A Little (online) Festival of Mantelpieces

To coincide with our current exhibitions, we've a range of online film screenings, talks and workshops.

A Little Festival of Mantelpieces

Monday 2nd to Friday 6th November 2020

As the nights draw in and the days get colder, join us for a little festival of mantelpieces! 

The festival presents a series of free events bringing artists, filmmakers, writers and academics together online to celebrate the mantelpiece and its enduring place at the heart of the home.  The festival has been created in collaboration with the Mass Observation Archive and the Museum of the Home and has been inspired by an exhibition of new work by the celebrated ceramic artist Richard Slee at Bolton Museum, Mantelpiece Observations

The main festival events are listed below.  We will add content including links to films as the festival progresses.  All the films will be available to watch back at any time you choose.

Richard Slee Gallery Image 3

Monday 2nd November: 2.00pm

Matthew Watson, curator, Bolton Museum, introduces the Little (online) Festival of Mantelpieces:

Richard Slee in conversation with Sonia Solicari, Director, Museum of the Home

In this specially recorded conversation, Richard Slee talks about the inspirations behind the ceramics he has created for his exhibition at Bolton Museum, Mantelpiece Observations.

Tuesday 3rd November: All Day

Share Your Mantelpiece Objects

During the festival we will be inviting you to share images of the objects on your mantelpiece (or windowsill or bookshelf), so keep an eye on our social media platforms. We’ll also be sharing images from our collections.

Mass Observation's Mantelpiece Directives: 2.00pm

This short film provides an introduction to Mass Observation’s Mantelpiece Directives of 1937 and 2019, one of the inspirations behind this festival.

Wednesday 4th November: 11.00am

Film screenings: Mantelpiece Stories by Madeleine Waller and Shelf Life by Mina Salimi

Interview: An Interview with Carole Odgen and Jessica Rosenfield

Screening of two specially commissioned films in which households in Bolton and the London borough of Hackney talk about their treasured objects. Deeply moving in parts, these beautifully shot films provide a fascinating insight into the meanings behind the objects people collect on mantelpieces and other display areas in the home.

Kate L's mantelpiece in her house in Anerley. Object number 512/2011-8

Image courtesy of Museum of the Home

An Interview with Carole Odgen, Gita Sahgal and Jessica Rosenfield

Rebecca Jacobs from the Museum of the Home talks to Carole Ogden who features in Mantelpiece Stories and Gita Sahgal and Jessica Rosenfield who co-curated Shelf Life.

Listen to the conversation (via Soundcloud) or read the transcript.

Shelf Life, a film by Mina Salimi 

The things we display in our homes are full of personal meaning, whether on a mantelpiece or shelf, or on top of the television. This film explores how six east London residents express their identities through the things they display in their homes.


Madeleine Waller- CaroleMantelpiece Stories, a film by Madeleine Waller

In this film, six Bolton residents talk about the meanings behind their cherished personal possessions. The stories they tell touch on loss, hope, achievement, family life, and the important role of objects in our lives.

© Madeleine Waller

Thursday 5th November: 2.00pm

As part of our Little (online) Festival of Mantelpieces, Rachel Hurdley, presenter of Radio 4’s The Hidden History of the Mantelpiece, and celebrated social historian Claire Langhamer explore the development of the mantelpiece from the 1930s to the present day.

A special focus of this fascinating online conversation is Mass Observation and its Mantelpiece Directives of 1937, 1983 and 2019. What did MO hope to discover by asking its volunteers to write about the objects on their mantelpieces?

Friday 6th November

Kids Collect Things (All Day)

More themed posts and image shares. What did you collect when you were young? Key rings, stickers, pencil toppers or badges. Send in your photographs and memories and we’ll share them via our social media platforms. 

Mantelpiece Crafts: 11.00am - 12.30pm

Richard Slee Staffordshire dog

Make your own Staffordshire dog soft toy inspired by the mantelpiece report of a Mass Observation volunteer who describes an “earthenware dog” that was “given to a fractious child to cuddle”.

Free online workshop led by Bolton textile artist, Jennifer Gilmour. Book your place via Eventbrite.  We are limited to 15 places and participants will be sent a craft kit to their home address.

Published: 13th October 2020