Monthly Archives: June 2014

This year was a particularly hard year for challenges, but I just about managed to complete all of them.

The museums challenge was great – I’m going to really miss that one. We saw some amazingly niche places, heard some amazing stories and met some amazing people.

Personal highlights have to be the Mechanical Museum and the Old Operating Theatre. Perhaps its not by chance that both of them had tour guides that were hugely passionate about their subjects. Ones to miss are the Sherlock Holmes museum and the Twinings museum – both of which are masquerading as museums, but are essentially shops for tourists.

The beers challenge was a good one too – slow starting but got going pretty quickly once I got the hang of writing down the scores in my phone.

The one closest to the wire was the film challenge. I managed to fit in all of the films, but I have to admit I drifted in and out of The Empire Strikes Back…

24 Museums

1. Cartoon Museum
2. Churchill War Rooms
3. Cinema Museum
4. Dennis Sever’s House
5. Dr Johnson’s house
6. Design Museum
7. Down House
8. The Geffrye Museum
9. London Film Museum
10. London Transport Museum
11. Mansion House
12. Brunel Museum
13. Museum of the Order of St John
14. Musical Museum
15. Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garret
16. Pollock’s Toy Museum
17. Rose Theatre exhibition
18. Fashion and Textile Museum
19. Royal College of Music Archives and Museum of Instruments
20. Sherlock Holmes Museum
21. Twinings Museum
22. V&A Museum of Childhood
23. Bank of England museum
24. The Stephens Museum

24 Beers

1. Kohinoor, Windsor & Eton
2. American Pale Ale, Long Man Brewery
3. Hadouken, Tiny Rebel Brewing Co.
4. Oscar Wilde, Mighty Oak Brewing Company
5. Hophead, Dark Star Brewing Co
6. Green Shoots, The Marlow Brewery
7. Titfer, A Head in a Hat Brewing
8. Bitter & Twisted, Harviestoun Brewery
9. Swallow and Swift, Trumans Brewery
10. Guzzler, York Brewery
11. Lapworth Gold, Byatts of Coventry
12. Badger Golden Champion, Hall & Woodhouse
13. Billabong, Tiny Rebel Brewing Co.
14. Eton Boatman, Windsor & Eton
15. God lager, Nils Oscar
16. New World IPA, Northern Monk Brew Co
17. Windermere Pale, Hawkshead Brewery
18. Long Blonde, Long Man Brewery
19. Notting Hill Red, Moncada Brewery
20. Lion, Hook Norton Brewery
21. First Light, Hook Norton Brewery
22. Summer Meltdown, Dark Star Brewing Co.
23. Scurvy Bitter, Greene King House Ale
24. Aviator Ale, Dent Brewery

24 Frames a Second

1. American Beauty
2. The Birds
3. The Empire Strikes Back
4. The Fog
5. The Godfather
6. King Kong
7. Up
8. The Mark of Zorro
9. The Shawshank Redemption
10. Goodfellas
11. Se7en
12. The Usual Suspects
13. Casablanca
14. It’s A Wonderful Life
15. Reservoir Dogs
16. Singin’ In The Rain
17. Some Like It Hot
18. The Graduate
19. The Untouchables
20. The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
21. Memento
22. Donnie Darko
23. Fargo
24. A Clockwork Orange

Onto Challenge 25…

The Cinema Museum is housed in an old workhouse in Elephant and Castle.

Charlie Chaplin and his mother actually lived at the workhouse for some time, so it’s the perfect building to house this cinematic collection.


The first room you enter proudly displays old cinema signage.


It’s dripping in elegant art deco, like the below:

Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 23.17.28

This ticket machine below operated with a beautifully designed system.

It issued metal tokens (rather than paper tickets) in three different shapes – circle, square and ridged.

When you entered the dark cinema, ushers simply had to feel the shape of your ticket to seat you in the correct area – a beautiful lo-fi solution to a lighting problem.


The museum houses lots of old usher paraphernalia – torches, badges etc.

The red container on the left originally carried floral room deodorant – used to mask the smells of smoke and unwashed overcoats.

Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 23.24.20

It was pretty upsetting to see the demise of the smart usher uniform. The two shots below highlight the difference pretty well..

Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 23.46.46

I love the King Kong teapot below. Very cool.


We saw plenty of film advertising too. The letterpress ‘Regal’ piece on the left is especially nice.

(Note the ‘most fantastic science shocker ever filmed’ on the right too…)

Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 23.30.38

We heard about the introduction of Vitophone by Warner Bros – the first widely-accepted system to play sound with film. Films with sound became known as talkies and were hugely popular.

Vitophone involved sounds being recorded onto separate discs, rather than onto the film itself.

This brought with it a number of issues – as the discs got old, they would slow the needle and the sound would often shift out of sync with the images. But perhaps worse was the fact that sometimes films were dispatched to cinemas with the wrong accompanying disc. On several occasions, a romantic film played out with a horror soundtrack etc… With film cinema nowadays, the sound is printed down the side of the film itself – it can never go out of sync, it can never get mixed up.


After walking through a Chaplin themed corridor, with a massive Granada sign adorning the upper walls, we reached the museum’s main auditorium.

It’s a beautiful space – would be great to hear a talk there one day.



I loved this art piece – projection lenses all glued together to make a sculpture.


And with that, the 24 niche museums challenge is over. A full run-down of the best and the worst will follow shortly.


#1. We all know that the ‘U’ rating stands for Universal. Some might remember that the old ‘A’ rating stood for Adult. But most people forget there was a third rating, ‘H’, for Horrific, which included horror, violence and sex.

#2. Charlie Chaplin’s mother never really believed quite how famous her son was – even after he whisked her out of the workhouse to live in his LA mansion.

#3. Around the dawn of cinema, you would have to train for 5 years before you became a projectionist. With the introduction of digital cinema, that process now only takes 3 weeks.

#4. Cinemas used to operate under ‘continuous performance’ – where two films, shorts and trailers ran in a continuous loop for the entire day. People would simply sit down and watch the screen until it circled back to the point when they joined.

#5. The Odeon chain has got rid of almost all of its film projectors, and now has a mostly digital inventory. The only cinema that still holds film capability is its Leicester Square cinema.

Just getting to this museum was an experience. Sign in at the college reception, turn right through a back door, take two flights of stairs downstairs then past the library. It’s just been through a complete refit, but whilst they’ve managed to let in more light and give it a lick of paint – it still reminded me a bit of my old school classrooms.


The college was created after the closure of the 1851 Great Exhibition. The Prince consort, Albert, prepared a memorandum outlinining that all profits from the exhibition be used to create an estate that would house institutions devoted to the ‘furtherance of the industrial pursuits of all nations.’

The area he proposed now houses three of the UK’s major museums, and the Academy of Music.

Holst was a student at the college in the late 19th century, and an autograph copy of Venus from his suite The Planets was prominently on display.

Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 20.19.11There were some interesting instruments on display, that I’d never seen before.

Like the Balalaika (a Russian folk instrument, characterised by its long neck and triangular shaped body), the Cittern (allegedly owned by Titian in 1580) and the Laba (a telescoping trumpet, of Chinese origin.)

Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 20.28.59

Or how about the Ud (plucked string instrument from Arabian origin), Nyastaranga (an Indian throat trumpet that amplified the human voice) or Porchettes (essentially miniature violins)?

Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 21.00.57

The Clavicytherium in the image below is widely considered to be the earliest surviving stringed keyboard instrument in the world. It’s not signed or dated, but a fragment of a legal document used to line one of the internal joints has been dated between 1470-80.

Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 20.32.35

They also had on display what is considered to be the earliest surviving five-course guitar.

Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 20.42.03

There was a slide trombone in one of the cases, with the inscription ‘This instrument, on which Sir Edward Elgar played as a boy, has been kindly presented by him to the YMCA music section.’ Considering the instrument was made in 1892, and Elgar was born in 1957 – he was far from a boy when he played this trombone…


And there were harpsichords a plenty.

Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 20.51.21

Overall – nice museum, but afraid I didn’t get too much out of it. If I was studying music at the college, I’m sure it would be fantastic. As I’m not, I didn’t get all that much out of it.


#1. Pochettes were used by dancing masters, who needed to accompany their students but didn’t want to share their fee with a separate musician.

#2. The Wetheringsett Organ Soundboard formed the soundboard of a 16th century English organ. It survived in the form of a dairy door and was discovered in 1977.

#3. Barak Norman was one of the last English viol-makers. He worked near St Paul’s cathedral at the ‘Bass Viol’, next door to the ‘Harp’. Say what you see.

#4. One of the Steinways & Sons pianos on display, built in 1899, was sold for 160 guineas – about £168…

#5. John Harris was an active trumpet maker in London between 1608 and 1731. He was appointed Queen’s Trumpeter in 1708.