You may have come across references to Sneaky Peeks on our other social media accounts, or perhaps you’ve picked up a leaflet about it and fancy finding out a little bit more… Annabel Owens has been working on an internship linked to the project and agreed to write a blog post about her experiences – a sneaky peek at Sneaky Peeks!
Having recently finished my Photography degree in June I was given the opportunity to work at Bradford Museums and Galleries on a 6 month internship, which started a few days after moving back to Yorkshire from Derby. I was told that working in museums is a crazy world, and it sure is! But I wouldn’t change it one bit, having the opportunity to work on such a big event as Sneaky Peeks straight out of university has been an amazing opportunity and such a surreal experience. And I’ve loved every bit of it!
Anyway! Sneaky Peeks is now well underway and what a success it has been! The first day we witnessed hundreds of eager people of all ages and backgrounds waiting outside the door to see inside the magnificent City Hall. As the visitors walk up the grand entrance they are greeted by a small number of our large and friendly volunteering team who introduce the City Hall and the popular “Bradford Boar Hunt”. The activity has been designed by one of our volunteers, Emily Conroy who studies textile design at university and she has also hand crafted three cuddly toy boars.
Walking up the ceremonial staircase you are then greeted by more lovely volunteers and more than often (if she isn’t elsewhere on the Sneaky Peeks tour), the Lord Mayor and her Consort.
At the top of the stairs there are plenty of boars to find and objects which are permanently inside City Hall such as the scale model of the building. We brought in costumes from Bradford Museums and Galleries which were the most challenging of objects to bring to City Hall as their huge impressive cases had to be manually brought up the stairs a short few hours before the opening of Sneaky Peeks (we did it in time- phew!).
Along the silver corridor you come to the Ernest Saville Room where some of local lad Christopher Pratt’s images and insect taxidermy are on display and there is also a pop out colour activity designed by me.
Next along the tour you come to the first rotunda- the Bolling Hall section. Bolling Hall was first opened to the public in 1915 to keep the morale up, which fits perfectly with the 1915 theme of Sneaky Peeks. In the first rotunda you can take a sneaky peek into the Council Chambers and listen to ghost stories of Bolling Hall from our volunteer Jonathan whilst seeing Oliver Cromwell’s death mask.
Further along the corridor the scene becomes less spooky and you approach the Butterfield dinner service from Cliffe Castle before you enter the vibrant Banqueting Hall. The beautiful Banqueting Hall was the host of Queen Elizabeth II and Duke of Edinburgh when they last came to visit Bradford in 1997. But for Sneaky Peeks the Banqueting Hall has been transformed into a miniature theatre with volunteers Beth and Elliot performing scheduled musical sketches based around 1915 throughout the day. Whilst the performances are not showing you can also train to be a Victorian house maid and learn how to napkin fold and lay a dinner table with silver service.
Next stop on the tour you arrive in the Reception Rooms where the Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers teach of Bradford’s rich textile heritage and demonstrate historic cottage industry techniques such as: using spindles to spin yarn, weaving with miniature looms and the use of a spinning jenny wheel.
Down the corridor you can see out of the beautiful stained glass windows into the court yard which is the heart of City Hall. Also along this corridor there are a collection of photographs from the museums photographic archives featuring Laurel and Hardy.
The final stop on the tour is the Lord Mayor Rooms where you can take a step inside and peek into the rooms which are used by the Lord Mayor for important meetings. Inside another volunteer greets you and tells you about how the clock tower bell was hoisted through the ceiling and the preservation of the stunning carved woodwork within the rooms.
Opening City Hall for free tours for the public has been a rewarding experience. Seeing people from all walks of life enjoying the splendour of City Hall and objects from the museums out of the archives and on display. Not only are Bradfordians enjoying their first time around the building but people from overseas as far as China, Croatia and America are enjoying their first Sneaky Peeks too.
Sneaky Peeks self-lead tours are running on Wednesdays 2-4pm and Thursdays 10-12noon until 10 September. And a special Sneaky Peeks will be running on Saturday 12 September 10-4pm for Heritage Open Day where real life court cases from 1915 will be performed by the magistrates in the old Victorian styled courts.