19 May 2014

Horniman Museum - Museum Lates

Walking uphill towards the Horniman Museum, unfit as I am, all I could think was "this better be worth it!". I'd never been to Forest Hill and it felt like I'd left London behind. Little did I know how wrong, and, how right, I was.

Horniman Museum exterior - clock tower and tile work
Having never been to Forest Hill, it follows that I'd never been to the Horniman Museum, let alone been to their Museum Lates. I'm kind of embarrassed to say that the only thing drawing me there was the thirst to try something new, see more of London and expand my knowledge of this city. I'm glad I did though. I uncovered a gem. Not long after arriving, I found myself drawn to the Sunken Garden where juggler-cum-violinist-cum-tightrope-walker, Kwabana Lindsay, was entertaining his visitors with his antics, dexterity, amazing balance and beautiful music.

Violinist tightrope walker - he was darn good too!
A hop over to the other side of the grounds, behind the main part of the museum, was the gorgeous Victorian conservatory. It was playing hosting a cheeky art pop up by Modern Toss complete with a F***Yeux Tapestry and Periodic Table of Swearing. Just outside the conservatory people were milling about with drinks or having a bite to eat from cafe or temporary food stalls.

You might want to click on this photo to see a larger size
Before heading inside I was treated to one of the loveliest sunsets I have ever seen in London. It was a stand out moment for me. The museum, located at a high vantage point, took full advantage of its position to show off its views over London. Sitting at the picnic tables and looking out to the horizon, I watched the sun turn the sky into yellows, oranges, reds and purples, suspending everyone watching in the same fleeting moment, before it dipped beyond sight.

Back inside the Horniman Museum, the sounds of the live Zimbabwean music band, Harare, reverberated, welcoming visitors and echoing through the exhibition halls. I could hear it (albeit faintly) in whichever exhibition hall I was in. Some visitors opted to buy a glass of wine, relax in the deck chairs and simply let the music wash over them.

But that wasn't all, past the disco lift (yes they converted a lift into a tiny disco) and to the left, in the Natural History Gallery, the lights were out. Here, the storyteller, Olivia Armstrong, weaved her voice and her story of the moon to a rapt audience that sat at her feet by lamplight. It reminded me of how amazing true story tellers can be and what a lost art it seems to have become. I later wandered around the second floor of the hall while the story tellers voice carried around me and looked at the bats, rabbits, seashells, coral and other creatures on display. Its unusual to see a museum exhibit in dim light - it definitely adds a spooky, yet sombre feel.

The Natural History Gallery - it was much darker but I've lightened the image to better illustrate the gallery
In the another exhibition hall I was transported to Siberia through the lens of photographer Bryan Alexander. In the Whisper of the Stars: Traditional Life in Arctic Siberia exhibit, he has captured moments in the lives of the peoples who live in the extreme cold of this plain. Some photos had me transfixed, wondering at these peoples lives, and how dramatically different it is to my own. I didn't know if I was the lucky one or the unlucky one.

A photo of a photo...sorry about the reflections - this is a photo of Chukchi hunters travelling by dog sled near Dezhnovka. Chukotskiy Peninsula, North East Siberia (original copyrighted to Bryan Alexander) Other images can be seen here.
It really was a great night out for £5 and I would definitely go again. I also want to go during the day, just to meander through its gardens and, perhaps, to take a look at its aquarium, it seems to be quite unique one and I'm quite curious!


  1. You shouldn't apologise! I've been meaning to go to the Horniman for over 5 years and haven't made it yet! I love this post - it sounds like a super night out.

    1. Thank you, it was. Definately worth a visit.

  2. This sounds fantastic - and I seem to keep seeing the name of the Horniman Museum pop up everywhere. If you ask me though, the disco lift needs to become a permanent fixture...!

    1. The disco lift was popular! Maybe they will bring it back for the next lates!