Stuffed animals. That's my overriding childhood memory of the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum. Today's Herbert has a lot more on offer. In a city littered with architectural nightmares, the recent extension is a welcome positive. And moving the local studies library to its History Centre was a smart move too.
Nowadays there is much more than stuffed animals to see. A good glimpse of Coventry's history can be viewed, not surprisingly, in the History Gallery, while the Peace & Reconciliation gallery contains reminders of the devastating air raids on Coventry. Excellent images of representations of Lady Godiva from down the years are on display in the Discover Godiva gallery.
The permanent galleries described above are complimented by visiting and temporary exhibitions. Some are excellent, some are so-so and some of the audio visual stuff I've seen there is just plain bizarre - and that's putting it kindly! But that's art for you. Something for everyone and you're never going to please everybody all of the time.
A cracking exhibition on at the moment is MORE THAN TWO TONES which brings to life Coventry's immense contribution to the world of popular music. Thanks to the hard work of the bods at the museum and local music expert Pete Chambers, a great collection of memorabilia has been assembled.
I was fortunate to attend the VIP opening night with my old mate Scouser. After checking out the latest 2tone trail plaque at the nearby Uni, it was off to the Herbert where the early part of the evening was spent milling around waiting for the action to begin. Pete Chambers gave a speech (which I couldn't really hear to be honest) and then the exhibition opened. There was a little loss of crowd control initially so the gallery was pretty packed as we made our way round slowly. By this time we had joined the Lieutenant Pigeon entourage where we both got to meet Rob Woodward for the first time. We've both known Nigel Fletcher (The drummer and famous/infamous for growling "Mouldy Old Dough" on their No 1 smash hit of the same name) for years so it was nice to meet the other half of the driving force behind this unique Coventry band. Scouser's old man had spun him some yarn about being a 2nd cousin of Mr Woodward but when questioned on this Rob didn't recognise any family connection, leaving Scouser to curse the Jackanory story telling qualities of his dad.
After having a look at the exhibition we headed downstairs to the cafe area for some live music. Both of us were especially looking forward to the re-union performance of The Primitives. Can't say I was a massive fan during their glory days but I did like the hit single Crash so was curious to see how good they would be. Before they took to the stage some filler music was provided by much hyped local lass Kristy Gallacher. Scouser was not impressed at all. I personally thought she was okay but could have performed something a bit edgier.
The Primitives didn't disappoint and put in a storming performance. For such a diminutive person, lead singer Tracy Tracy has a commanding stage presence and voice to match. By the end of the set I was standing next to Horace Panter from The Specials who was tapping his feet away and totally engrossed by the gig. As we left he was congratulating the band profusely. What a top bloke!
I've since been back to the exhibition with my better half to have a proper look and it just confirmed my initial impressions from the opening night. Gold discs, stage outfits, handwritten lyrics, Blue Peter props, Ivor Novello awards and loads of posters are just a small sample of what can be viewed. It runs until 3 January 2010 so if you haven't already been get yourself down to the Herbert before it closes.