Player's Past

Player's Past Blog

London Trip

Our creative writing project is now well underway, and on Wednesday we headed to London with some of the participants.  The plan was to get people to know each other a little better, while introducing the group to methods of museum display. 

Our main reason for choosing the V&A was the chance to see the Imperial Chinese Robes exhibition.  We’ll be hosting our own Chinese silk exhibition at Nottingham Castle in 2011, so we wanted to see how our young people thought such material could be displayed.  The objects were indeed very grand and the information about symbolism really useful, but the half term crowds made it tricky to stand back and reflect.

We then split into groups, as people headed to near by museums of interest.  I ended up paying my first ever visit to the Science Museum, and took some time to explore the large scale objects on the ground floor.  We also managed to track down some packets of cigarettes on display – while spotting letter shapes that make up the word Players.


Our Light Night Event

Our Light Night Event

We would like to say a big thank you to everyone who came to see our event, ‘Exploring the John Player Archive’  last Friday evening for Light Night 2011.  It was a really great opportunity for us to showcase the project and the work we have done for it.  I gave a brief introduction about the archive and what we have done to make it more accessible to a bigger audience.  Andy Newnham, the Collections Development Assistant, gave the audience an outline of the history of the company and then everyone got to see the film. 

Last friday was generally a very busy night because there was such a large variety of activities and events that people could see and experience and so many people wanted to be a part of it all.  There really were lots of things going on all over the city that everyone would enjoy.  Thank you to all the organisers for putting on such a successful and enjoyable evening.


Thomas Browne and John Player

Thomas Browne and John Player

Recently I have begun research into some of the artists whose work features on the hand-drawn adverts released by John Player.  The most well-known to Nottingham is Thomas Browne, born in Nottingham in 1870.  An example of his work was uploaded onto the blog entitled “Country Life”.  Here is another advert that is more cartoonish in style;

This advertisement was released by John Player approximately 1910.  Thomas Browne’s work featured on many “Weights” and “Country Life” adverts. 

Browne was first introduced to art when he was apprenticed to a Nottingham lithographic printing firm when he was 14.    His career as an artist and humorous draughtsman began at the age of seventeen when he discovered that he could draw and make what would now be described as caricatures of his friends.  They persuaded him to send his work to the comic magazine “Scraps” issued by James Henderson.  Browne was paid the equivalent of 3 months wages for his work by Henderson.  After completing his apprenticeship, Browne enrolled in a local art school but left after 3 months, stating it was ‘dull’.  It was the only formal artistic training he ever had.  Immediately after leaving the school he moved to London and his career took off.      

Browne was one of the most popular and respected pen and ink artists of the Victorian and Edwardian era.  He was genial and kind and this won him a great deal of friends, but he also inspired new generations of comic artists.  It’s strange that he drew thousands of sketches before and after establishing his own studio, but few of them have survived today.  We are lucky to have his work featured on some of the adverts in our collection.


The Art of Advertising

We’ve started holding our creative writing sessions, led by playwright Andy Barrett.  The idea behind the project is that a group of young people will explore the collections, and then produce a short film looking at how advertising changed over time.  This film will form part of an exhibition at Nottingham Castle in July, which will show examples of tobacco advertising from the 1890s to the 1960s.

This week three former employees came in to talk about their time working at the Player’s factory.  It was really important that the group got a chance to meet former employees, and were free to ask them questions about any aspect of their experiences.  We had a very interesting discussion about attitudes to smoking and how the company had reacted to changes in legislation.  We also got a fascinating insight into a working culture that has long since passed.

We then set the group a challenge – to come up with an advert that would impress.  Roy (shown here) worked in the design department, so he gave great feedback on where to start and how campaigns evolve.

Next week we’ll be introducing the group to their film maker and starting to work on ideas for their film.  I’m sure whatever they come up with will use the collection in a  new and exciting way.


About this Sponsor

The Museum of Nottingham Life at Brewhouse Yard is part of Nottingham City Museums and Galleries.