Fiction's Guide To Their Favourite UK Museums

They've got a reputation for smart pop, so are well placed to comment on the best British centres of learning...
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They've got a reputation for smart pop, so are well placed to comment on the best British centres of learning...

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‘Museum’ is a track taken from our forthcoming debut album, The Big Other, which will be released on the fourth day of March in the year two thousand and thirteen. The song casts an eye on the nostalgic tendencies of a generation that can access history like never before. To quote Simon Reynolds, “The Internet places the remote past and the exotic present side-by-side. Equally accessible, they become the same thing; far, yet near, old yet new”. In the video – directed by the very talented Daniel Swan – we are guided through a fantasy computerised museum that is trapped somewhere between the past and the future, where familiar objects have been misappropriated and placed in strange combinations. Here, we’ve each chosen one of our favourite places of thinking, learning or historical value.


Mike on The Square Mile

I have a bit of a soft spot for arrogant 1980s commercial architecture and there are plenty of examples of it to be found in The City. In contrast to the supposed democracy of more recent transparent glass structures, these buildings were made to resemble impenetrable, opulent fortresses: the marble cladding and touches of gold or polished chrome appearing to brag about the wealth of the inhabitants, while tinted windows deflect any scrutiny of what goes on inside. Walking past their kitsch pediments and faux-roman columns today, these buildings might seem more comical than intimidating; for most visitors they simply blend into the background of the city landscape. However, for anyone interested in the history of London, the examples that have not been redeveloped remain as telling monuments to an indulgent era and a very clear example of architecture encapsulating a particular time and place.

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Jacob on The Tate Modern

This is no walk in a Victorian churchyard nor a library full of wise words, no I love the plain Tate Modern. It's ever changing, full of nice girls and for me it's a bit of a Sunday temple. The best times in London are Sunday afternoons - slightly hungover, hanging round the Tate. They have good stuff to look at, good coffee and nice toilets too. Maybe it's the tourist in me that likes the timelessness, the endless floors and the calm turbine hall. I was lucky to see a Joseph Boys special there and I feel like I made a friend for life. Tate Modern towers on the south bank like an arts beacon and for me it really represents a milestone in modern arts history. Experiments on a different scale can happen there and it is popular too. I recommend walking there if you decide to visit. The building is cool and the surrounding area is worth a visit...well, the South Bank.

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James on The Saison Poetry Library

Most weeks I make a visit to the Saison Poetry Library on the 5th floor of the Royal Festival Hall. You can borrow four books at a time from their substantial collection and it’s completely free, so why anyone wouldn’t be a member is beyond me. They aim to stock as much post-1914  poetry published in the English language as possible, so if you feel like methodically working through this year’s T.S. Eliot Prize nominees or just picking stuff you’ve never heard of because you like the title, – Popeye in Belgrade, anyone? – then the library is your figurative oyster.

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Nick on The Magnificent Seven

Recently I've quite enjoyed walking around London's Victorian cemeteries. Morbid it may sound, but the Victorian attitude to death meant that families often saved meticulously throughout their lives for the most ornate and fashionable tombstone they could afford, resulting in some impressive and inventive architecture. The 'Magnificent Seven' (cemeteries) were devised to alleviate the growing problem of overcrowding in London's small church burial grounds and seven large sites were allocated around the capital. I'd recommend Highgate cemetery which has many famous and not so famous gravestones including Karl Marx, Malcolm Mclaren, Michael Faraday and Mike and I's great great Grandmother.

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Dave on Llanidloes

My girlfriend has a cottage in the heart of Wales, near a tiny town named Llanidloes. The town in itself is like a living museum, the passing decades preserved in its streets – from the Edwardian, black and white timbered town hall to the well-worn pubs filled with brass trinkets, a chippy from the 60's and an internet café that's more 90's than now. There is even a family of pseudo-Victorians, who wear traditional garb, bonnets and all, and sell hand-baked pastries on Saturdays from an old wooden barrow. The cottage is situated just outside the town, surrounded by rambling hills and valleys, which have grown and stretched since time began, tended to with agricultural processes that have been used for centuries. Inside the cottage, once a small farmhouse, you find yourself in a functioning museum. Modern appliances are sparse – no televisions or computers; fires have to be tended to continuously and an ageing Raeburn heats the water, which comes from a well under the house. We visited the cottage as a band a couple of years ago and turned the sitting room into a makeshift studio, recording songs by the log fire. Listening back to them, they sound like the cottage somehow, the old inspiring the new.

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The Big Other is released on the 4th March, through Moshi Moshi records.  You can pre-order it here