground floor deals with the history of The Tree, both the building the museum is housed in, and the actual tree it took its name from, and then takes Crawley history from the Victorian era to the modern day.
It has some of the original war memorial plaques (others having been stolen), that are replicated on the entrance to the Memorial Gardens from County mall. With my love of churches I am drawn to the Chapel sign, and of course to old street signs.
The wall around the stairs up to the first floor have a number of great photographs by Jeff Pitcher, where he is holding an old photograph in the foreground of the modern view of the same spot.
Upstairs, beyond the main exhibition hall, in a series of old, Tudor beamed rooms, is the more ancient history of Crawley from Iron Age times through to the Georgian era. I hadn’t noticed the little cupboard in the corner of the furthest room from the stairs before. It made a great place to hide so I could pop out and surprise Helen. Yes, I am still a very big child.
There is ongoing work to a new display, with a reconstruction being made to show Crawley High Street in Tudor times. It wasn’t complete when we visited, but what had been done to that point looked good, and I look forward to revisiting and seeing the finished version.
With the museum only having re-opened, the fact that the music exhibition was going to end the following week, was the main reason for this visit, and the main difference from my previous visits. I knew The Cure were famously from Crawley, and that Chico was, but it was surprising to learn about some of the other acts shown in the exhibition.
What I don’t know is whether what has been going on since is a coincidence, or whether the exhibition has prompted me to be on the lookout for musical links to Crawley.
On leaving the museum that Friday afternoon I soon found myself in Oxfam and browsing in their music selection I found the 7” single by Terry Dactyl & The Dinosaurs – “Sea Side Shuffle”; something I had been reading about less than an hour before. At 49p I couldn’t resist buying it and adding it to my wall of vinyl at home.
Then on Bank Holiday Monday, Radio 2 were doing all day Popmaster, and one of the questions was “Which one hit wonder had a 1972 hit with Sea Side Shuffle”. I’m not sure I’d have known the answer ten days before, and the contestant certainly didn’t. Other questions on the day asked about The Cure, Ms Dynamite, and Chico.
Speaking of The Cure, Mojo (the music magazine) had given away a cover CD called “I Wish I Were You” in April, which was a collection of covers of The Cure’s songs. Although I’d had the CD for a while, I was only really listening to it at the end of May. The track that caught my attention was one called “I Don’t Know”, which I didn’t recognise as a Cure song, but it was a hip-hop track using “Lullaby” as a sample. I was quite taken by the song and looked at who it was by to find it was Akala – Ms Dynamite’s younger brother – and another who I had read about in the exhibition. Again, I hadn’t really heard about him until reading the stuff in the exhibition. I went away and listened to some more of his tracks and now have bought his first two albums.
It’s possible all of this would have happened anyway, but I was certainly more aware of it all because of my trip to the museum.
And of course, any trip to any museum anywhere ends with me in the gift shop. I was quite restrained this time having spent a lot of money on my last visit, but I did manage to get a copy of John Goepel’s “How I Chose Crawley’s Street Names”, something to help me in my street sign photo taking obsession.