In Conversation Dr Sarah Posey at The River and Rowing Museum

"Piper’s presence in the Henley locality is strong and I’m steadily visiting the various stained glass windows he produced for churches and chapels in the area."

As part of informality’s ongoing commitment of providing insights into the art world, we have decided to catch up with some other art world friends to gain insight into what they’ve been up to and how they have adapted to COVID.

 

Sarah, we know you recently relocated to Henley in the past year, we would love to know how you have been enjoying the area and the town?

Although I took up my post as Director In June 2019, my husband, son and I have only been based full-time in Henley for 18 months. First and foremost we’ve been enjoying the town’s location amidst the most beautiful countryside. During the lockdown, I directly experienced the stunning bluebell woods in Mays Green which Adrian Houston captured in his evocative large-format photographs. We’ve enjoyed some long walks in the Chilterns and have been exploring lots of the paths and ancient lanes in the Stonor Valley. In recent weeks we’ve loved taking picnic suppers to the banks of the Thames, taking in the early evening peacefulness of the river.

Since your appointment at the River and Rowing Museum, has there been an exhibition or project that you have particularly enjoyed working on?

I’ve enjoyed getting to know John Piper’s work better. I relocated from the South Downs in East Sussex, a landscape captured so evocatively by Eric Ravilious. Piper’s presence in the Henley locality is strong and I’m steadily visiting the various stained glass windows he produced for churches and chapels in the area. I found the Museum’s 2019 William Morris exhibition inspiring – understand just how deep and profound the Thames’ influence was on Morris’ designs, writing and thinking. Seeing his personal items – and working designs – helped conjure a very vivid sense of this extraordinary man.​

 

John Piper, copyright and courtesy of The River and Row Museum

 

We know the pandemic has asked us all to adapt, and with the River and Rowing Museum re-opening on the 6th August are you able to share some information on what we are looking forward to?

When we closed our doors on 16 March, we cut short the run of an exhibition on the fascinating mid-20thC print-maker Gertrude Hermes. Well-known in her lifetime, and a contemporary of Henry Moore and Ben Nicolson – Hermes is a less familiar artist to contemporary audiences. The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, who created the exhibition, have kindly allowed us to hold on to the exhibition a little longer and I’m delighted that our audiences will have this second chance to see Hermes’ extraordinary wood-block prints in particular, for a few weeks only. Hermes was another artist inspired by the Thames, and the natural world. Due to social distancing measures, seeing the show in August will have a very ‘exclusive’ feel: just eight visitors in the gallery for each pre-booked one-hour slot. Even better come to one of the Curator-led tours: gather a group of six friends and you have a very special session all to yourselves!

We know the pandemic has asked us all to adapt, and with the River and Rowing Museum re-opening on the 6th August are you able to share some information on what we are looking forward to?

Interestingly it’s been music podcasts I’ve enjoyed most to during lockdown. I highly recommend BBC Sounds ‘This Classical Life’ and ‘Soul Music’ as well as back editions of ‘Private Passions’ and of course ‘Desert Island Discs’. I’ve read some ‘watery’ books in the last few months too including Diane Setterfield’s ‘Once upon a river’ and revisiting ‘Wind in the Willows’, each in their own way very evocative depictions of Henley ‘s waterway. Going beyond the Thames, recent BBC radio broadcasts (and re-releases) bring other British waterways to life, such as River Walks. Richard Deakin’s’ ‘Cigarette on the Waveney’ from 2016 (again BBC Sounds) is magical.

 

About The River and Row Museum

The River & Rowing Museum is one of the UK’s leading independent museums. Situated in picturesque Henley on Thames and housed in an award-winning building on the banks of the river, the museum explores the River Thames, the international sport of rowing and the town of Henley. The galleries include interactive displays as well as internationally significant collections, including a permanent display of the work of John Piper, one of the most prolific and versatile modern British artists of the 20th century who lived near Henley.

In addition, the Museum hosts a lively programme of temporary and touring exhibitions, collaborating with partners such as the National Portrait Gallery, the Ashmolean, the V&A and the Hayward Gallery in London. Working closely with organisations in our area, the Museum also has a Community Gallery which showcases a wide variety of local projects.

Find out more about The River and Row Museum