A day at the National Liberal Club

Photograph of National Liberal Club entrance, Janet E Davis 2010. JED2_11938

Photograph of National Liberal Club entrance, © Janet E Davis 2010.

It was a fascinating experience to spend a day in the National Liberal Club for the ‘Rediscovering the Object’ colloquium (which had the lengthy subtitle: ‘techniques and technologies to enhance engagement and participation in museums and galleries’).

The opportunity to see inside a building such as this was exciting in itself. It was not until several days later that I found that I had been inappropriately dressed to enter such an establishment. Apologies to all, but we do not have such establishments in the far-flung North.

The National Liberal Club was designed by Alfred Waterhouse (born 1830, died 1905). The amazing ceramic elements inside look like Burmantofts Pottery’s work. The colours reminded me of the interior of the Central Arcade in Newcastle.

Photograph of the ceramic arches in National Liberal Club by Janet  E Davis, 2010.

Ceramic arches and walls in the National Liberal Club, Janet E Davis 2010.

The quality of light in the rooms was lovely, partly because it was reflecting off the light stonework of buildings and pavements outside, partly because it was reflecting off the glittering, glazed surfaces inside. The first three photographs in this set were taken from the room we were in for most of the day.

I loved the staircases in this building. They provide a reassuringly solid but visually dynamic element within it, spiralling up through the cool heart of the building.

There are painted portraits everywhere. I could have happily spent the day examining and recording all those. I was particularly fascinated by the room in which we had lunch and then drinks at the end of the day. All the portraits on its walls were of women. I have never been in a room which displayed only portraits of notable women (try searching for painted portraits of women in public collections – then count up those who were not some king’s or duke’s mistress). Unfortunately, I did not photograph that room. I did not like to photograph people or artworks without some kind of official permission.

Photograph of the main staircase at the National Liberal Club, 2010.

Photograph of the main staircase at the National Liberal Club, Janet E Davis 2010.

The other photographs that I would loved to have taken were of the catering team who brought us food and drink. They were a very experienced team of mature women whose skills in quietly and smoothly making clean crockery appear and dirty crockery disappear were a joy to behold. They also were very courteous and kind.

My thanks to Christian Heath, Paul Luff and Dirk vom Lehn of King’s College London and Robert Zimmer of Goldsmiths College for organising, creating and inviting me to such a thought-provoking event. I continue to think about the issues and will blog about those in another post.

More photographs inside and outside the National Liberal Club are on my Flickr pages:

National Liberal Club – interiors & National Liberal Club and Old War Office exteriors.

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