Fringe Box



Focus on Heritage: Watts Gallery Shows the Way to Guildford Museum

Published on: 6 Dec, 2016
Updated on: 8 Dec, 2016

Focus on HeritageGavin Morgan, creator of the Guildford Heritage Forum, and campaigner and supporter of the planned Guildford Museum improvements, here starts a monthly column sharing his observations and expressing his opinion on all matters relating to our town’s heritage.

Last week Watts Gallery held its Christmas Fair. It offered a taste of what I hope Guildford Museum will become.

Watts Gallery Christmas Fair

A host of festive craft activities were on offer throughout the weekend, what is this lady doing?… (Photos courtesy Watts Gallery)

I have been along to the Watts Gallery a couple of times since its “rebirth” a few years ago. How a place can be transformed. I have strong childhood memories of being dragged round its tired Victorian galleries with leaking ceilings. I found the art depressing and the black and white photos of a  bearded G F Watts a bit scary.

Opinion Logo 1

I am still no art connoisseur but the place now has a magic that gives it an instant appeal. Embracing Watt’s principle of “Art for All” it has an artist’s village, active programme of courses, events and strong links with the community.

All this was on display at the Christmas fair and so much more. My children were offered a very different introduction to the boring, damp, cold Sunday afternoons that I remember.

Watts Gallery Christmas Fair

… why making terracotta tealight of course!

They made paper angels in the gallery surrounded by Watt’s large oil paintings. They donned aprons in order to print labels in the art studio and they listened to Father Christmas in Watts’ own living room.

Community choirs from around the area sang carols, there was a horse carriage ride and wreath making. The organisation that went on behind the scenes to put this on was impressive to say the least, as was the army of volunteers helping on every corner.

Watts Gallery as it might appear soon - if we have some snow this winter.

Watts Gallery as it might appear soon – if we have some snow this winter.

This is what a museum should be, to my mind – accessible, engaging, fun. My children were too young to appreciate the art but one day they might return with fond memories of a happy visit and explore it at a deeper level.

Could Guildford Museum offer such an experience? We will find out when Guildford Castle celebrates a medieval Christmas on December 18.

Gavin Morgan.

Gavin Morgan

But it needs to do more than put on a good show. Watts Gallery, after decades of decline, has found its feet and got lots of people in the local community involved. We must make sure that Guildford Museum does the same.

I would encourage all those with an interest in our heritage and local heritage to visit my Guildford Heritage Forum website and join in the debate on how we can best encourage community support for the work that is commencing at Guildford Museum.

Share This Post

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *