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‘The Wells Pageant of 1923: a Celebration of Community’

Over the past few months we have been delighted to welcome our second student placement as part of the Search & Learn project, Jordan Cole.

Jordan is completing a Masters degree in Heritage Management at Bath Spa University, and has guest-curated our summer exhibition which celebrates the centenary of the Wells Pageant. Jordan talks us through the process below:

"In 1922 the Women’s Institute of Wells needed a permanent place for their organisation. Herbert Balch decided to help out by organising a pageant celebrating Wells by putting together six different episodes relating to the history of the Wells. However due to delays the pageant didn't take place until the 24th and 25th July 1923.

We are celebrating the centenary of the pageant with an exhibition titled ‘The Wells Pageant of 1923: a Celebration of Community’.

Our main source of information came from the museum's archive of Bert Phillips' (who was a local photographer) photographs of the pageant. He spent both days taking pictures of the rehearsals, portraits of the actors and the final bow. I first spent time going through the photos, cataloguing them so I knew which photos were from what episode. The museum also has the meeting minutes book and the programme from the pageant, which had the full script of each episode and a cast list. The Wells Journal also made several references to the status of the pageant in the 18 months of planning.

All these different sources gave me the information of how the pageant was organised, who was involved, the roles they played - accounts were carefully kept by Balch so we know exactly how much money was spent and subsequently raised by the pageant.

I whittled down the photographs from 80+ to 50 by trying to select photos that weren’t too similar to each other and that would show the different factors that went into each episode: a close-up of the costumes, the actors mid-scene, if any animals were used, a shot of them. Thanks to Phillip’s high quality photographs we are able to get an excellent insight into what the pageant would have looked like.

Using the information I had researched from the minutes book, newspaper articles, etc. I was able to write a caption for each picture with a (hopefully) interesting or fun fact about the pageant. I also wrote a summary of the plot for each episode and selected some quotes that were most related to either the plot or the photographs that I had chosen.

Thanks to the research by other members of the museum we will also be exhibiting objects related to the pageant including an original programme, some of the pots used in an episode about Wookey Hole in 200BC and an embroidery relating to a local legend of a Bishop slaying a dragon, which was told in episode 4. I am also in the process of sewing some replicas of the costumes because who doesn’t love dressing up in a museum?"

The exhibition opens on 30 June and runs until 12 August.


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