What have people been doing at the Pavilion since it opened in 1935? Since October, I have been volunteering with the exhibitions teamto find out for the upcoming exhibition, The People’s Pavilion: Our First 80 years. From games on the roof and debates on education cuts to an audience with Quentin Crisp and a bus balanced on the roof, the stories we’ve uncovered have given us an unique insight into the use of the building and reflect what was happening at the time locally and nationally.
A great deal of our research has been carried out at Bexhill Museum, where curator Julian Porter has given us access to the Bexhill Observer archive, patiently handing us volume after volume of this important social history document. Starting with the 1935 edition we have travelled through the decades visiting 80 years of social, political and cultural history, tracing the fortunes of the Pavilion and the role it has played in people’s lives.
I’ve also been part of the volunteer team collecting stories, objects and images from the public, some of this material will be included in the exhibition and all of it, we hope, will form part of a digital archive for the future. What has surprised me most is how moving it’s been to hear people’s personal accounts – the moment a couple first met at a dance; how the pantomime cow at Jack and the Beanstalk terrified a young boy at his first panto; what happened when the pressure group was formed to save the Pavilion from oblivion.
Much attention has been focused on the architecture of the building and rightly so. However, what our research has shown is that it is the people who shape a building; what it is today and what it will be in the future. Our research is ongoing and we really hope that people will continue to share their stories when they visit the exhibition in June.
Post written by Sandy Jones
To find out more about the exhibition The People’s Pavilion: our first 80 years visit: the exhibition page here