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PREVIOUS BLOGS:

Truth, Glorious Truth
11th September, 2006

Trailers
28th November, 2006

God help Ye Merry Gentlemen
15th December, 2006

Extinct (new year blog)
1st January, 2007

Nasty Habits
23rd January, 2007

Toiletteers
25th March, 2007

   
 

 

Welcome to the Life in a Lens 'Blog'

Welcome one and all to our 'blog' page. Blogs can be a personal moan or an informative presentation of straight, technical informative. Ours is neither – it is our assessment of what is true.

The philosophical definition of truth, in the minimalist sense, says that there is no such thing as a 'definition of truth' and the only thing you can say about truth is that a sentence like ‘there is a 'camera' there’ is only true because 'there is a 'camera' and it is 'there'. This is a trivial thing to say but it is the only thing to say according to 'minimalist truth'. 'Absolute truth' however, as an 'absolute' is even more difficult to render or to comprehend, so let's not bother...

Bitter and Twisted?

It seems a long time ago now since 1996, when I first dreamed up the idea of creating my own museum. I have to say though that I wish that particular thought were in the future, because with hindsight I wouldn’t have to do it. I must have been bored at the time, or perhaps I felt I needed a big project to keep me occupied.

In the Graphics industry, work at that time was drying up a little – everywhere. Desktop publishing and in-house advertising and marketing were taking their toll on normal agency and freelance work. Not only that, every time you phoned someone in the business world, for whatever reason, even if you wanted to buy something from them, they seemed to be out to lunch, on holiday, or both. I eventually decided that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, but rather than go on holiday myself, which would have been a better option, I foolishly thought of creating my own tourist venue to ‘head them off at the pass’, so to speak – hence the museum.

I was a hard slog. It took eighteen months or more just to find a suitable property and then a further three years to renovate it and install the museum. During this time the investment was enormous with little income. The Derbyshire Dales District Council were very helpful and reasonably positive, apart from one or two people who could not see a positive side of anything to do with Matlock Bath if it glued itself onto the inside of their specs – they seemed to view Matlock Bath with disgust and any newcomers with suspicion. However, although a little paranoid and paradoxical in their outlook, we were glad at the time that least some of them considered Matlock Bath an important conservation area and cared about it – disgusted was the clue! Derision can be a positive emotion if it hides a caring side born of good intentions. Anyway, the conservation area protection fitted in with our own intentions for the building and the museum concept nicely. It also potentially made Matlock Bath a nice place to live too.

We took Matlock Bath at face value. We didn’t mind the fact that there was an amusement arcade next door because it is well presented and is also an attraction itself, being attached to the Matlock Bath Aquarium. Besides, as we like to say, museums and amusements live happily side by side here in Matlock Bath, given the right presentation.

In those early days – for the first full year, anyway – we opened the museum every day to gauge the business potential in Matlock Bath. That was a very useful exercise and has helped to this very day in sorting out our opening times for both the museum and The Victorian Teashop. Getting that right in Matlock Bath is essential, and not at all as obvious as a trip down here on a Sunday or ‘average’ weekday might suggest. For a start, there is no such thing as an average weekday and not even an average Sunday and the best way to fail in Matlock Bath is getting your opening times wrong – especially if you employ staff. Having said that, keeping staff can also be a problem if you can’t offer them regular work too – which is a bit of a ‘catch 22’ here.

Before we opened the teashop as both a facility of the museum and as a new entrance, we were a bit hampered by the fact that we only had a single doorway from the street to the entrance hall to work with, which restricted visitor numbers because people are so timid and disinterested these days, but we worked around it with good graphics, lighting and also a slideshow monitor in the doorway to attract attention – in short, we made it work.

The original doorway was also flanked by two cafés (one of which is now thankfully our teashop). Eventually, the other café became a chip shop, which was even worse – the owners of both these establishments seemed to consider our museum as some sort of distraction to their trade potential and were not particularly helpful. We always had the feeling of being squeezed out, which was annoying considering the amount of investment we had made. We were also surprised at the lack of foresight, bearing in mind the fact that our museum was just the sort of thing the revitalization of Matlock Bath needed. It was from those early days that we realized just how disgruntled and naïve people are – and then of course we had the public to contend with.

Even now, we find it surprising difficult to get people through the door from the café and into the museum – ‘one small step for a man – a giant leap for the Mr average ’, which is a pity because they are missing a rare treat that will never be repeated here in Matlock Bath or perhaps anywhere. People are lazy, preoccupied and disinterested. They base their lives almost exclusively on animal needs and functions with perhaps one eye on that extra special treat which remains always ‘just around the corner’ so they don’t have to really bother with it. Sometimes I get a little dismayed by the fact that we get many more visitors in the café toilet than we ever will achieve in the museum – we also have to deal with the drains too.

In fact, it has been quite an experience for a creative person. Creative people tend to need an audience – it is quite a shock to find that at least 95% of the potential audience is asleep and always will be – or as Russell Brand puts it “oxygen thieves”. You might wonder if it is hard not to become demoralized and lack luster doing something like a museum in modern day ‘thick Britain’, but I just look out of the window and ask myself “do I want to become like that” – no, I’ll stick with the wacky ideas. Besides, the 5% are well worth doing it all for and does anyone ever have a bigger audience than that anyway? Even Madonna? To be safe, I always make sure that I have plenty of irons in the fire and that the fire never goes out.

Fire can be dangerous though, in whatever form. Fire can also cleanse and sometimes that creative fire, or urge, as it can also be known, has put into question our presence here in Matlock Bath with either our museum or our wonderful teashop. The teashop, although still occasionally difficult, is probably just about as positive and successful as you can expect a business to be here, perhaps a little more so, but the museum, for all its positive energy and creative endeavour was always going to be a difficult prospect in modern Britain and has been a disappointment to me, if only from the point of view that it has revealed huge misgivings in human nature and ambition.

The museum takes a lot of promotion too and frankly, much more work than it’s return, either financially or otherwise – I would happily accept the ‘otherwise’, since the teashop pretty much supports the museum anyway, but I have always been quite a positive person and the experience here has been occasionally very negative indeed – “Hell is other people”, as Jean Paul Sartre said – and if it weren’t for the 'iron in my soul', or the fire, there would always be the possibility of becoming bitter and twisted.

‘Bitter and twisted’ is for losers, aspiring to greater things is better by far. So through it all, I have always been sure that the museum works and that it is Matlock Bath that ‘currently’ does not work, or certainly not up to its huge and wasted potential. That statement is true for other businesses too and it is sad that so many businesses and good people have failed here for all the wrong reasons – great potential come and gone – spat out by this historically weird unsettled settlement that is lost in a deep gorge.

Some odd association with the coast (which is over a hundred miles away) has made Matlock Bath a ‘backwater on a busy street’ – passing buses with staring eyes, visitors ‘walking on’ to somewhere else. Matlock Bath has recently waved goodbye to all the revitalization potential it ever needed – it does it all the time. It wants for it, and then rejects it like post-natal depression – at the end of the day though the depression is mine. You need the heart of a lion to survive here and although we’ve proved that success is possible – at a price – even the toughest and most determined lions sometimes yawn and walk away – even Madonna has to occasionally reinvent herself.

Peter Hague, 27th Dec, 2008



 
 
   

This weblog and others by the same author may be upsetting to some people and we apologise if that is the case. Some of the thoughts, words and ideas expressed may be considered inappropriate for the owner of a museum and teashop – but that's creativity, for you – you can't have both. All the comments above were the opinions and thoughts or probable opinions and thoughts of the author at the time they were written and may not be the opinions or thoughts of the same author now. Nor do they concur with the general philosophy behind The Victorian Teashop or Life in a Lens Museum – even though the author of this site is the creator of both – but hey, that's what insanity does for you. We also apologise if any of the material in this web log is in any way offensive, it's just that we have strong competition from Aunt Agony on The Victorian Teashop site and sometimes things get a little out of hand.
 
 
 
The 'Life in a Lens' The Victorian House Museum of Photography & Old Times – & the 'The Victorian Teashop'
114-118, North Parade, Matlock Bath, Derbyshire DE4 3NS Tel: 01629 583325


Illustrations and graphics: Copyright Peter Hague Concept - Design - Art Direction

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