Monday, November 2, 2009

Lines On The Imminent Demise of The Isle of Wight Waxwork Museum

(Photo: George Bernard Shaw on his Starley tricycle)
An outburst on Twitter about crap museums has elicited the sad news that the Isle of Wight waxworks (officially called Brading: The Experience) is about to close. VentnorBlog has some lovely photos of the various extremely weird exhibits inside, a few of which are included here. I went to the museum mid-way through a three day camping holiday on the island during which it rained solidly. The bizarreness of the exhibits (Winston Churchill's Austin A40, a collection of Sinclair C5's) together with a trip to the Godshill Model Village just about alleviated the gloom.

I like waxworks and local museums. There's usually an inexplicable quality to the choices of exhibit. This arises, I imagine, from a combination of economics (they don't have any money), desperation (anything will do) and randomness (they get bequeathed some very odd things). At Rottingdean in Sussex, for example, the local museum consists of a waxwork of Rudyard Kipling, a Hornby train set and a collection of farming implements*. Waxworks tend to be even more bizarre, partly because the celebrities featured quickly fade into obscurity. The Madame Tussaud's wax museum in Blackpool features Jaws from Moonraker as the doorman to a casino in which Eric Cantona and Gianfranco Zola are playing a game of roulette with, I think, Paula Abdul. I'm fairly sure I didn't dream this.

(Photo: Queen Victoria, sans tapping foot)

At Brading The Experience there's a lot of Royal Family related material and an emphasis on slightly gruesome torture methods (is there any other kind?) and mummified animals. Sometimes all three are combined. The waxwork of Queen Victoria incorporates a much trumpeted "animatronic" element which turned out to be an inexplicably tapping foot. Brading was an expensive experience too as I remember, which may account for its imminent demise. I'm not sure if the wonderful Nothing To See Here has been to Brading, but soon there won't be. Anything to see there, that is.

(Photo: The "famous" winged cat)

* The influence of this collection may account for Rottingdean residents British Sea Power's musical output to date.


Anne said...

I'm gutted to say that we haven't, even though all signs point to the Isle of Wight being a NTSH Mecca.

We have been to Louis Tussaud's in Great Yarmouth though, which is legendary.

Charles Holland said...

Oh you should definitely go! I liked the piece on Great Yarmouth. The Beatles all have their heads at very odd angles.

I noticed too that one of the comments on NTSH mentioned the splendid George Bernard Shaw exhibit illustrated above. It's exactly the kind of random and off-key exhibit that makes it worth going to these places.

Anne said...

I'd love to. It's always been that little bit too far away until now.

And I get distracted by wanting to visit the Isle of Man as well. Option paralysis.

Charles Holland said...

I find the Isle of Man quite scary for some reason. Must be something to do with Nigel Mansell coming from there. There is a novel by Julian Barnes set on IOW called England England where a miniaturised version of the country has replaced the real thing. It's pretty laboured mind you.