Weston Museum Community Exhibition – Multi-Cultural Friendship Association

By Jane Hill, Weston Museum Community Liaison Officer

Weston-super-Mare Town Council works with people in the local area to celebrate traditions and make the town a greater place to live, work, visit and enjoy. It also ensures that the town thrives as a vibrant place for arts and culture.  Weston Museum is a community museum that celebrates diversity and ensures inclusivity. The community gallery is a showcase for a variety of non-profit making community groups, to showcase their stories.  

In early December 2020, the museum installed its latest community exhibition which it co-curated with the Multi-Cultural Friendship (MFA) Association in Weston-super-Mare.  So what is the MFA?  

The MFA is a small, voluntary, charitable organisation committed to equality and diversity.

The main purposes of the MFA are summarised as:  To provide social occasions for people, and learning about other people’s traditions, customs and beliefs, to promote friendship, mutual respect and understanding between people of different cultures, to help people develop friendships and social networks, to share the traditions, customs and cultures of different countries, in order to promote diversity and shared learning in a positive way.

All our hopes of launching the exhibition were dashed when Covid prevented the safe opening of the museum.  We have managed to prolong the exhibition schedule until July 2021, so we hope that visitors will have the opportunity to come and see the exhibition when we re-open.

The museum team including the Community Liaison Officer and lead Community Volunteer worked with the MFA for several months to plan the exhibition.  All our exhibitions have a similar goal: To tell stories from that community group and to provide them with a voice, to create public awareness and provide a greater understanding of what they do.

We usually carry out oral history interviews, but because of Covid restrictions, the stories were collected in writing by the MFA instead.  We hope to start putting these onto the Weston Museum and Town Council website blog page, so they can be read there.  These stories will be deposited in the archives of the South West Heritage Trust, Taunton, to ensure they are preserved for the future.

We painted the exhibition wall a bright yellow, the colour of the MFA logo.  Around the walls are colourful flags from around the world. There is plenty of framed information provided by the MFA which gives a flavour of the varied work and activities which they do.  There always seems to be a lot of singing, dancing, laughter and … food!  One thing that came across when planning the exhibition is the key themes of friendship, loyalty, kindness and support.  There are also lots of heartwarming words of support, including those from the MFA funders, the Quartet Foundation, John Penrose MP, Malcolm Nicholson Town Clerk as well as other community groups such as Weston Pride LGBT+.

Another challenge was that we had to remove the usual Touch Screen interactive computer that is part of the gallery.  Nobody wants to be touching anything more than necessary at the moment.  We overcame this by turning the presentation into a short film, introduced by the Mayor Cllr Mark Canniford.  The film will now be projected onto a blank wall instead.

Inside the display case are some stunning artefacts from around the world.  These include a waving Chinese cat, Indonesian puppets and a Japanese tea set.  All the items have been kindly lent by members of the MFA community.  There’s also a selection of arts and crafts made by members and on a more serious note, a paper sculpture symbolising the Holocaust.

It has been a real pleasure working with the MFA over the past few months.  We’ve all gained from the experience of working together and despite the restrictions of Covid, have had a lot of fun along the way!

Further information about the MFA can be found at http://www.mfa-wsm.org.uk/