Herefordshire 2012: Olympic Year

This may at first seem like a strange post for a natural history blog. As Assistant Documentation Officer with Herefordshire Museum Service, I am required to get involved in other areas. One thing some people don’t realise is that museums aren’t just full of old, dusty relics that they look after; they also collect contemporary material and actively preserve and document trends and critical moments that occur in day to day society.

Up and down the country, 2012 has seen some major events take place; people coming together to celebrate being British is a rare occurrence but it has been a common theme this year and it’s been no different in Herefordshire. The 2012 Olympic Games are currently in full swing in London and across the UK. Many have been swept up in a dervish of patriotism and pride; regardless of the controversies, I can’t help seeing this as a good thing. Despite the global coverage of the Games being focussed on London, we mustn’t overlook the effect they’ve had on the country as a whole. Of course it’s not just the Olympics that mark 2012 as an exciting year for Herefordshire.

The latest exhibition at Hereford Museum & Art Gallery, “100: Celebrating the Museum and Art Gallery in 100 objects”, features a nod to the opening of the Gallery in 1912. Over the hundred years there have been countless temporary exhibitions as well as the permanent displays of material from the collections. People can go along and view the highlights of the collections, including the rarely seen non-Herefordshire objects. Posters of previous exhibitions going back many decades are also on show. Let’s hope that the museum service can maintain this record and continue for at least another 100 years, providing great showcasing exhibits and engaging objects for the public to enjoy.

Hereford Museum & Art Gallery’s latest exhibition.

Another event in Herefordshire was The Queen’s visit to Hereford as part of her Diamond Jubilee celebrations. Along with The Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen arrived by steam train and visited Hereford Cathedral. Many thousands of supporters (around 25,000) turned out for the Diamond Day parade on the 11th of July. As part of the stalls on show, Herefordshire Museum Service put on a display about T. A. Knight and his work with cider varieties, as well as supplying surrounding stalls with objects and information.

The Queen during her Diamond Jubilee visit to Hereford. (Image courtesy of Herefordshire Diamond Day.)

I wasn’t bothered about the Olympics myself (although I fully intended to watch those events I only see every four years). When I was asked by the head of the museum service to travel to Leominster and photograph one of the torch bearers as she carried it through the town, I simply thought it would be nice to pop out of the office. I was taken aback by the collective excitement, pride and buzz once I got there.

Battalions of schoolchildren lined the streets with their homemade torches and flags, grinning from ear to ear. The police on motorbikes flashed their lights and flooped their sirens on request, raising their hands at the children like DJs, driving them into a frenzy. When the sponsor’s buses arrived handing out free sugar-filled drinks, I felt a pang. Although they managed to amp up the excitement somewhat, I was glad to see that it was those carrying the torches who the public went wild for. Once the bearers arrived, it was an organised, fun and unexpectedly touching display. Susan Wilde, the torchbearer I was sent to photograph is below. She is registered blind and was nominated by her husband (also registered blind). Read why here.

Susan Wilde from Hereford carrying the torch through Leominster in May. All the bearers seemed to soak up the atmosphere and thanks to the crowds, the atmosphere was incredible. Susan is registered blind. (Embiggen for the full effect.)

The Paralympics also feature in Herefordshire’s 2012. The Royal National College for the Blind (RNC) and thePoint4 in Hereford have been chosen as the pre-Games training camp for the Spanish Paralympic Blind Football team.  Hereford is also home to the GB Paralympic Blind Football Squad. Their first game in London is on August 28. The RNC will also host one of the Paralympic Flame celebrations on the 25th August.

GB Blind Football Team (image courtesy of RNC).

I used to live in London and remember wondering how the Olympics would change the capital. At the beginning of this year I was glad not to be there but that has changed as the Games have gone on. After an incredible Opening Ceremony, Team GB is on a roll and I fully admit to following them closely, willing the athletes to do as well as they can and storm up the medal table. Watching the likes of Louis Smith leading the men’s gymnastic team to a Bronze and personally winning Silver; Jessica Ennis‘ amazing Gold medal win and becoming the poster girl of the Games; and Chris Hoy adding to a total of seven medals (six of them Gold) has been thrilling.

Thinking about the year Hereford has had so far and the way the Olympics were a part of it, it’s odd to think that in a few weeks I’ll be moving away from the Shire. Weirdly, I’m moving to South East London, within spitting distance of Olympic venues such as the North Greenwich Arena and Greenwich Park (and Herne Hill Velodrome, where Bradley Wiggins trained). I hope the legacy of the Olympics will remain positive for London and the UK; it would be a shame if the current glory was wasted.

One thought on “Herefordshire 2012: Olympic Year

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