Are you excited about the re-opening of The Higgins ? We were! So on a very sunny Sunday, we went to have a nose around. The new look museum and gallery is light, airy and beautifully laid out. The courtyard entrance, decorated with brightly coloured bunting and which hosts a lovely cafe, is the perfect welcome. It was great to see some community art projects alongside beautiful works by Edward Burne-Jones, Rosetti and William Burges. The 'A Sense of Place' exhibition was curated by artists Alex Julyan and Lucy Wilson and brings together works by ten different community groups, all exploring their sense of 'place.' It is part of The Higgins’ Audience Development Project, which is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. All of the groups have all had a relationship with The Higgins for some time and include family carers, from Carers in Bedford, (read more about the group here) adults with learning disabilities, first-generation Italian migrants, members of the Polish British Integration Centre and people in new housing area, Wixhams.
You can see more work by Carers in Bedfordshire at the Tourist Information Office from 21st May 2013 until the 25th July 2013 and then at Borough Hall from 25th July 2013 until 1st October 2013.
Here are a few highlights of a lovely day out in Bedford's Cultural Quarter.
If you are worried about whether it is wise to take children to a museum, then take a look at this 'colouring station' - loads of sheets to colour so that your offspring can 'redesign' some of the artwork without being evicted from the premesis. A good range of well-sharpened colouring pencils too: no blunt crayons here!
There is also a brilliant afternoon tea section with lovely tea sets and cake stands for the kids to play with whilst you learn about the local origins of this great British tradition, and a dressing up box full of bonnets, top hats and long gloves for children to try on.
The exhibition of William Burges' painted furniture; his Sleeping Beauty bed and Narcissus mirror were a particular highlight, as was the Edward Bawden exhibition, and The Great Bedfordians section. And there is a great history of the British Afternoon Tea ritual (of which we are known to be partial to at The Kiosk.) Oh, and a porcelain cauliflower. You don't see many of those. The gift shop has got some lovely items, and enough pocket-money buys to keep the smaller visitors satisfied. It is also worth noting that The Higgins offers rooms and gallery space to hire out for events; it would make the perfect venue for meetings, workshops and other events - there are concessionary rates for charities. See here for details.
All in all, The Higgins is a triumph, and a credit to Bedford. We can't wait to go back for more!