Remember on Wednesday when I told you that Mrs Rolling Eyeballs and yours truly were going to the National Media Museum in Bradford? And how there was going to be a problem with that as there had been a serious fire in Bradford the evening before? I know, I know, you’ve been to sleep since then – it’s easy to forget stuff.
Well, we did go but our plans changed slightly.
We ended up beginning our morning at Salts Mills – an art gallery, with shops and restaurants, which is in Saltaire, just outside Bradford proper. It’s built inside a former Mill building owned by Sir Titus Salt, who is best described as a self-made Northern Industrialist who came from farming stock and eventually ended up being Mayor of Bradford, a Baronet and possessed not only a thriving mill business but also a village – Saltaire – which housed and schooled his workforce.
There are various businesses also operating out of the complex. If you visit, you’ll walk past a bike shop, a store specialising in early musical instruments and the HQ of the Pace satellite company before you get to the main entrance.
I confess, I did get the dread feeling as I walked past the Early Music shop that this is exactly the kind of place which my sainted enemy, Sting, might have once set foot. Involuntary shuddering was suppressed, a curse was invoked and I continued inside, none the worse for this self-inflicted woe.
The 1853 gallery is the first space that we viewed and it houses a seriously impressive collection of David Hockney work – which, to a Hockney know-nothing like me, came as something of a surprise. I didn’t know that he did a lot of montage work with photography, I had no knowledge of his cubist postbox nor of his portraits of his one-time muse, Celia Birtwell.
It’s fair to say that I went in not really knowing very much about Hockney and came out as quite a fan.
It helps that he’s a dog person, too – viz his “Dog Days” work.
After perusing a lot of work, we repaired to the Cafe In To The Opera, where we had a lovely lunch – A delicious Cheddar Rarebit for me and a yummy Fish soup for Mrs Rolling Eyeballs, complemented by THE MOST DELICIOUS CHIPS KNOWN TO PERSONKIND.
Seriously. It was worth going to Saltaire just for this side-dish, although all of the food was excellent.
Eventually, we bade farewell to Salts Mill and set off for one of Mrs Rolling Eyeballs’ favourite fabric haunts, the Shuttle, in Shipley.
If your partner harbours a love of fabric, this is alternatively (A) a very bad place or (B) your partner’s idea of heaven. It’s full of all kinds of fabric, for whatever project you may have on the go. I can’t complain too much – I may be getting some 10th Doctor-style striped trews out of our visit there, and other items of nerd finery. It’s a must-visit for the seamstress or sewing enthusiast in your life.
That visit concluded, we set out on the road back in Bradford for our visit to the National Media Museum and immediately ran afoul of Bradford’s road signage.
This might not be a problem specific to Bradford – I’m sure that any city in the UK has it’s fair share of rubbish guidance – but the road signs which we encountered were decidedly hit-and-miss. No sooner had you picked up a sign directing you towards the Media Museum than you spent an anxious two or three minutes trying to find another sign following on from the one which had sent you on a path which, for all we knew, was sending us in completely the wrong direction.
I suspect that the good folk of Bradford – or its town planners – may be in possession of some form of astute, road direction telepathy which we humble brethren of South Yorkshire are unfortunately not prithy to. The upshot of any planned visit to Bradford is this – have a map, Sat Nav or just a really good hunch about where your’re going to because the road signs are not much help.
Finally, we reached the NMM and really enjoyed our time there. I particularly recommend the current ‘Daniel Meadows – Early Photographic Works’ exhibition which runs until February 2012.
It’s a collection of his photography, dating from the early 1970′s until the mid-80′s and does a brilliant job of documenting the vibrancy and singularity of working class life in a time when I was growing up and experiencing many of the same conditions, and living through a time when it felt like being working class and from the North made you the natural enemy of the people running the country.
This isn’t the only thing at the NMM, of course – there’s a great exhibit about the history of television in the UK which is utterly fascinating and easy to appreciate and goes as up to date as is possible, with a Sky TV demo of 3D television. My heart sank as I tried out the 3D goggles and found that the effect was actually pretty good – it still doesn’t make me want to give Murdoch’s empire any more money, but it does underline for me that the technology isn’t a white elephant seeking to part gadget fans from their cash. If your eyesight is up to it – it’s a damn convincing show.
In a final bid to win my heart, the museum houses a National Videogame Archive, with glassed-off exhibits of rare and significant consoles and hardware and has a number of systems to play, with the likes of “Defender” “Space Invaders” and “Pac Man” arcade machines rubbing electronic shoulders with Sega Mega Drive, Super NES and Xbox 360 units. The decor resembles Tetris blocks – or Minecraft sprites – and is really well done. I don’t want to live there, but it was a close-run thing.
Simply put, the National Media Museum does a brilliant job of contextualising things that I love and occasionally take for granted. It’s a great place to spend a couple of hours.