“All this happened, more or less.” Wait, no, this is a slightly different story, it involves poor copywriting, the National Trust and the centenary of the Titanic.
In February I spotted an advert promoting forthcoming events in the National Trust magazine which veered from “ill fated liner” to “enjoy afternoon tea” in one paragraph. This juxtaposition I had to query, and so I requested more details about the activities. Dress up activities for the kiddies and nautical knot tying all flummoxed me a bit. Thus began a voyage that held conflicting personal details and letters being sent saying that letters would be sent. It’s taken some flipping time but I have now had a full and very sensible answer.
Titanic - The Springhill Story “does not refer to the sinking of the ship but instead tells the story of a family from the small village of Moneymore who were among those to travel first class from Southampton to Cherbourg.” The focus of this exhibition is a letter sent from Titanic to Springhill by 11 year old Eileen, and from that they explore what "the biggest ship in the world" meant during Edwardian times.
The base concept of “... celebrating the wonder of the magnificent ship that she was to us and our family” is a good way to look at Titanic, as it is perhaps easy to forget what it represented to the Edwardians beyond claims of speed and safety. It truly was a marvel of the age and designed to provide (for those who could afford it) the very best of everything. Therefore helping the lady of the house pack for the voyage, as she worries about what to wear, provides context rather than making light of things.
Inviting us to enter the broader mind and time of Edwardian England allows Springhill to take advantage of Titanic’s Centenary without morbid or voyeuristic feelings – they use their solid link to a journey we perceive as a disaster to remind us of the achievement it was in the first place. The family had an amazing experience, then Titanic sailed on.
So the part that bewildered me?
“On reflection, the wording in the magazine was a little vague...Situations like this often arise when we are required to submit promotional copy so far in advance.” It only took fourth months, but there we are, National Trust aren’t a bunch of loonies who think that kids should be dressed in period clothing and thrown into the pond to role play. Perhaps the lesson is that when not sure, give a tasty fact (the letter link) and then back away.
Comments in speech marks taken from letter from the National Trust, (barring the opening line) with permission from the letter writer - Claire Donnelly.
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