Wednesday, 23 September 2009

The Railway Children and the NRM

I would not want anyone reading this blog to think I am against activities which bring new audiences to the NRM. I am adamant that there are serious critical issues which ought to be addressed but when the museum does well would wish to praise it. One of the obvious challenges of transport museums is to reach new audiences and particularly youthful ones. There is a well trod route to this called Thomas the Tank which the NRM has joined in. However a couple of years ago the NRM realised there was another one which would appeal to a family audience. The result has been the staging with York's Theatre Royal of Edith Nesbitt's classic The Railway Children. In recent times this came to fruition in the mass market with a film made on the Keighley and Worth Valley and then re-made after a few decades on the Bluebell Railway. The latest press release from the NRM testifies to this. Audience figures at 26,000 are 9.2% up over the 2008 figure. This is obviously good news, not just for the museum but for the city of York. I have absolutely no hang ups over this sort of activity. Linking railways and culture is an exciting prospect. There are many avenues open for this. Just a couple of personal favourites from me are the folk tradition for instance Ewan MacColl and The Ballard of John Axon. A surprising number of navvy songs are out there being quietly forgotten about. Even recent writing can slip out of memory. Mike Donald's Land of the Pennine God about the 1910 Ais Gill smash is almost entirely forgotten although I heard it on Garsdale Station at Easter 2009 and went digging to find the music and lyrics. Another personal favourite is W H Auden. Major artistic icons in British culture have loved their railways.

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