There’s so much to tell you about the Wish Tower Discovery Days that I’m going to do it over a few blog posts. I’m also going to use the opportunity to tell you a little bit about our volunteers, without whom, none of what we do at the Tower would be possible.
The purpose of the event was to give visitors a chance to see what we’ve already learned about the Wish Tower and its history and, almost more importantly, to have them share with us their memories of the Tower and their aspirations for its future. Why is the second bit so important? Because the Wish Tower is an integral part of the seafront at Eastbourne and its importance is about far more than its history.
Our plans for Discovery Days started a good while ago – planning how to set the room up, drawing floorplans, researching information, etc but Saturday morning saw a huge amount of effort to get the exhibition hall ready. The photographs might not give you a full idea of the sheer size of the space we were in…but remember that we could have just about fit a full-size south-coast Martello Tower in the room. How do we know this? Because one of our exhibits was a full-sized floorplan of the middle floor of the Wish Tower, taped to the floor.
A few weeks ago we did some testing with various tapes on the gallery floor to ensure our floorplan wouldn’t cause any damage and we settled on some blue masking tape which we knew would lift cleanly as well as hold the line of the tower neatly. But the outer walls of the tower aren’t circular, rather they are elliptical. How do you draw an ellipse? The answer lay with a loop of string, stuck to the floor at two points and the loop used to trace the path of the ellipse. Thankfully one of our number is an engineer – and although he does more with electronics than geometry, he knew there was a solution and so set about finding it.
Here we see Sam (or, Ian, to his mum) and another one of our volunteers, Paul, taping the floor. It took about 90mins to tape the outer surface of the wall, the inner surface of the wall and the outline of the central pillar. Mostly, Sam and Paul laid a lot of the tape – but they also realised they needed a third person carefully peeling manageable lengths of tape as they went to make their job more efficient. After starting with the taping, another of our volunteers, Will, took on this role and they became a great team.
Here we see Sam (left) and Paul (right) taping away whilst other folk are preparing notices, tables etc…
Once the floorplan was in place, it really hit home just how thick the Tower walls are. This was something several visitors also noticed.
Another of the jobs that had to be done was to take our 14 panels of pictures and information and arrange them for visitors to see. It sounds quick and easy, but easels had to be unpacked and assembled, then adjusted to fit our boards, and then arranged to make sure there was enough space for people to stand and read without being jostled by other visitors.
You might well be forgiven for thinking that our volunteers mostly do for us similar things to what they do in their jobs – nothing could be further from the truth…
Paul works in the computer industry and as well as being pressed into service to create tape outlines of heritage buildings, can often be found giving tours in the tower and sharing his fascination with Napoleon Bonaparte.
Paula works for a facilities organization doing things like project management and getting people and things organized – this weekend she was channeling her creative side by helping set up easels, tables of documents and making cardboard Martello towers as well as chatting to visitors.
Sam is an engineer who works mostly with electronics but as well as masterminding the floorplan, he did a lot of information gathering and proof-reading for the display panels and scanning of documents that had been brought in.
Terry’s day job is in fabric retail in Eastbourne and in addition to setting up easels, he can often be found leading tours of the tower or just chatting to passers-by about our work as well as doing all manner of practical things.
So, if you were thinking about possibly volunteering but wondered whether you’d need specialist historical skills, or knowledge…or that you might just end up doing the same as you do for the rest of the week…then think again. The brilliant thing about the Wish Tower and its Friends is that there are no boundaries.