Last year a mate of mine, let’s all him ‘Dave’, took redundancy from a job he’d been working in forever and embarked on a well deserved period of freedom from the rat-race. One of the first things he did was get another job! But this was a little different. Instead of toiling away for ‘The Man’ in a not-particularly-interesting job just for the money, he started doing something that I’ve been doing for a while myself; working for the love of it. I’m talking about volunteering.
His chosen volunteer role was at The Coventry Music Museum – ‘The Sound Place to See’.
The museum tells the story of the the musical heritage of Coventry, and other parts of the Midlands, but it’s probably best known as the ska museum. This is hardly surprising as 2-Tone and ska (along with heavy metal) have played such a prominent role in the Midlands music scene. 2-Tone certainly does feature heavily, with a 2-Tone Cafe, an extensive permanent collection dedicated to the genre and, at the time of my visit, a temporary exhibition about Neville Staple, of Specials and Fun Boy Three fame. This exhibition features a large number of artefacts on loan from the man himself, together with some amazing documents and photographs.
However, it isn’t just about the ska, there is also a permanent display celebrating the work of electronic music pioneer and doyenne of Doctor Who, Delia Derbyshire.
And there are cases highlighting other local bands, musicians and musical styles including the Primatives (Tracy Tracy’s Mum also volunteers at the museum!), Hazel O’Connor, Bhangra, and, one or two gems (which I also actually own) from Spectrum and Spiritualized (not actually from Coventry but from just down the road in Rugby).
There is also a display of objects and documents relating to John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s visit to Coventry in 1968. Here we see a calendar showing John and Yoko plating acorns for peace. As you do.
So my mate, ‘Dave’, took me on a grand tour of the museum and introduced me to some of the goodies on display. I’m just adding a very small number of photos to this blog post, just to whet your appetite, but there’s so much in this small museum that you’re bound to find something you like.
The museum has a local, but not parochial, feel. It’s about its place and its people but not in a Royston Vasey sort of way. This is a museum that welcomes visitors from all over the world. I like local museums because their are so rooted in their geographical space and tell the stories of that place, often from quite a personal point of view (I like national museums too, but they do different jobs).
There’s a really good range of artefacts on display, many of them donated by the artists themselves, and the museum is able to tell some really strong stories. There are also some great film clips playing, including a special exclusive that you can’t see anywhere else.
You can see if you can spot if you’re favourite Midlands artists have visited by checking out the autographs. Here’s two of my favourites.
There’s a room where visitors can go and play various musical instruments, including a theramin! And they serve a decent cup of tea in the 2-Tone Village Cafe.
So there you have it, The Coventry Music Museum and Ska Village. If you’re in the neighbouhood, I’d recommend a visit. It’s not a big museum but there is a lot in it so do give yourself a bit to time to have a good look. And say hi to Tracy Tracy’s Mum!