I have been a long-term resident of Kensington and Chelsea and was involved with ideas and suggestions regarding this bicentennial project from its outset. Curiously, although I'm originally from Norfolk, I recently found out one of my distant relatives sang at the Great Exhibition set up by Prince Albert - so perhaps this is why I have felt an affinity with this project!
I have been involved with other schemes that originated in Kensington and Chelsea that have taken root beyond. I am the founder of the Open Garden Squares Weekend event which is about to take place again on 8th & 9th June. I have always liked the idea of innovative projects which engage communities and promote welling whether it’s showing off beautifully designed locked gardens or science, design, art, music and natural history promoted on a grand scale within the South Kensington, London’s arts and science district. I’ve also been involved with a project in Kensington and Chelsea for an idea I had to redesign carrier bags to reuse to identify recycling and another idea I’ve had to help carers is hopefully to be launched this summer in some of the borough’s hospitals. So, witnessing new design and innovative ideas come to fruition is a passion.
I was volunteering at Kensington Palace in 2013 and noticed that both Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were born in 1819 and from then helped make others aware of this bicentenary and its potential for celebration. I met up with Emily Candler, the Executive Director for Discover South Kensington who has been a mover and shaker with regards to this project since. Apart from the London celebrations, it’s great to see there are also events to celebrate Prince Albert's bicentennial birthday in Germany and Victoria Day in Canada because of her connections there.
I was touched at this time to learn that Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had first met at Kensington Palace when she was 17 and intrigued to see that during their lifetimes, they established the local neighbourhood museums and other cultural and educational institutions. It seemed logical to suggest an idea for a ‘Victoria and Albert Walkway’ a proposal to put inlaid markers within the pavements/walking areas linking these institutions from her birthplace at Kensington Palace via the Royal Albert Hall and Great Exhibition site, to the Victoria and Albert Museum and Science Museum etc. It was also mooted at this time that an "app" or online version of this could be produced. The Victoria and Albert Walkway hasn’t happened …yet but it’s great to see a similar online version come to fruition - the Victoria and Albert trail beautifully and knowledgably produced by Discover South Kensington.
Another part of the celebrations is the Great Exhibition Road Festival being held on 28th-30th June.
I had an idea to actually recreate the Great Exhibition in Kensington Gardens - but this is a much more manageable, but I think equally exciting, scheme! I intend to explore the robotics exhibits something - I’ve always been fascinated with - especially as they are becoming more useful, will affect us all and are taking on human form! I have no idea what it will feel like to experience dark matter, but I understand this curiosity will be available within a ‘multi-sensory, immersive installation’. How exciting…. So many events and lectures with a food festival too! A weekend for everyone to find something to interest them and to enjoy. It has been an honour to have had a small involvement with this project. I greatly look forward to taking time out to follow the trail and to visit The Great Exhibition Road Festival.