Whenever in London, I’m sure you treat yourself with at least a sneak peek into some of their exquisite museums, right? How not to? They have those massive, impressive and amazing cultural houses, which attract millions for their objects and artifacts, architecture or promised experiences. Sometimes also because of the name itself – admit it.
Well, next time in London, consider taking yourself for another, this time slightly different museum adventure, only 30 minutes away from London by train – to Woking. Why? Because it is a home of not so large and not so famous however, appealing mixture of gallery and museum – The Lightbox. Smaller, but from a museum geek’s perspective extremely interesting because of its tight connection to the surrounding society and their feeling of responsibility to the local area. Marvelous.
It’s an institution, where everything just simply functions while breathing with its society. A place that could be called a plus museum – museum with added value, or as they are saying: “More than just a gallery” and could easily be an example of good practice for museums who cannot build their reputation by Van Goghs, Rembrandts, Egyptian riches, or any other buzz-museum objects. Sure, you won’t run into masses of tourists, which is liberating at some point, instead, you will be welcomed by a friendly greeting by one of their staff at the entrance. You will be surrounded by the sounds of live music from their café, or will be flirting with local products in their shop. You will pass by a curious family, a few local visitors, a group of children on their exploratory mission … and a lot of things that will steal an hour – or better two – from you just like that.
For an introduction of this area and building of a local identity and a sense of belonging, the permanent exhibition takes care under slogan: Once known as the place of the mad, the bad and the dead, even though it is much more than just that. However, merely by this well-chosen slogan, a fair share of Woking’s history remains in your mind, when leaving The Lightbox. The exhibition works perfectly, it guides you through all you need to know by neatly intertwined technology, so you don’t even realize you have been tackling with it and it does not compete for the attention over the displayed objects.
For a break from history, or just for inspiration, you can take a walk down their art exhibition, where they take great care for exhibiting their permanent collection as widely as possible with always fresh artifacts. If you really feel like pampering, you can hire the place for a lovely dinner among the arts. Besides this, they keep up with the offer by bringing the hosting temporary exhibitions, or preparing their own. To my great pleasure, while I was there, an exhibition on Quentin Blake’s illustrations was on. The child in me was happy and satisfied.
What I cherish most about them is the fact, they never, never forget about the relevant topics, participation, accessibility, and involvement of the locals, and thus they really put their effort into being a relevant cultural building of that area. In a way, they’ve managed to become Woking’s cultural core in their nearly a decade of existence. Just a small illustration of that: when I arrived from the train, of course I had no idea where to go, because I forgot to print screen the map on my phone or check for directions from their useful website. Instead I just asked the first person, who walked by, if she could direct me to the Lightbox. “Oh, no problem love, I was just heading that way.” a lovely elderly lady replied, while a man next to us heard my question and interfered: “It’s just down there and then a bit to the left, see.” So, absolutely no map needed and you’ll reach it anyway.
To wrap it up – it’s a lovely experience, it has a little bit of everything and a good cup of coffee as well. I absolutely wouldn’t mind having a Lightbox a bit closer to me. Well, see you next time, when I’ll be in that parts of Europe.