Monday, 3 December 2018

Move over Britannia, Bobby Baker rules!

For the past three months I have been immersed in the world of Bobby Baker's Great and Tiny War, a project that is very close to my heart. I have been working for Wunderbar as a host, guiding visitors around the house, talking to them about the artworks, operating any equipment, making lots of cups of tea and coffee and providing hospitality. Being involved in this project and working with such a supportive team has been an absolute joy and I am really going to miss it. Along the way there have been plenty of challenges to keep us on our toes such as the time when the mechanics behind the surprise element in room 3 broke, and I had to phone Steve, the Technical Director of Great and Tiny War (based in London) and follow his problem diagnosis and damage limitation instructions or the time that the venue for one of the workshops was changed due to an emergency situation, and so we had to change to a space without an oven (pretty essential for a bread-making workshop), resulting in me going back and forth between Nunsmoor Park (where the workshop was) and 133 Sidney Grove where the unbaked bread sculptures were put in the oven and the baked bread sculptures were returned to the workshop and reunited with their respective creators.

There have been some amazing stories gathered throughout the exhibition, and I have plenty of fond memories to take away.

My final day of tours brought with it lots of happy memories. On one of the tours in the morning I was host for a couple of Sidney Groovers (people who live/have lived) on Sidney Grove one whom carried her young son with her. The baby was really well behaved and the women loved the exhibition. When we were talking in the kitchen, one of the women, Olivia, told me how her other (3 year old) child, Frida, walks past the house every day and gets very excited by the sign outside 133 Sidney Grove, pointing at it and exclaiming "It's Bobby Baker'. Unfortunately Olivia did not think that Frida would have enough patience to go on the tour, and so she had explained that she would not be able to see inside Bobby Baker's house. I couldn't bear the thought of her little girl having her dream shattered, and so tried to think of a way that it would be possible to tailor the tour to her. We were fully booked for the rest of the day, but proposed a way that Frida could get a magical experience. I asked Olivia whether she would like to bring her child at the end of my last tour and I would do a special little viewing in a few of the rooms. She thought this was a great idea, and said it would fit in with their bedtime routine. Indeed, when I was in the kitchen at the end of my final tour, the doorbell rang and I opened it to find Olivia with Frida in her arms, dressed in her pj's all ready for bed. I took them to the room of bread sculptures and the room with all the peppermint sculptures, and talked about the work. After we had used the pictures on the wall to identify all the peppermint sculptures, we went to the kitchen for Frida to choose herself a biscuit as a treat. She asked if Bobby Baker was there, and as I explained where Bobby was, I showed them the photo of Bobby Baker wearing the bread antlers that she made for a previous performance. These were hung on the wall, and I asked if Frida would like to wear them and be like Bobby Baker. The result was an extremely happy 3 year old with the biggest grin on her face, an incredibly grateful Olivia, and a very happy Helen! I could not have asked for a better way to end my Great and Tiny War hosting duties.

The following day I received a message from Olivia thanking me for engineering the opportunity for Frida to visit the installation. She reported that Frida had been talking about Bobby Baker all day!

I've met lots of very special people and made some life-long friends. The other hosts and the Wunderbar team have been such a support to one another and we have shared our experiences and thoughts via a Hosts Book. I'd like to thank all involved for making the experience so powerful, nourishing and stimulating. I really hope that the project continues to live on in some form, and that the hosts and Wunderbar team keep in touch and work together again.

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