The prefab Museum is a unique living museum celebrating post-war prefab life through art and by sharing memories and archive. Open in March 2014, the Prefab Museum has had a resounding success and we extended it first to the end of May then to the end of September for Open House London.
In the short time the Prefab Museum has been open, it has attracted more than 2,500 visitors from all backgrounds and areas across London and the UK. The museum has featured in the national, local and hyperlocal press, on ITV London and BBC Radio London.
The Prefab Museum has grown to exhibit the work of 17 artists: photographers, film makers, illustrators, writers and objects and memorabilia contributed by residents and visitors. Since the end of March we have been surviving on the generosity of our volunteers and local residents, and the kind donations of visitors. The donations do not cover the costs of opening the museum to the public and publicising but support refreshments which are free, and some cleaning supplies.
The Prefab Museum now has a future beyond September to 2017 thanks to the support and enthusiasm of Whitefoot Ward Lewisham local councillors, the Tenants Association and local residents, the artists involved and the volunteers. This is in the early stages and we ask for your support to help us develop and achieve this vision of a permanent museum of prefab life. We are starting to apply to different public and private money funds. If our applications are successful, we probably won’t be able to get the funds before the New Year 2015.
Without your support the museum may have to close temporarily at the end of September while we wait for the outcome of funding applications.
This is a part of British history which is disappearing, and which doesn’t have its own archive and building, at the heart of the largest remaining prefab community in which six of the prefabs are listed Grade II by English Heritage. It is unique.
The Prefab Museum tells a story that resounds today, of housing shortages - and innovative solutions that were embraced by their tenants – and paints a picture of social, domestic, and working class life from 1946 to the present day through artists’ interpretations, memorabilia and artefacts. It is this fusion of history, art and culture that makes the Prefab Museum unique.
The Arts Council England grant of £13,000 supported the Prefab Museum for just one month, from 8th – 31st March only. With funds raised from Kickstarter we will be able to keep the museum open to visitors, schools and community groups from the end of September to the New Year 2015. During this time we want to be able to develop activities which celebrate post-war prefab life through different ways by:
- Building an archive on site and online dedicated to prefabs and prefab life; Developing art, educational, community-based, history, design, architectural, social and research projects around the themes of post-war prefabs, social housing and archive;
- Developing partnerships with prefab residents and enthusiasts; local communities and organisations; architecture, art, history, research organisations to improve the development of the museum and its living archive; Actively seeking artists’ interpretations, memorabilia and artefacts to enhance the archive;
- Reviving the sense of community of the estate through organising events for residents and keeping the museum as it is: free and also a place where visitors get free refreshments, coffee, tea and biscuits; by keeping the work of documenting life on the estate, collecting stories and interviews, photographing and filming the transformation of the estate as it is going through the regeneration project.
- Showing the work of artists (photographers, film makers, illustrators, visual artists…) inspired by prefabs ans social housing; by recreating the atmosphere of a post-war by acquiring more and more furniture, memorabilia and knick-knacks from the era; by curating temporary exhibitions, events, talks, workshops, themed tours and parties, all linked to the history of post-war prefabs, their architecture, their design, their residents and the communities prefab estates and life they created.
What will the Kickstarter campaign pay for?
The amount raised by Kickstarter will enable us to:
- Catalogue, conserve and increase the archive Outreach to develop partnerships, hold community events and meetings, engage with existing arts and cultural groups and academic institutions;
- Encourage local artists to contribute their interpretations;
- Enhance our visitor experience at the museum with themed exhibits Record the transformation of the estate in film, stories and recorded interviews, and add these interpretations to the website;
- £20 will pay for tea, biscuits and cakes (and washing up liquid so you can continue to wash your own cup!) for two weeks
- £30 will pay for the cost of producing publicity for one month
- £50 will pay for three volunteers’ expenses. Our volunteers come from all over London and have been paying their own expenses even bringing refreshments for the museum!
- £100 will pay for one day special opening for groups, a holiday workshop for local children, an expert talk, publicity including a week of updating social media and the website.
- £100 will also pay for one month’s council tax on the museum.
- £500 will pay for two community events, set up costs of two exhibitions, two days of documenting the estate and editing for the museum and website
WHY A PREFAB MUSEUM
I started my project on prefabs in 2002 just after I moved to the UK. Fascinated by post-war prefabs and the stories of their residents, I started to document them all over the country. Part of the Temporary Housing Programme, they were built just after WWII to house service men coming back from the war and their families. Supposed to last 10 years, they last much longer! Among the 156,000 erected in 1946 and 1947, there are still a few Hundreds still up lived in and loved today.
The Excalibur Estate in Catford, South London, is the largest remaining estate of post-war prefabs in Britain. Unfortunately not for long as its demolition started in July 2014. So far, about 40 prefabs (out of 186) have been pulled down and the rest of the estate is scheduled to be demolished from 2019. The local authorities have decided to "regenerate" the estate and build more dwellings on a piece of land which is only 30 minutes away from central London.
For the last 12 years, I have been documenting the Excalibur Estate. The idea of a Prefab Museum came naturally when I started organising guided tours around the estate in 2013. I had then a successful exhibition on prefabs at Photofusion Gallery in Brixton, South London. I thought it would be ideal to use an empty and authentic prefab as a museum so people could look at it, spend some time in it. I thought further and imagined we could set up a living museum showing not only my work and archive on prefabs but also the works of other artists, photographers, film-makers who had done some pieces inspired by prefabs. Moreover, it could become a social and cultural space, where residents and visitors could meet up, chat and have free coffee, tea, refreshments, cakes ... Thanks to the TMO (Tenants Management Organisation) who let me use a prefab for free and the financial support from the Arts Council England, the dream came true!
The Prefab Museum is a unique experience where visitors stay longer than they have planned to, share ideas and stories, come out inspired and often come back! We really want to keep that wonderful spirit going but we can’t only survive on donations and the good will of volunteers who have already given a lot of their time to the museum.
Quotes from visitors:
‘Thank you for taking the time to put on this exhibition. It has been a very emotional experience and brings many happy memories.’
‘A real piece of British post-war history. We are privileged to see this remainder (and reminder!).’
Help us continue the wonderful adventure of the Prefab Museum
A Prefab Tea Towel designed by Keara Stewart
Risks and challenges
Our main challenge is to keep the Prefab Museum open for as long as we can, but particularly from the end of September until early 2015. And of course one of the main risks is that we don’t manage to reach our fundraising targets.
When we were unsure that we could secure 17 Meliot Road as a permanent museum, we anticipated closing after Open House London.
We now have the possibility until 2017 but there are many challenges facing us including how to support the museum from now until then.
We have developed a large network of prefab enthusiasts and fans of the Prefab Museum and we are hopeful we’ll reach our Kickstarter campaign goal but of course, there is always a risk we don’t.
- (27 days)