Saving Samson, Norwich’s favourite nightclub doorman

13 February 2018

  • Crowdfunding campaign to save one of the city’s most beloved landmarks
  • Museum of Norwich aims to raise £15,000 in six weeks

Today the Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell is launching a crowdfunding campaign, ‘Saving Samson,’ to raise the money needed to display the restored statue of Samson in the museum.   Launching via Art Fund’s crowdfunding platform Art Happens, the campaign aims to raise £15,000 in just six weeks to save Samson and provide him with a permanent display which will protect this precious piece of the city’s heritage for future generations.

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For almost 350 years, Samson stood guard outside one of Norwich’s most prestigious buildings in the Tombland area of the city. There, along with his partner figure Hercules, he witnessed two World Wars, a fire and the antics of lovers and party revellers from the 30’s through to the 90’s when the building was used as a ballroom and then nightclub.  Time, however, took its toll on this local hero, eventually encasing him in layers of thick, white paint and obscuring the wonderful, original carvings underneath.  Therefore in 1993, Samson along with Hercules were removed for safekeeping and to prevent any further damage.

In 2014, the statue of Samson was moved to the London studios of Plowden & Smith, where he has since undergone extensive conservation to remove over 60 layers of lead paint.   

Over two decades later, the Museum of Norwich has ambitious plans to display the restored figure of Samson, putting him in pride of place within the museum. 

Chairman of Norfolk Joint Museums Committee, Councillor John Ward, said:  "The iconic figure of Samson has been undergoing specialist conservation treatment, which has revealed the intricacies of the original 17th century oak carving, complete with curly hair, a piercing stare and bulging muscles.  Historians believe he is a unique survivor from this period, and as such of national as well as local significance.  The crowd-funding campaign will raise cash needed to display the restored statue of Samson in the museum.”

The museum is hoping that Samson will inspire many Norwich people and businesses to reflect on their memories of this cherished part of Norwich history and consider contributing to Saving Samson.  As a thank you, donors can choose from a range of exclusive rewards.

Rewards include a set of postcards showing the Samson statue, a limited edition print by Leanda Jaine Illustrations, a Samson tote bag and two VIP experience days.     

During the campaign museum curators will also be gathering stories from local people on what Samson means to them ranging from partygoers who frequented the nightclub to GI brides and to teenyboppers who swooned at the sight of their heartthrob, Jason Donovan.  Fittingly, the campaign will be launched midday on Tuesday 13 February – Valentine’s Eve, which the museum hopes will stir memories of meeting loved ones at local dances.

People who would like to share their memories and images should contact museums@norfolk.gov.uk or call 01603 493625. 

We are delighted that the figure of Samson has been selected to be one of the objects which will feature in the BBC Civilisations project, launched on 7 February 2018.  

As part of this exciting project marking 50 years since Kenneth Clark’s ground breaking ‘Civilisation’ series, the BBC have developed an augmented reality (AR) app which will allow audiences to explore items from museums’ collections using their smartphones and tablets.  It’s wonderful that our fully restored Samson has been selected as one of the key artefacts to be featured.

It is now nearly half a century since Kenneth Clark’s series ‘Civilisation’ thrilled audiences with its authoritative interpretation of the glories of Western art.  Inspired by that landmark programme, the new series of Civilisations on BBC Two, to air in spring 2018, will introduce a new generation to the great masterworks of beauty, ingenuity and illumination created across the continents.  The series will also be examining the questions of what makes a civilisation, and asking how different ideas of civilisations have reinforced different cultural ideas and values.

The Civilisations Festival is an exciting partnership between museums and galleries and the BBC to coincide with the broadcast of BBC Arts' Civilisations series.  The Festival will run from Friday 2 March to Sunday 11 March.  The BBC is keen to experiment with digital technology to find new ways of telling stories and engaging audiences.

About the Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell

The Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell is part of Norfolk Museums Service (NMS), a multi award-winning service comprising ten museums and a study centre.  NMS is regarded as one of the leaders in the museum sector and in 2017 was successful in its bid for continuing major investment from Arts Council England. From April 2018, NMS will be a National Portfolio Organisation for Arts Council England, one of only 45 out of 845 heritage and arts organisations in England to be awarded the highest level of support. Norfolk Museums Service is a partnership between Norfolk County Council and Norfolk's district councils, funded through council tax, earned income and grants.

The Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 4.30pm.  Tickets to the Museum (which include entry to half term activities) are Adults: £5.70, Concessions: £5.40, Children: £4.55, Families of one adult plus children: £14.55 Families of two adults plus children: £19.40, Twilight admission (one hour before closing): £1. Entry is free to Norfolk Museums Pass Holders, Friends of Norwich Museums, and Carers with a disabled visitor and Under 4s.

About Art Happens and Art Fund

Art Fund has supported museums and galleries for over 110 years. One of their flagship projects is the Art Happens scheme, which is the only crowdfunding platform for UK museums and gallery projects and is completely free of charge to use. Through their Art Happens campaigns, they have raised £500,000 for projects across the country, ranging from new exhibitions to conservation projects and art commissions. Previous campaigns have been launched by the Museum of London, Leeds Art Gallery, Charleston and The Jerwood Gallery.

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