Our very own Beard historian and exhibition curator Dr Alun Withey and Museum Director Natasha McEnroe officially opened the exhibition last Thursday, welcoming visitors to a hirsute hootenanny. As well as being privileged enough to get a first glimpse at the well-groomed gents on display, guests were treated to a range of Victorian festivities fitting for such an occasion.
Sadly not a permanent fixture, the skilled folk from Pall Mall Barbers were in the gallery to tidy up any straggly whiskers. At one point I found myself on the hunt for bearded gentlemen willing to be pampered and preened by their team of professionals in the luxury of a leather barbershop chair. After some initial hesitation the gentlemen were delighted with their spruced up shrubbery and all remarked how pleasurable the experience had been.
The immensely talented Oliver Curtis (or Edward Scissorhands as he should be known) was busily cutting a myriad of portraits by eye and even managed to capture Florence herself in a rare moment of inactivity.
Brian, the mystical tarot-reader, was on-hand to offer sage wisdom and glimpses into the future which unfortunately I did not manage to partake in, such was the queue for his services. Still, that’s probably for the best, the past is where I am far more comfortable! However, I am told that one of his suggestions was for a staff member to take a holiday so I can definitely get on board with that.
Despite being accosted several times by Bluebeard the pirate, the partially-bearded duo from Decembeard were good sports, boldly volunteering for the barbering demonstration whilst spreading word of their excellent cause in which they encourage a razor-ban throughout the month of December to help defeat bowel cancer.
One of the best things about the launch was that it offered the first chance to observe people’s response to the exhibition and their reactions to the images on show, as well as the ambience of the mustard-hued ‘gentlemen’s club’ created in the gallery space. We’ve got some ‘facial hair questionnaire cards’ made up that we’re encouraging people to fill in. They ask things like ‘can you/should you trust a bearded man?’ – so far my favourite answer to this is “depends on whether he is bearing gifts and following a star”, Santa has been mentioned several times too so perhaps December is the most trustworthy beard month! What do you think? Do get in touch with your beard observations, cogitations and anecdotes.