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The Big Draw at the Horniman

A couple of weeks ago, the Horniman took part in the annual Big Draw event. This national campaign for drawing sees events spring up all over the UK to encourage people to have a go at drawing, and not just with pencils and paper.

At our Big Draw event, we asked visitors to first choose a word from our list, then to explore the galleries and choose an object that reminded them of their word. The creative bit came in when they were asked to draw their object and then use the drawing to create an artwork from wires and pipecleaners which joined together with everyone else's art to create a massive wire image.

The word choices were ‘love’, ‘memory’, ‘power’, ‘belief’, ‘safety’ and ‘exchange’. Can you guess which word inspirec each of these images?

Some visitors spent their time making faithful reproductions of objects from the collection.

While some chose to set their creativity free and created images not strictly related to the Horniman.

But it wasn’t just about fun and creativity. Events like these are a fantastic opportunity for us to learn from our visitors. For instance, ‘love’ was the run-away winner in the popularity stakes: over half the participants chose this word. Words like ‘safety’ and ‘exchange’ were not chosen nearly as often. Stats like these help us learn which ideas are important to people, and which we should be exploring further.

It also helps to highlight popular objects from the collections: many people chose to recreate masks on display in African Worlds and the Centenary Gallery.

What we learn from events like the Big Draw will be used to inform future developments at the museum so that our visitors can get the most out of the Horniman and its collections.

At the end of the day, all the artworks created were displayed in Gallery Square.

We’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who took part in this year’s Big Draw. Our learning team are always looking for more ways for our audience to participate in the museum’s future, and we hope to plan plenty more fun and creative events for the future.

Ewen's Favourite Object

We asked Ewen Moore, who works in our Learning Department, about his favourite objects in the Horniman - the hobby horse.

“Why is this your favourite object?”

I like the hobby horse, as I have a very strong interest in folk lore and folk lore traditions, particularly British ones. I am also particularly interested in Christmas traditions too.   There are a lot of things at Christmas time that we do without thinking about which go back hundreds of years.  They are variations on themes that keep recurring and the Hobby Horse is a Christmas and New Year object.

I think it is incredibly beautiful.

I like the way the fabric is quite faded, I don’t know if that’s how it’s always looked or if it’s like that because it’s old, but it has a beautiful faded look. It looks like the kind of thing that you’d hope to find if you were looking through somebody’s attic - you’d open a chest and pull this out.

“What traditions are associated with it?”

The tradition is that the Mari group, with the horse, would travel around the town going from house to house at Christmas or New Year. The group bestowed good luck on the inhabitants of house.  All the people in the group, like musicians and people doing Punch and Judy, would be in costumes. They be raucous, banging on the doors, rattling the windows and trying to get the attention of the people inside. Then they’d have something like a rhyming contest where the people outside would rhyme or sing something, and the people in the house would answer with something else.  It was improvised and if the people outside won, they would get to come into the house and bless it by running around the house. The horse will be capering all over, Punch will be like trying to kiss the girls and the women, and Judy will be trying to stop him and there’ll be lots of singing and merry making. It would have been quite a raucous, but good natured event.

It’s part of similar traditions all over the UK particularly in Cornwall, Somerset, Kent, and Northamptonshire. Probably along the border of Wales and England there would have been a standoff by the Welsh and Mari Lwyd and the English mummers with their hobby horses including mock battle or contest between them.

“These traditions sound like a lot of fun.”

I like that whole idea of marking the seasons and these traditions bring everybody together in a sense of revelry and joy. I think a lot of those kinds of activities, which have been forgotten for a large part of the 20th century, are on the increase again and a lot of theses traditions are being
re-instated.

Young people want to do these things again and maybe when people look back in a few hundred years time it will be a blip in the 20th century when folk traditions didn’t happen much. We will see them as living, breathing traditions revived.

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