Behind the Scenes Blogs

Thank you to ‘Writers…’

Adam Milford

This is Sara Norrish speaking via the medium of Adam – technical hitch involving passwords etc…

We thought you’d like to read an inspiring testimonial from a young person who worked closely on our responses to Writers of Influence, who clearly gained invaluable experience having worked alongside such a major and important exhibition.

“I just want to say a massive THANK YOU for everything….over the past 2 years. I would honestly not be in the situation I am in, ….going off to do a Masters, without the opportunities you have given me.

Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery has a massive place in my heart and I will never forget where my interests in a career in museums or art galleries began.

Gig in the Gallery is definitely up there as one of my favourite moments in my life and I would not have been able to do it without your incredible support, (and) patience……!”

Great to hear ‘good news’ stories from our fantastic young people!

Sara (slightly chuffed)

To see images from Gig in the Gallery, please have a look at our Flickr site.

What connects tissue paper, gloves, bubblewrap and peeling vinyl letters?

Emily Allen

…The take down of the Writers exhibition at Sunderland. After months of planning, the deinstall happens in a matter of days, which somehow just seems wrong! But the art needs to be carefully packed up and transported out soon, so the team must carry on.

I’m really sad to see the exhibition go, but I’ve just cheered myself up with reading the visitor comments – it’s very encouraging to read that so many people have been inspired by the exhibition.

Now, must get back to the wrapping…

Heads buzzing with inspiration

Emily Allen

In the final week of the Writers exhibition at Sunderland, I’ve taken some time to evaluate what visitors have thought about the exhibition. It’s been really inspiring to read about other people being inspired! Here’s a few to share with you:

Vote for your favourite writer

Emily Allen

Sunderland visitors to the exhibition have been busy scribing on the comments board, giving their thoughts on the exhibition and their favourite writer.

We’ve just done a count and the results so far are:

1st – Roald Dahl

2nd – William Shakespeare

3rd – J.K. Rowling

Who’s your favourite writer in the exhibition? Here’s the choice:

A.A. Milne

Aldous Huxley

Alphra Behn

Amy Winehouse

Angela Carter

Benjamin Zephaniah

C.S. Lewis

Carol Ann Duffy

Charles Dickens

Dame Agatha Christie

Dame Catherine Ann Cookson

David Bowie

Dizee Rascal

Douglas Adams

Enid Blyton

Geoffrey Chaucer

George Bernard Shaw

George Eliot

George Gordon Byron

George Orwell

Herbert George Wells

Ian Curtis

Ian Lancaster Fleming

J.K. Rowling

James Joyce

Jane Austen

Jarvis Cocker

Jean Rhys

John Donne

John Keats

John le Carre

John Lennon

John Milton

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien

Johnny Rotten

Kate Bush

Kenneth Grahame

Lewis Carroll

Monica Ali


Olaudah Equiano

Oscar Wilde

Philip Pullman

Roald Dahl

Robert Ranke Graves

Roubert Louis Stevenson

Rudyard Kipling

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Seamus Heaney

Simon Armitage

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Salman Rushdie

Sir William Gerald Golding

T.S. Eliot

Ted Hughes

Terry Pratchett

Thomas Hardy

Virginia Woolf

William Blake

William Shakespeare

Zadie Smith

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WordFEST just around the corner!


It’s been a busy few weeks getting the WordFEST events ready for February Half Term which starts this Saturday. There have been lots of freelancer contracts and orders to write, events to plan and promotion of WordFEST to schools, youth groups and project partners.

I’m really looking forward to the Looking Glass Fashion Show, with the Alice in Wonderland themed costumes made by the students from City of Sunderland College.  We are also having a witches, wizards, ghouls and demons day, with real broomstick making, a fantasy drama workshop led by staff from Seven Stories and a monsters talk by Andy Newbound, author of Demon Strike.

Other highlights will include the Create Project volunteers, who are taking on the role of gallery guides each afternoon next week.  They have each been researching their favourite writers to talk about to families and visitors to the exhibition and I can’t wait to see them do their stuff!

It’s looking like its going to be an amazing week. Click here for all WordFEST events taking place at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens.

1st weekend

Emily Allen

We’ve just opened the Writers of Influence exhibition to the public and had a good number of visitors in the opening weekend.

Seamus Heaney in centre, JK Rowling on far right

Last Thursday, our local paper, The Sunderland Echo, came down to interview me, so it was great to see the exhibition in Friday’s edition.

I’ve re-filled the comments cards holder this morning after a flurry of visitor comments on inspirational writers and what they most enjoyed about the exhibition. Once it closes at the end of March, I’ll evaluate the visitor response to see what’s worked well, to help with planning future exhibitions.

Comments board on the right

Writers exhibition is here!

Emily Allen

The Writers of Influence exhibition arrived from Plymouth in mid January and we were all very excited to see the portraits.

A team of us have carefully checked all the paintings, arranged them in the gallery, hung them on the walls, installed the graphics and interactives and ensured it was all lit to the correct light levels.

Is that painting straight?

It was a really special moment to see the portrait of William Shakespeare installed in the gallery. A nice little touch we added was to reproduce Shakespeare’s signature in gold lettering as a title above the portrait – he has a lovely swirly calligraphy style handwriting!

Shakespeare checked out

Opposite Shakespeare in the gallery is Catherine Cookson, our local writer in the exhibition, so it’ll be interesting to see who visitors most look at!

Local author Catherine Cookson

I’m now busy putting the final touches to the exhibition before the preview night tonight, when the Director of the National Portrait Gallery and colleagues will be coming to see the exhibition. I do hope they, and our other visitors, will enjoy the exhibition. See what you think yourself. Click here for details about Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens.

Trainers by the truck load, trainers by the tonne

Adam Milford

Well maybe not trainers, but certainly paintings, photographs, drawings, prints and sculptures!

We waived goodbye to Writers of Influence this morning, so hopefully it will arrive in Sunderland at some point very soon. I managed to take a few photos while the exhibition was being deinstalled this week.

This photo shows a few of the crates that are used to transport work between venues. In this instance, some of the most fragile work was transported in crates, such as paintings and sculpture.

This one shows a general view of the gallery during the deinstallation. You should be able to make out a few rolls of bubble wrap, many tool boxes, ‘wheels’ for moving crates, and some covered tables for condition checking the works out of our gallery. Each time objects are loaned in or sent home, we have to check their condition against what has been reported on that object before it has been transported to us, just to make sure nothing has happened to it during travel. We do this with some very strange specialist equipment, including my favourite – magnifying glasses that fit on your head. Strangely, our conservator doesn’t really like me taking photos of him wearing these, but I’ll keep trying!

Last one. This picture shows a very minimal hang at the far end of the Souh Gallery. We have already removed some of the photographs and drawings and left the larger oils on the wall. I quite like this style of exhibition myself – plenty of space around paintings!

Good luck Sunderland!

No legacy is so rich as honesty

Adam Milford

Happy New Year!

I can now post an image from our schools workshops on here, after getting permission through from the school. I’ve put a selection up on our Flickr page, so please go and have a look at those too. The workshops went really well – everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, apart from those slightly scared by someone who has been dead for 400 years strolling through the gallery doors!

We’ve got less than a week of the exhibition to go – next week is the deinstallation where everything gets packed back up again and sent on to Sunderland.

I’ll try and take some photos of the paintings being removed from the gallery walls if I remember…

If music be the food of love, play on

Adam Milford

The second event to be organised by The Core for Writers of Influence has now taken place – Gig in the Gallery. Local singer-songwriter Josie Newton played a great set of songs to kick off the evening, followed by a Writers of Influence pub-quiz, and then a set by Jamie Lawson. Jamie tried to write a song especially for this event, but, as you’ll see from the videos, he didn’t quite manage to finish it!

Please take a few minutes to have a look at the photos and film from this great event on our Flickr page.

We rounded the evening off with an official after-party at a local bar called Ride, where Jamie performed again, followed by a set from Josie and the Lovecats – all in temperatures of around -2C.