Behind The Scenes, 3 August 2017: Working together to create a splash

by Jo Clarke, Marketing and Communications Officer

By now hopefully those of you who follow us will know that we have launched a new name and brand for what was previously known as the Plymouth History Centre (working title). As a marketeer I can’t tell you how great it is to now be working with a definitive title and visual identity for this exciting project and to finally be able to ditch those brackets!

The Box logo - July 2017

Our launch took the form of a teaser campaign and ‘top secret’ volunteer call out in the local press and social media, followed by a reveal on our promotional leaflets, construction site hoardings and website on 22 July. This was backed up with some great press coverage and two fantastic performances in the Drake Circus shopping mall. The performances were commissioned from the Barbican Theatre and featured a number of local performers, choreographers, artists and musicians.

Our new name has generated a great deal of debate which we really welcome. There are a number of reasons why we chose it. These are outlined in our official press release which I’d encourage anyone who would like to understand more about the development process we’ve been through and the rationale behind the brand to read.

Photograph of the front of The Box leaflet - July 2017

I’ve been involved in a number of branding projects and launch events during my career and they all bring their own set of unique challenges with them – especially when there’s a great deal of interest and expectation in the project or organisation they represent. There are three things that really stand out for me about this particular launh.

The first thing is the great teamwork that took place. Getting ready for the launch required a number of people with a wide range of skills to collaborate. Along with myself it involved contributions from colleagues in public art, events and audience development, digital engagement, volunteer coordination and business support. We also had to engage with a range of suppliers from graphic design, web development, film and video production, to photography, public relations, merchandising, printing – even air filling for balloons!

The second thing was the amount of help we received. We had a lovely group of enthusiastic volunteers assisting us throughout the day. We were also lucky enough to benefit from a great deal of support and cooperation from the local media as well as the team who manage Drake Circus and the mall’s retailers, especially Marks and Spencer and Yo Sushi. We are very grateful to everyone.

The third thing was the quality of the performances devised and directed by the Barbican Theatre which were pieces of global contemporary dance combined with street theatre, rap and folk music.

Curious ‘choruses’ of walking boxes wove their way around the shopping mall before aerial dancers and performers gathered to open and unwrap a series of objects. Our new strapline, ‘Where the greatest explorer is you’ was referenced, with Polynesian-influenced moves inspired by our world cultures collections, and the discovery of a character representing the female mountaineer Gertrude Benham in a packing case. Huge thanks and congratulations to the directors, choreographers, designers, artists, performers and musicians involved.

As our CEO Paul Brookes said: “Like our architecture, ‘The Box’ as our title is a brave, contemporary move. As the launch performances from the Barbican Theatre team showed, although at first glance it may appear simple it actually holds a multitude of meanings. The performances also illustrated how Plymouth’s cultural sector can work with the businesses and facilities within the city centre to showcase the artistic journey we are all on together.”

Greg Lumley, Drake Circus Centre Director said: “A massive congratulations to The Box team. It looks like it will be an exciting and welcome addition to the city. The Drake Circus team look forward to working with The Box to ensure we continue to create a compelling visitor offer that positively impacts the local economy.”

I’ll leave you with the links to our official launch video and the images from the performances. Until next time…..

Main performance images:


Curious chorus images:


Official launch video:


Decant Day, 12 October 2016: Our Clare Twomey commission comes down

by Jo Clarke, Marketing and Communications Officer

The decant of the Museum and Art Gallery’s former public spaces is moving at pace and some of our most iconic works are now being packed up ready for safe storage.

One of the first is ‘Plymouth Porcelain: A New Collection’ by Clare Twomey which has been decanted over the last couple of weeks.

We worked with Clare on this commission in 2011-12. She is a British artist who primarily works with clay in large-scale installations, sculpture and site-specific works. Over the past 10 years she has exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate, Crafts Council, Museum of Modern Art Kyoto Japan, the Eden Project and the Royal Academy of Arts. Working on the project with her was a fantastic opportunity for us to collaborate with a really well-established artist and the staff involved learnt a lot.

The work broke new ground when it was made as it was the first time Clare had created a permanent piece for a Museum. Prior to this many of her major installations had been designed to disappear, break or perish in the course of their exhibition period.

Clare Twomey Collage
Clockwise from top: Trophy by Clare Twomey at the V&A Museum, 2006: one of the objects selected for our commission and its new porcelain version in Clare’s studio, 2011; ‘Plymouth Porcelain: A New Collection for Plymouth’ by Clare Twomey installed in our Atrium Gallery, 2012; Clare looking at an object brought in to one of our casting days, 2011.

Since February 2012, visitors have been able to view ‘Plymouth Porcelain: A New Collection’ above the doors of our China Connection gallery. The artwork has 33 suspended cases each of which contain a white porcelain object cast from objects suggested by the people of Plymouth – including a coffee pot that my granddad brought home from Singapore in the 1950s where he’d been serving with the RAF!

The work was inspired by our Plymouth Porcelain collection – the largest public collection of its kind from the first factory that ever produced hard-paste porcelain in England.

William Cookworthy of Kingsbridge, Devon discovered China clay in Cornwall in 1748 and obtained a patent for the manufacture of porcelain twenty years later. His Plymouth factory started in 1768 and ran for two years, producing a wide range of domestic and decorative items. We believe it stood where the site of the current ‘China House’ pub is on Sutton Harbour.

Packing collage for Clare Twomey's commission (1)

Packing collage for Clare Twomey's commission (2)
Taking down Clare Twomey’s work involved two members of our front of house team, our art curator, two volunteers and our scissor lift!

Decanting such an important artwork is no quick or easy feat and the process involved three members of staff plus Rosemary and Chris – two of our brilliant volunteers.

The suspended boxes were carefully taken down one at a time – access to them was provided by our trusty scissor lift. The porcelain object was safely removed from the box. Both items were then carried to a packing area where they could be wrapped and documented ready to be transported to our offsite store.

Here’s a short piece of timelapse footage showing part of the decant:

In total it took the team four hours to take down the boxes and move them and the porcelain items to the packing area.

It’s since taken a further four days to do all the packing and documentation.

Volunteer collage for decanting Clare Twomey's commission (1)

Volunteer collage for decanting Clare Twomey's commission (2)
Once all the boxes were down, all the porcelain objects were taken out and carefully packed and documented. The boxes were safely wrapped too.

All 33 boxes have been packed in protective bubble wrap and pallet wrapped. The individual ceramic items have also been safely wrapped and packed into 3 large containers.

Part of the commission safely packed and ready to be moved to our offsite store.
Part of the commission safely packed and ready to be moved to our offsite store.

It will be strange not to see this beautiful work on display for a while, but there are lots of other ways in which we’ll be highlighting our important Plymouth Porcelain collection to people while the development of the History Centre is taking place. More information about these will be published really soon in the news and what’s on sections of our website and in future Decant Day blog posts.

We’ll leave you with this short clip of the final box being taken down:

‘Plymouth Porcelain: A New Collection’ was made possible thanks to New Expressions 2, which was supported by MLA Renaissance South West and the National Lottery through Grants for the Arts to enable regional museums to commission new work and join forces with contemporary artists.