On Sunday 25 September the National Museum of Costume held its annual Doors Open Day event. Overall the day went very well, with many activities for everyone. By the end of the day, around 700 people had visited the house, with210 stopping for refreshments in the tearoom.
As usual we had an “around the house quiz”. This year, with a Second World War theme to tie in with our Land Girls and Lumber Jills exhibition, we decided to give the children a “suitcase” to pack as if they were getting ready to be evacuated. This involved them drawing or writing down in the “suitcase” the various items to be found around the house. These items included: a jumper, plimsolls, toothbrush, underwear, gas mask etc. After they had finished they handed it back to get checked then they were given an evacuee label as a prize – now the children were ready to be evacuated to other country houses for safety!
Outside the weather held up until the very end of the day so our “mini farm” managed to stay dry. On our farm we had chickens courtesy of Carse Farm; Floralyn, an Ayrshire cow from Halmyre Farm; and a Clydesdale horse, Skye, from Barfil Farm in full harness regalia. These animals could be found on the kinds of farms that Land Girls were sent to during the Second World War.
Crowds gathered around the marquee for two performances of It’s a Land Girls Life – a new work devised by local musician and songwriter Ali Burns. This was created especially for the National Museum of Costume to complement our current exhibition Land Girls and Lumber Jills. The Feral Choir performed a set of readings and songs dresses as Land Girls, farmers and farmer’s wives. Liz Kettle and David Foreman read from official wartime documents illustrating the official government perspective and Anne Armitage read experts’ oral histories collected by Elaine Edwards, Curator of the exhibition, and Ali Burns. The songs were a mixture of contemporary wartime melodies and new works by Ali, with piano accompaniment by Darcy DeSilva. The whole performance took the audience on a rousing and moving journey which ended with a précis of Gordon Brown’s speech to Land Girls at Downing Street in 2008, when they were awarded their medals. At both performances we were joined by several Land Girls, who sang to many of the songs. The choir felt it a real privilege to be singing to real Land Girls and that they had each made such an effort to attend.
“This was a totally new experience for me – to research history and be able to talk to some of the Land Girls themselves and hear their stories in their own words – totally unforgettable. I was deeply moved that some of the women I interviewed came to see the performance and came up to me afterwards to say how much they enjoyed it.”
We also had our usual craft activities, which included making paper planes and churning cream to make butter! These both proved a hit with the visitors, and the workroom was full of little pots of butter by the end of the day!
Thanks go to all contributors to our wonderful day. Staff are now recovering from the hectic day and are already in preparation for our Halloween event later in October.