Archive for the ‘Exhibitions’ Category

Fry Model RailwayI didn’t hear the Joe Duffy programme dealing with the impending closure of the Fry Model Railway at Malahide Castle, but that’s what mums are for, isn’t it, keeping you in the media loop? So when mine told me about it off I went to investigate, and sure enough Fingal County Council – who own Malahide Castle – have given notice that it’s to close before the end of February. So that’s one of the half-term days, sorted, anyway: an emergency ceremonial visit to enjoy the layout and that marvellous recorded voiceover one more time.

Scraps of that voiceover drift back to me, as is the way with rote-learned poetry, the words of eighties pop songs and scraps of the liturgy that seep into a child’s consciousness and percolate at unexpected times. (Of course, just as happens with the words of John Gilpin and White Wedding and the Apostles’ Creed, it’ll turn out that my memory of the Fry Model Railway voiceover will turn out to be about 90 per cent false.)

It was a March Monday morning when the railway came to Malahide … that honeyed, apricot light that is particularly hers  … Where the last shall be first and the first shall be last / May the Lord in his mercy be kind to Belfast … what visitor to Cork … the long Glanmire tunnel … the railways … describing the patterns of our times …

Most of the models were handmade by railway engineer and draughtsman Cyril Fry at home in Churchtown, with every last rivet to scale, according to his daughter Patricia Dillon, whose mother handpainted the scenery of Ireland which sets the trains in context. Fry left it to the State, which must have seemed like a good idea at the time, and it’s made a brilliant exhibition at Malahide Castle, an attraction which drew 18,000 visitors between April and September last year. It’s dreadful to think we might lose it. What will happen to it now? It needs a new premises – about 3000 square feet to accommodate the layout, which does require maintenance and upgrades – you can’t just plug it in, sit back and watch the train show steaming around the miniature country.

John Hamill, Chairman of the Model Railway Society of Ireland, is currently Interim Convenor of the Friends of the Fry Model Railway, and if you’re interested in lending support, or can offer suggestions, money, or a 3000 square foot premises accessible to visitors, please contact him at jghamill55@gmail.com

Update 28th February:

The railway is now closed to the public. There was a ceremonial final run last week, and it was announced that morning that the railway would not open at the weekend, nor afterwards. I was also told by someone who worked there that there was a proposed redevelopment of the premises as a retail area.

Anyone interested in supporting the Friends should now email Friends.of.the.Fry.Model.Railway@gmail.com.



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Louise Bourgeois has died. Famously the product of a tapestried and betrayed childhood, famously the creator of versions of a spider Maman (or as Bloomberg put it “freaky giant spiders”), famously stitching for dear life, her work often makes me think of fairy tales, their special brew of magic and brutality.

Here’s an article about her by Germaine Greer and a lovely piece by Eimear McKeith from a number of years ago, on an exhibition of Louise Bourgeois’s work at the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Bourgeois is quoted in that piece:  ‘When I was growing up, all the women in my house were using needles. I have always had a fascination with the needle, the magic power of the needle. The needle is used to repair the damage. It’s a claim to forgiveness.” I love this idea of stitching scraps together to recreate. I’d love to know if it’s something that occurs to other sewers and stitchers. I’ve always been attracted to patchwork, scraps coming together to make a whole, particularly when the scraps are part of a past life, or someone else’s past life, which is then mapped across a bedspread or hanging. 

The Double Sexus exhibition in Berlin (Bourgeois with Hans Bellmer) is now going to run until mid-August. 

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The Natural History Museum in Dublin is being reopened today after a couple of years of closure rather dramatically heralded by a collapsing staircase.

It was a strange place because you approached the elephant and other big guns (so to speak) from behind, as if you were creeping up on them – apparently this is because when the new entrance from Merrion Street was created (still known as the “new” entrance, though it was made some time round the turn of the century) it was too much bother to turn everything around. The intriguing thing about the NHM was not so much staring into the beaded eyes, or tracing the stitched-up seam along a furred stomach, or searching ghoulishly for bullet holes, or realising you have started to use words like thorax and genus, but experiencing a crowded, narrow-aisled, galleried Victorian museum – the glass cabinets, the pinned moths, the leatherette curtains to be drawn back from the glass display cases, and silently replaced, weighted with brass rods. There’s so much interpretation and representation going on in museums that sometimes the items themselves are cast into shadow. I’m interested in seeing how many of the old characters resurface in the new museum, and which of the story displays they’ve kept – the snow scene showing a white hare (I think), the modern seaside scene showing the ravages of pollution, the seagull’s oily wings, the plastic top of a six-pack of beer.

But here’s a thing – everyone is saying oh! in auld Dublin, generations of children have spoken of it fondly as the Dead Zoo. Well I grew up a few hundred yards from it, walked past it twice every one of my schooldays, knew every missing knob on those weirdy wide butterfly drawers, touched everything that wasn’t meant to be touched, and I never in my life heard it being called the Dead Zoo, so either that was kept from me for 35 years or it’s a load of eyewash.

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