Woodhorn Colliery Museum

Taylor commends Happy Museum comedian project

Geraldine Kendall, 11.12.2013
Woodhorn comedian-in-residence covered on BBC Radio 4
The Museums Association’s director Mark Taylor was on BBC Radio 4 yesterday to comment on Woodhorn Museum’s innovative project to host a comedian-in-residence who will draw out humorous stories from the former coal mine's staff and visitors.

Taylor said: “I think this idea of having a resident comedian is really imaginative, I have to say. As far as I’m aware it’s a world first, but I can see it being followed through in many other museums given time.”

The Woodhorn project is funded by the Happy Museum initiative, which supports museums to reimagine their role and increase wellbeing and sustainability.

Woodhorn director Keith Merrin told the BBC that the project aimed to “tease out the humorous side of the coalmining industry”.

He said: “I think it’s really strange if museums aren’t involved in humour, I think sometimes we can take ourselves a little bit too seriously as museums.

“We do take very seriously our role in protecting heritage but we really see humour as part of the story of the site.”

The comedian-in-residence, Seymour Mace, has set up at a market stall outside the museum asking staff and visitors, many of whom are ex-miners, to share tales of their memories and experiences of the mines.

He will use the material to create a stand-up set that will be performed at the Northumberland Miners’ Picnic next summer. Mace will also work with staff and volunteers to show how they can use stand-up skills in communicating with visitors.

He told the BBC: “What we’re trying to get here is humour, humorous stories, tales to tell, things that’ll make people smile.”

He added: “In the coalmining industry, there was a lot of banter between the men, there was always that sense of pulling together in the face of what was quite a difficult and gruelling industry –  they kept themselves going throughout the day by telling jokes, playing tricks and generally having good craic with each other.”

Click here to listen to the BBC Radio 4 programme