Car Stories

I am proud to announce that after one year in the making, my Car Stories Project has finally come to fruition. It is now an exhibit at the newly opened British Motor Museum in Gaydon. On display in the new Collections Centre until June 2016, the public are welcome to visit via booked free tours of this brand new building full of cars that, until now have never been seen by the general public.

The Car Stories Exhibition was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and commissioned by the British Motor Museum.

I pitched the idea of the project to Tim Bryan, Head of Collections & Interpretation at the Museum, over 18 months ago for the Community Inclusion part of the Heritage Lottery Fund bid for the new Collections Centre.  As a journalist and photographer I am always keen listen to other people’s stories and when I take a portrait, I always try to explore behind the façade, to let a little of that person’s life be examined in closer detail. Car Stories enabled me to work both as a photojournalist and as an artist to curate an exhibition of which I am very proud of.

Adela Thomas, the museum’s community engagement officer, located the different groups taking part in the project and the Oral History Volunteers of the museum recorded some of the stories.

I then choreographed and designed the exhibition:  – an exploding car of sort, with bonnets seats and doors used as the backdrop to the space – ‘borrowed’ from Jaguar Land Rover, I commissioned a carpenter to make the plinths whilst I painted the car parts on display (and discovered that we needed 76 casters  (with 4 screws each) for the whole show). The Connected Technologies team at Jaguar Land Rover created the audio system where visitors can hear all of the stories recorded whilst creating a PIR system for the animation (activating when someone stands in front of the screen). Chris Bradley of Willowman Productions, produced the animation made by 4 amazing boys from Lillington Youth Group.

L1060600The Macular Society Leamington, The Royal Star and Garter, Solihull, Lighthorne Heath and Sydenham primary schools make up the other stories of the exhibition with addition from a crazy but beautiful Commercial Vehicles day held at the museum last summer.

The exhibition allows the visitor to meander through the car, “We used work on our cars at the weekend with the bonnets up” hence the vertical display of Jaguar and Landrover bonnets used for a cinema screen and a photo frame. The children designed and made their cars out of cardboard, some in groups and some individually – providing valuable curriculum activities within their syllabus – of which are placed on horizontal bonnets.

L1060599An oil and petrol can donated for the exhibition by a member of the Macular Society said, “These are just some things we found dusty in our garage, and we used to use them to fill up our lawn mower”. I placed them under a Perspex casing on a car seat, now they have a prime spot in the exhibition, alongside some beautiful family photographs from the 40’s to the 70’s.

L1060597The Royal Star and Garter have their place amongst the car doors: with portraits and snippets of their stories to read. The whole story can be heard in the audio device that JLR created for the exhibition. The photographs (taken by myself) can be seen through the car door window space. I wanted to let you feel that these lovely people were travelling through time – which of course through their reminiscence, they were I suppose.

My favourite part to the whole project were the visits to each of the groups.  Every day was a treat working on this project: from visiting the children in the primary schools, designing and making with them their cardboard cars, to enlisting 4 teenagers at Lillington youth group to apply their confidence to creating the Short Circuit animation. Visiting the Macular Society in Leamington and hearing their stories, some of which they said to be not of any interest were, in fact some of the most interesting encounters of social history amongst car related stories I have ever heard and the Royal Star and Garter residents reminiscing about their younger days talking as if it were some other world, perhaps now it is.

L1060605This project has revealed a variety of totally unique experiences, where every single person involved has in some way or another allowed themselves to take a moment in time to think about the car, not necessarily as a matter of fact, but as a piece of time in their lives, through dreaming of cars as rockets and cupcakes, or as a character of which they had to push up the hill every holiday, or as a passport to freedom with the family.

I too have managed to push myself up a hill, to use the project as a passport to another world and now when I think of everyone involved with great fondness, I hope that we all may meet again at the museum to see the exhibition through each other’s eyes.

Car Stories is February – June 2016 at the British Motor Museum Collections Centre.
(Please click here to read all about the Car Stories project).

The Short Circuit animation by Chris Bradley, myself, and the Lillington Youth Group is below

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Comments from visitors

“Car stories is a beautifully presented exhibition on the relationships between people (from primary school children, to a couple in their 80’s who met working on a parts production line) and cars. We hear stories via photography, the written word, a short animation and radio style broadcast interviews. It is funny and even tear-jerking in equal measure. A social comment, creatively presented.”

“Car Stories’ is a fascinating exhibition, a beautiful meander through automotive history, creatively showcased through photography, stories, art, & animation with bucket loads of enthusiasm & spirit. Meeting the brainchild, & young teams of Primary School children engaged on the exhibition, the enthusiasm was special to witness first hand, beautifully created & presented with fascinating stories to make you think, smile, & realise what this means to people. Personally, seeing young people so enthused and energetic was heart-warming. Very well done Lara, your hard work reflected back from every piece of art to each and every visitor.”