Collégiale Saint-Martin

While in Angers, there were several places that I was keen to visit so, on Sunday morning, bleary-eyed from the Loop-tastic night before, I took myself off to an ancient church called Collégiale Saint-Martin.

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This is one of the many interesting historical buildings to be found in Angers. The earliest evidence for this church dates to the Merovingian period (which immediately followed the Roman period), in the 5th and 6th centuries CE, and the building was altered, rebuilt and extended a number of times between the 7th and the 15th centuries.

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The site has been beautifully restored and is now used as an arts and exhibition space. The current exhibition, fortuitously opening the day after I arrived in Angers, is called “De Vibrations en Résonances – Instruments d’hier et lutherie d’aujourd’hui”. This is an exhibition of musical instruments, mainly stringed ones, but also some others, dating from the 17th century to the present day. These have been drawn from private collections so are not normally accessible to the public.

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I love the violins made from tin cans and clogs

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And the dragon bassoon

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And the beautifully intricate fretwork on this guitar

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The church is also an absolute treasure trove of archaeology. A number of extensive and well-documented excavations have taken place at the site and a good amount of the in-situ archaeology is preserved and displayed, complete with information panels in French and English.

It was possible to visit the crypt to see some of the extant archaeology.

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I’m attaching this detailed plan of the archaeology of the site, which shows known phases of construction in relation to the structure as it is today.

Collegiale Saint-Martin*

Amongst the jumble of stonework, it’s possible to pick out the wall lines of earlier churches, the remains of pits for casting bells and various floor surfaces. The area of the church was also used extensively as a burial site and there are scores of limestone sarcophagi and  slate coffins, dating from the Merovingian period (5th – 8th centuries, some in-situ.

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I had a bit of a scout about down in the crypt because I understood that a small section of the Roman road which ran north-south through the town (Juliomagus) was still extant. Sure enough…

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Ok, it may not look like much but this photo contains about 900 years worth of in-situ archaeology (1st century CE Roman road; the foundation of a 6th century church immediately on top of the road, centre and right; the foundation of a Carolingian (10th century) church immediately on top of the road, left)  :D

I have to declare this one of the most interesting and best presented sites that I visited in Angers. And that is against pretty stiff competition because there are lots of very good sites in Angers. Looks like I saved the best to last.

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http://translate.google.co.uk/translate?hl=en&sl=fr&u=http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/%25C3%2589glise_Saint-Martin_d%27Angers&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dsaint%2Bmartin%2Bangers%26espv%3D2%26biw%3D936%26bih%3D574

“You can dance if you want to, but if you’re gonna bump into your neighbour then, er, you know….”*

Bump, bump.

20140919_144222  It’s Loop, but not as we knew it.

Ok, I’ve just got back from France where I went, as a birthday treat to myself, to check out the new Loop line-up :D . This was at the Levitation Festival** in Angers (Anjou), organised by Austin Psych Fest. I saw some other good bands too (and some absolute donkeys), but this is all about Loop.

New Loop? Regular readers (seriously, are there any? Well, Badger maybe, but anyone else? Ho hum) will have noticed that I have a bit of a penchant for the music and extreme volume of Loop. The earlier Loop (indeed, earlier Loops, plural), was, and is, very special to me but this is one of those moments when there’s a switch. The Gilded Eternity Loop of Hampson, Dowson, Mackay and Wills is officially no more and there’s a whole new Loop of Hampson, Boyd, Morgan and Maskell***.

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The set list went (please forgive me if I’ve got any of these wrong. I’ve got a memory like a sieve) Soundhead; The Nail Will Burn; Pulse; Straight to Your Heart; Fade Out; Collision (cue furious moshing from the crowd); Arc Lite (continued furious moshing); Forever; Vapour; Burning World (cue furious snogging from the sweethearts in front of me ).  No newies I’m afraid. We’ll just have to wait for those.

I think that I should stress here that what follows is observation, not judgement.

It’s difficult to resist the urge to compare, especially as they were playing old Loop songs, but I can really hear the differences. When you’ve been listening to particular songs for 25 years you get to know every beat and strum. Hugo’s bass-playing is pretty different to Neil’s, so I could really hear the differences there, especially on Burning World (again, not a criticism, just an observation. There’s no reason why Hugo should sound like Neil.). And of course Wayne’s drumming is quite different to John’s, but Wayne has been playing with Loop for a few months now, so he’s already a familiar part of this musical landscape. With new material these differences in style won’t be so apparent, so all the more reason for new Loop songs :D Newie-newness please :D (I don’t want much, do I?). Oh, and Dan’s guitar was way too quiet. Seriously, TURN IT UP!

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Now the judgement…

So, were they any good?

Well, yes actually.

They did start off sounding a bit tentative. I’d be very surprised if they weren’t all feeling a bit apprehensive as this headline slot is their first ever gig together (as far as I’m aware there were no warm-ups, no low key pre-festival gigs. Talk about deep ends!). They did seem to settle in really quickly though and it actually felt like they’d relaxed. I guess that the whole run-up must be pretty nerve-wracking but once you’re actually playing, you just get into it. Dan’s guitar was too quiet and the whole thing could have been louder.  I should fess up here though. I like the volume to be absolutely skull-shattering, so it probably was quite loud. Just not loud enough for me. Basically, if I can hear myself think afterwards, it wasn’t loud enough. But they did gel and that’s pretty good going, to sound so together right off the bat.

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The crowd was really responsive and there was a bit of a mosh-pit, stagediving, crowd-surfing and all that. This was quite hilarious to me, as most of my back-in-the-day experiences of Loop involved getting kicked in the head by stagedivers. That hasn’t happened in a while so I came over all nostalgic :lol: You could tell that Robert is all grown up now because he told people to be careful rather than just letting them go ahead and half kill each other :) .

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When he introduced Straight to Your Heart Robert said that it was for anyone who had seen them play in Paris a few months ago. I saw them play in Paris a few months ago so you know what?  I’m owning that one :D

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So I hope that they enjoyed the gig and that they want to keep on with Loop.  They do have at least another couple of gigs scheduled for November in the Netherlands (which I can’t go to :( ) but I hope that there’ll be more. And new material too. It is worth it and it’ll mean that we have a whole new band to love.

Loop is dead. Long Live Loop.

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* ” http://www.glassdarkly.com/LOOP-PAGE.html – I’ve just HAD to Anglicize the spelling. I can’t bear the absence of ‘u’s.

**http://levitation-france.com/

*** That’s Robert Hampson – Mr Loop; Dan Boyd – Brightonian and arch Loop fan; Hugo Morgan- better known as the bass player from The Heads; and Wayne Maskell – The Heads’ drummer and, latterly, Loop’s very own Animal.

I did lots of other, non-Loop, things in Angers, and I even found some Roman stuff, so if you have any interest at all in non-Loop Angers, look out for that.

Power to the people.

More groovy music, this time at Baba Yaga’s Hut’s Raw Power Weekender.

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Baba Yaga’s Hut have put on a stonking weekend of fun. I’m only here for the day, not the whole weekend, but there’s a whole load of bands about whom I know nothing, and a few of whom I’m aware and would like to see, and one in particular that I really want to see (again). This is not a bad mix; something old, something new… etc.

The main bands I actually got to see were (a bit of) Terminal Cheesecake – something old. The popular choice, natch.

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 Something new (to me), Gum Takes Tooth – Drums and synth, quite dark, crowdsurfer-inspiring.

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Something else new (to me), AKDK, who shall hereafter be known as Okie Dokie – Two band members, two drummers, two synths. Top fun.

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Something with a lot of hair, Bo Ningen –  Much less squeaky live than they sounded on record. This is a great relief. They’re pretty good actually. Quite theatrical.

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and something shouty, Girl Band – Shouty wins it. Obviously.

Girl Band

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If you like shouting, you’ll like Girl Band.

I like shouting, so I think they’re great. They’re great on recordings (you can hear some of their music on their Bandcamp page), but live they’re amazing. The lead singer Dara Kiely shuffles about on stage like a nervous schoolboy about to give his first recital in front of his Mum and several aunts…and then he opens his gob. He goes from 0 to shouty in about 0.0006 seconds. Combine that with ground-glass guitar,  machine-gun drums and cough-mixture bass playing and you’ve got Girl Band.

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Various reviews have picked up on touches of other bands/music about them; Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Daft Punk, Mark E. Smith, Sub Pop circa 1988, “Stephen Malkmus suffering an existential crisis in the midst of studying for his mid-terms as a death-disco revival party rages in the dorm room next door“. I get the odd sprinkling of the Happy Flowers, especially live, but they don’t actually sound like any of these. It’s more the overall effect that you get. They’re punk, post punk, noise, pop and dance, all chewed up and spat back in our faces.

Sample lyrics include “petits pois, petits pois, petits pois, petits pois, petits pois”, “nutella, nutella, nutella, nutella, nutella” and somewhat less/more cryptic, “He starts every sentence with “I know I’m not a racist but…” “. Deep, no?

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The crowd for this gig started off pretty small, mainly because Terminal Cheesecake were still on upstairs, but it soon filled up and became downright rawkus. They were even heckling Barry. Poor Barry.

Oh yeah, and there are no girls in Girl Band. Only boys.

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Pip pip

The slithy toves

Ah, ATP doing it for to the kids, once again. Booking and promoting a mega one day London festival called Jabberwocky, then…oh no!… divers alarums.

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So are ATP and Dash Tickets Slithy Toves? Lets examine the evidence.

  • Slithy: Humpty Dumpty says: ” ‘Slithy’ means ‘lithe and slimy’. ‘Lithe’ is the same as ‘active’. You see it’s like a portmanteau, there are two meanings packed up into one word.” The original in MischMasch notes that ‘slithy’ means “smooth and active”. The i is long, as in writhe.*

Well ATP has been pretty lithe, cancelling the Jabberwocky festival a mere 72 hours before it was due to kick off, saying that it was due to poor ticket sales after claiming, just a few days ago, that there were only 200 tickets left.

And they’re both being pretty slimy about refunds. ATP is insisting that refunds will be made at the point of purchase, for many people this is Dash Tickets, ATP’s preferred/linked? provider. Dash are saying, “no, no, not us Guv” and pointing to the Ts & Cs, insisting that they’re just a portal through which money has flowed to ATP. They’re like a couple of eels, the pair of them.

  • Tove: Humpty Dumpty says ” ‘Toves’ are something like badgers, they’re something like lizards, and they’re something like corkscrews. [...] Also they make their nests under sun-dials, also they live on cheese.” Pronounced so as to rhyme with groves. They “gyre and gimble,” i.e. rotate and bore.*

Hmm, well I like badgers. And I like lizards too so, as right now I like neither ATP nor Dash, that doesn’t seem to fit very well. Nests under sun-dials? Cheese? None the wiser. But the corkscrew bit works. These companies are both trying to twist the facts to suit their own narratives. Not working chaps. And yeah, rotating and boring. That kinda fits too.

Based on the available evidence I’d say that yes, ATP and Dash Tickets are indeed Slithy Toves (badgers and lizards notwithstanding).

Naughty people, NAUGHTY (wags finger at them disapprovingly)

Don’t know what the hell I’m going on about? See here:  http://drownedinsound.com/in_depth/4148109-atp–a-fans-frustration It probably won’t help at all, but it’s a fun read.

P.s.

If it hadn’t been for ATP, Loop would never have got back together, so they have a little stash of get out of jail free cards with me. Take note though ATP, this is a written warning.

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Dash Tickets hadn’t worked their probationary period yet, so they’re sacked.

 

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jabberwocky

Visions On

And the theme for today? London Fields’ multi-venue music festival…

tumblr_static_visions-banner-666x151-colour_spacingThis urban music festival is held in several venues around London Fields, with bands playing from mid-afternoon to 11-ish, some chill-out spaces, including a roof terrace at Netil 360, a market with a record fair, cartoon/comic book exhibition, a bit of shopping, food and craft beers (from the not-at-all-local Brooklyn Brewery), a tattoo art exhibition and lots of hanging about in funky cafes. The crowd sported more tattoos and beards than you could shake a stick at. All very Hackney.

I was out with Dave (you remember Dave, the Loop enthusiast). He has neither beard nor tattoos but he does like seeing bands and he had a couple bands in mind which he particularly wanted to see. I was a bit less fussed, although I quite wanted to get a look at Young Fathers, so between us we managed to see a fair few bands, but still have plenty of time to just kick back.

First up, Cheatahs at The Laundry. This is a band that I’ve seen a couple of times and I can hear a number of early-90s influences in their music; MBV, swervedriver, Chapterhouse, Dinosaur jnr, Ride. They do they wear them well, so that’s ok.

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This was short, 30 minute set and they just bashed out all their best songs. All thriller, no filler. This was a good start to the afternoon.

And, while relaxing between bands, the view from the Netil 360 roof terrace.

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The best thing about this view? You can’t see the hideous walkie-talkie building from here. It’s hidden behind the Gherkin.

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I should also say that the sky looked mad and angry like that all day but it was actually really warm and sunny.

But anyway bands, bands, bands,

The next band, from Syracuse, New York, Perfect Pussy. Dave had already seen them twice this week.

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They’re basically a thrash band and the singer Meredith Graves, attracts a lot of attention (what with being the one bouncing around at the front and all). She’s certainly very lively, but I couldn’t hear the vocals at all, so I can’t comment on those.

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But for me, the drummer, Garrett Koloski, was the star.

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He was great value. An excellent drummer and full of personality. At the end of the gig, his kit got trashed by a stagediver. A stagediver who was also in the band!

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Nb. if you want to check out this band on t’internet, youtube wherever, DO NOT Google “perfect pussy” unless what you really want is a whole world of porn.  Try “perfect pussy band”. I can’t guarantee it’ll be porn-free, but at least there’s a better chance.

As neither Dave nor I had a preference for who to see at tea time, we took a punt on Dirty Beaches. On the way into the venue, The Oval Space, my attention was momentarily captured by views of Hackney. Gas holders and razor wire. Oh the drama.

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But on to the Dirty Beaches gig.

The venue was remarkably devoid of atmosphere; a big open space, sunlight streaming in the windows. Ho hum. Dirty Beaches consisted of two blokes; one who sometimes played guitar, sometimes keyboards and the other who sang, yelped, played saxophone, played what sounded like a saw and danced like Dave Gahan out of Depeche Mode. They’re clearly big fans of Suicide. They played two notes for a while. Then a bit of toot toot on the sax. Squiggly noise. Just beats. This doesn’t sound very good does it?

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IT WAS FLIPPING AMAZING :D . This band is a brain-eating ear-worm. I was positively raving by the end of the set. It’s particularly impressive that they were able to rock such a personality-free venue at tea-time. I would love to see them in a more conducive atmosphere; they’d be even more amazing somewhere like Heaven.

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Well Dave had wanted to see Fat White Family, but they cancelled at the last minute and were replaced by Joanna Gruesome. There was quite a buzz for this band; beloved of indie-pop-kids, they’d played at Indie Tracks last weekend, and Big Sean, who we’d run into in the Visions Market, was looking forward to seeing them.

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They were ok. Noisy indie pop. Lots of fuzz. Very Sarah-with-a-rage-on. They were good at it, but my ears were not grabbed. Big Sean loved them and seemed a bit disappointed that I wasn’t blown away by them…swiftly followed by horrified, by my description of the awesome time I’d had at Dirty Beaches. He’s not really into dance so the thought of ‘raving’ is anathema to him.

Who next? Oh yeah, Young Fathers. Scottish hip hop. When we got back to the Oval Space, there was quite a crowd. This was clearly a band that a lot of people had been looking forward to. They were great, combining rap, spoken word, singing, beats and choons.

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Dave had been to see the old skool cheese-fest that is Public Enemy earlier in the week and he said that he had enjoyed them, but they’d pulled out every hip-hop cliche you can think of; they’d even done the whole, “all the people on the left…, all the people on the right…” blah. Seriously, when is this going to die. One of the things I especially liked about Young Fathers, in addition to the great songs and delivery, was the fact that the people  on both the left and the right were left to do exactly what they liked. Mostly dancing like loons, cheering and spontaneously throwing their hands in the air.

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Next up came the most inexplicable piece of programming ever. After the great big sounds of Young Fathers came the teeny tiny little Veronica Falls.

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They’re a little jangly indie-pop band. Not bad but what on earth were they doing following Young Fathers?! This felt like a little bit of a let-down, so we went off foraging  for bands. We couldn’t get in to see Sonia, as it was one-in-one-out by the time we got there and in the end we decided to quit while we were ahead and take an early bath.

So, good festival?  Yes, but first the lows:

Slightly heavy handed security at a couple of the venues. Chill out guys, it’s just a plastic bottle of water. No-one will die. The, frankly inexplicable, programming that saw Veronica Falls following Young Fathers. DOES NOT COMPUTE. The cancellations by bands, including Fat White Family, were a bit of a disappointment (although this did free us up to see Young Fathers so swings and roundabouts). Brooklyn Brewery beer. I don’t usually drink beer, but Dave tried one of the main sponsor’s beers and declared it rotten.

The highs: the overall organisation was very good, (heavy-handed security notwithstanding). There was a good varied line up which meant that we were able to see a really diverse mix of bands during the day. And the bands themselves. None of the bands we saw were duds. Even the ones that I didn’t particularly go for weren’t actually bad, just not what I was after. I’ve also seen lots of good reports of bands that I didn’t see so, music-wise, this festival really seems to deliver a good bang to buck ratio.

The tops: For me, Dirty Beaches with Young Fathers running a close second. Top stuff.

I’m aware that I’m really showing my age by using a tenuous pun on title of the 1970s kids TV programme as a blog post title but it’s done, so lets all just move on.

Vision_On_logoBoing!

Weapons of mass distraction: ballistics, beaches and badges

Regular readers (are there any regular readers?) may already be familiar with a archiving project that I worked on over the winter.

In 1986, The Royal Armouries carried out an excavation on the Thames foreshore in front of The Tower of London.

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They were looking for evidence of the Armouries’ workshops, but information about this dig, or what they found, has never been commonly available to the public. This is the archive material that I and my fellow-volunteers were working on.

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Last weekend Kathleen, the Curatorial Assistant who set up the project, and me and fellow-volunteer Guy took some of this archive material out and about as part of the annual Tower Open Foreshore weekend. This is one of the only opportunities for people to get down onto the foreshore at The Tower of London, and it’s very popular indeed.

In the 1930s, this section of foreshore was turned into a beach for the use of local children, complete with deckchairs, buckets and spades, rowing boats and all the entertainments you’d expect to find at a seaside resort.

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The beach closed during the war, but it was very popular indeed during the 1950s and we occasionally meet visitors who can remember playing there as children. Gradual decline and concerns over pollution in the Thames, lead to the closure of the beach in 1971 and these days access is restricted to special open days.

So Guy, Kathleen and I joined other groups including Historic Royal Palaces, the City of London Archaeological Society (COLAS), Thames Discovery Programme (TDP) and Thames 21 to delight the summer masses on the embankment and the foreshore.

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(nb. these photos were taken first thing on Saturday, before the masses arrived, hence the lack of masses)

We had a selection of objects from the dig alongside a selection from the handling collection which visitors could handle, feel the weight of and generally get to grips with. These included pieces of flintlock mechanism (people loved the term ‘gun furniture’), bayonet tips, a pike head, some examples of shot including a small canonball.

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We also had a couple of special little pieces which you might have seen on the blog before:

This fragment of a Christ in Passion pilgrim badge

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and this lovely medieval copper-alloy book clasp

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It’s also traditional to have an activity. These are often aimed at children (although we all know that the adults like to join in too) but when setting this up, Kathleen had been trying to think of an Armouries-related children’s activity that didn’t involve arming small children and having them run amok. That sort of thing is rightly frowned upon.  Hmm.

During the dig, there were several examples of badges and insignia found; pilgrim badges, railway badges and buttons, Royal Armouries insignia and so on, so we invited our visitors to make a badge of their own, either drawing on Royal Armouries examples for inspiration, or designing their own.

Badge number 1 went to Guy…

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…who, true to form, chose to display his allegiance to the Gunners. How apt!

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And he wasn’t the only one. Archaeologists just cannot resist a badge. This one was made by another Guy (not the Guy above)

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Alongside the artefacts, we also had some of the records, including a selection of site photographs, and these also proved a hit, especially with those of a particularly archaeological bent.

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A number of people (people who are generally very aware of archaeological activity in London)  remarked that they had no idea that a dig had ever been carried out on the foreshore here, and one TDP pal of mine had a small fit and did the monkey dance when he saw the photos, as he has been trying to work out levels and rates of erosion on the Tower foreshore and these records provide hard evidence.

This was a chance for us to highlight The Royal Armouries and the, often overlooked, role of archaeology in the collection. The response to the appearance of these artefacts and records demonstrates the value of the projects like this one, opening up those cupboard doors and enabling access, for the first time, to these unknown and unseen archives.

All the stands had a similarly fruitful day and we were told that there were about 990 visitors to the event as a whole on the Saturday and 1100 on the Sunday, so these are really good numbers (we did try to count how many people visited our stand, but we kept losing count, especially when we were swamped by crowds!). The queue for the foreshore was enormous.

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And we did also get to see a few of the artefacts picked up on the foreshore during the weekend. These are particularly appropriate:

two world war 1 shells

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a gun flint, as used in all those flintlock mechanisms we’ve been talking about.

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I’ve also just found out that there will be another chance to visit the foreshore in September, during the Thames Festival. Don’t miss it.

Weapons of mass distraction: Time and Tide

For anyone around in London this weekend, 19th and 20th July, a very special event will be taking place.

The annual Tower Open Foreshore event is one of the only opportunities for people to get down onto the foreshore at The Tower of London, and it’s very popular indeed. It’s also FREE :D

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This weekend, staff and volunteers from The Royal Armouries will be joining other groups including Historic Royal Palaces, the City of London Archaeological Society (COLAS), Thames Discovery Programme (TDP) and Thames 21 to delight the summer masses on the embankment and the foreshore.

You can do some foreshore foraging and have finds identified by experts, see the entrance to Traitor’s Gate from the river side, there’s usually some dressing up, lots of artefacts to look at and handle, and this year The Royal Armouries will be showing some of the archive from the 1986 Armouries Workshops foreshore dig for the very first time.

So if you’re around, come on down to Tower Hill, on the embankment, and have a go at some badge making, learn about the Ordnance workshops, have a look at some gun parts from flintlock weapons and generally mess about by the river.

It’s fun :D

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NB. Access to the foreshore is tide dependent. The approximate times are:

12.45 – 14:45 approx. on 19th July
13.30 – 15:30 approx. on 20th July
NOTE: these are approximate times and are dependent upon tides.

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More info here:

http://www.thamesdiscovery.org/events/tower-of-london-open-foreshore-2014

Further information (courtesy of TDP)

Access to the river foreshore is dependent upon safety and the tide times. Access is on a first come, first served basis, and numbers will be restricted to up to 500, depending upon safety advice. Only surface level archaeology is permitted and any significant finds must be recorded with the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Sturdy footwear is recommended, a plastic bag and wet wipes may come in handy, metal detectors are strictly prohibited!

http://www.museumoflondonprints.com/image/192992/henry-grant-tower-beach-1952