Ken Hughes. A growing legacy.

A while ago I wrote a blog about artist Ken Hughes because I owned a sculpture by him. I commented at the time that he seemed to have had a successful artistic life but that there was little about him out there.

I had assumed that Ken Hughes was no longer alive. Then a researcher contacted me via my blog. Then his daughter contacted me. And Ken is still alive.

I also discovered I have another piece of ceramics by Ken. A plaster tile, also purchased by my grandma.


Ken Hughes, tile, 1996


Tile, reverse, signed 'Ken Hughes'


Provenance, my grandma's note

This morning I got into work to find a lovely two page hand written letter from Ken. He said that maybe he hadn’t undertaken as much self-publicity as he should have. I wrote back (not hand-written I am afraid) reflecting that maybe those of us that come after should all help towards creating a legacy.

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Museums. An elaborate tapestry.


“Here was an elaborate tapestry of institutions of national and local importance woven over two hundred years.”

Robert Hewison, Cultural Capital: The Rise and Fall of Creative Britain, 2014.

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Happy 2nd Birthday to @MuseumofCarpet!

Happy 2nd Birthday to Museum!.

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Hartlebury Castle’s future secured with help of Heritage Lottery Fund

Hartlebury Castle’s future secured with help of Heritage Lottery Fund.

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Hellens Manor. A proper heritage eccentric.

A visit to Hellens, a Jacobean manor house in Herefordshire, was such a delight and produced so many pictures, I felt a blog was the thing.

To start. Some serious door knockers.


The toilets were a mini-museum in their own right.


Impressive architecture. Also a big ginger cat.


Textiles feature large. In paintings, on the floor, on the beds, and framed as art.



Hellens has a varied collection, paintings by famous painters (many given as gifts to family members), personal objects (old and not-so-old), unusual and miscellaneous items collected from antique shops in this country and others. A taster follows.

Proper feather shuttlecocks of blue and white.


A quite disturbing reliquary.


A selection of things that caught my eye as “very museum”. A cabinet of curiosity, containing personal objects of family significance. A little collection of shells on a bedroom dressing table. A botany book with the fabulous handwritten label, “Forgive us, please, for asking you not to touch this book as it is very worn – so sorry”. Lovely.


This somewhat surprising ceiling was the result of, “the boys messing around in the 60s”. Yeah. Messing…


Fabulous tooled and painted leatherwork wall coverings. Somewhat the worse for wear, but gaining aesthetic interest with that.


We were allowed to sit on most of the seats. Unless (as per tradition)… teasels.


I enjoyed this unapologetic cellar door repair.


In addition to the cat, there were a number of unexpected creatures. I especially liked the topiary dogs (?) and the giraffe tapestry (made by a French prisoner we were told).


More about Hellens. I recommend a visit.


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Ken Hughes. An artist’s life. But what legacy?

This little plaster sculpture of a female head belonged to my Grandma, Mary Cockett. She lived in a sewing box (the head not my Grandma…) for several years. Recently I rediscovered her.

She’s by an artist called Ken Hughes.


I also have a catalogue for a Ken Hughes exhibition at Browse & Darby, London, 1995. Possibly where my Grandma bought the sculpture. I hadn’t opened the catalogue until now.


Inside the catalogue was a folded photocopy.



On the other side was a hand written letter to my Grandma from the artist. He tells her that the head was based on Dance in Baden-Baden by Max Beckmann, 1923.

The original painting is at Museum Frieder Burda.

Ken Hughes taught at Bath Academy of Art, Corsham. References to him online are few. Luckily the catalogue has a lot of information. It lists a number of exhibitions including Birmingham’s Ikon Gallery (1969). It also lists work in Public Collections including, my museum, Birmingham City Art Gallery (now Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery).

One catalogue and object file search later I find the The Well Made Play, Wooden Construction, Sculpture, 1969, 1973P110. Here it is. In black and white. Because that was museum photography in the 1970s.


Here’s the press release saying it was funded by the Friends of Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery and the rather fabulous sounding Provincial Galleries Sculpture Purchase Scheme (Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation).



But somewhat sobering for artists. Ken Hughes appears to have had a successful long career. Yet he is little known now.


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My thoughts. New Border? New Boss? #indyref

1603. This happened.

James I

King James the First Uniting England and Scotland, Paul Rubens, 1632-33. ©Birmingham Museums Trust.

1706. This happened.


Treaty of Union, 1706.

18 September 2014. This might happen.

Maddy Burrows. Scottish Independence Student Art

©Maddy Burrows, 2014.

BTW. More fabulous images by students at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design in Dundee on the #indyref theme here.

At Primary School the following messages where drilled into me:

Second World War = Bad
Europe united = Good

I got older.
Europe got bigger.
The Berlin Wall came down.

Bowie At Berlin WallDavid Bowie at the Berlin Wall (just because)

The Euro was introduced. I travelled through three countries using one currency.

I learnt. I believe.
Less borders. More freedom = Good.

I don’t want a new Border.
Divisive in so many ways.

I believe in Democracy. I’ve always voted. It is no more a utopian solution than any other form of government.

And. This.


Meet the new boss.
Same as the old boss“.


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Where has my travelling trunk been?

I was cleaning the bedroom (yeah exciting) and actually read the label on one of the travel trunks that form my furniture.


Cunard Line. Dr & Mrs Howard. 
Ship: Carinthia.
Class: Tourist.
Date of Sailing: 20th Dec 1964.
From: Greenock.

Google calls.

The Carinthia. Built in 1956.

Thank you to the fabulous Liverpool Ships website for a detailed history.

How delighted was I to find details of the actual voyage my trunk went on (quite delighted as it happens).

The ship was sailing during Christmas day.

Here’s the programme of entertainments.

Class caption from Liverpool Ships: The somewhat lacklustre entertainments programme on the CARINTHIA for Christmas Day, 1964.

Fancy Head-Dress parade eh? Wow.

Dr & Mrs Howard travelled tourist class. Which means they could have enjoyed the excellently named smoking room The Beaver Club.

All pics, except the first one, courtesy of Liverpool Ships.

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What do museums do for people?

I am currently on the National Arts Fundraising School. Thinking about museums and why people and organisations should fund them. I wrote this.

What do Museums do for People?

We tell their stories.
We inspire them to create.
We encourage them to explore.
We listen to their stories.
We teach them interesting things.
We give them freedom to play.
We show them unique and special objects.
We help them tell others their stories.
We show them common objects in a different light.
We ask them to think.
We encourage them to share what they learn and what they like.
We challenge their perceptions.
We spark their emotions.


We learn from people because they teach us amazing things.

and longer and somehow it sounds a bit dull (probably a bit too classic mission-statementy)…

We collect from the past and the present, making objects and their stories accessible to people now, so they can learn, enjoy themselves, and be inspired.

So maybe that forms part of the case for support for museums generally. Now I have to work out what MY museum does that is unique.

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From the Guardian. How to become a museum curator.

How do I become … a museum curator

Combine with my advice on Job Applications and give it a whirl.

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