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It’s a hard job, but someone’s got to do it, I think, reeling back to my office after an exhaustive food tasting for the new After Hours summer menu.

 

It is surprising how tiring trying out 20 dishes can be. I wouldn’t normally expect to be eating chocolate mousse or tabouleh, or indeed both, at 10.30 am, but it is surprising how quickly you can adjust.

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A food tasting is like a sensory jigsaw, moving dish components around, adjusting flavours and colours and seasonings, until everything fits as well as it possibly can. For us, it also involves a huge amount of discussion, a mass of cutlery and quite a lot of mess.

 

The menu is a very summery one, and you will be able to enjoy it out on our soon-to-be opened Darwin Centre courtyard terrace over a glass of wine or a cocktail

 

Harry Housen, the General Manager for our benugo caterers, and I tested the menu under the inscrutable eyes of our excellent chefs Richard Carter and Olivier Dhainaut. A few months back I gave my outline brief for the kind of food that I would like to offer for the summer late openings of The Deep Sea exhibition. The chefs had come up with pretty much exactly what I had in mind. The tasting was to road test their suggestions, finesse as necessary and finalise the menu and pricings.

 

We'll have a whole picnic thing going on for summer After Hours - so do come along to one (or indeed all!) of the evenings and try out our new menu. My favourite was the flatbread with chicken, chorizo, crème fraiche, pepper confit and baby spinach, closely followed by the chocolate and orange mousse. It was difficult not to scoff the lot and had Harry and the chefs not been there I probably would have.

 

You can also enjoy a delicious peach or mango belline, a chilled beer, or just a glass of wine at summer After Hours. Why not while away a summer evening on our new Darwin Centre terrace after experiencing our amazing new exhibition, The Deep Sea. It is really not to be missed.


The first After Hours summer event will be on 25 June and give visitors the chance to enjoy The Deep Sea exhibition and the Darwin Centre in the evening, with more special events lined up. Visit the website for more details soon.

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At last Friday’s popular and final After Hours for the winter 2009-2010 season, Ludo Graham, Executive Producer of BBC Two’s Museum of Life, proved a warmly enthusiastic advocate for the Museum (although we hadn’t paid him), at his Attenborough Studio talk about the making of the series about the Museum.

 

Although we ourselves have been living with the project for the past couple of years, it was fascinating to hear things from the programme makers’ point of view, as Ludo took us through how the BBC and the Museum had been persuaded to accept the project; the fine art of choosing the presenters; and what from the vast kaleidoscope of Museum science stories here and in the field were finally focused on.

 

I met conservator Lorraine Cornish today, who featured with presenter Kate Bellingham in the Archaeopteryx casting in episode one of the series. Lorraine told me about the BBC Two's fascination with her red shoes, how they took lots of shots of her trundling down a corridor with a trolley whilst wearing them and that she was amused to see that one of ludo-after-hours.jpgthe shots made it into the final cut.

 

Ludo (right) finished up with a particularly arresting point when he mentioned that Johannes Vogel, our Keeper of Botany, had said that if, by watching Museum of Life, people understand what goes on behind our doors, then we will have succeeded in our objectives.

 

One of the most memorable afternoons I’ve spent here was when invertebrates curator Claire Mellish, who featured in the beautiful section which Ludo showed, (particularly beautiful in high-definition in the Studio) talking about the attempt to extract dinosaur DNA from insects trapped in amber, took me around the trilobites collection and I got to see staggering things such as the evolution of the trilobite crystalline eye lenses.

 

The three BBC series producer events we ran at this season’s After  Hours were an excellent forum for people to discover how natural history can be communicated in different ways, and we have seen exactly how much effort goes into creating BBC natural history programmes.  We are very grateful to the BBC producers who supported these events.

 

We bid farewell to the last Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009 exhibition (below) as far as the late openings for this season, but the exhibition itself runs until 11 April. So you still have a chance to catch it over the weekend.

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If you came to After Hours this winter, we hope you enjoyed the experience and thank you for coming. Come back for more when we launch the summer season and The Deep Sea exhibition opens.

 

We were amused by the chutzpah of the young ladies who smuggled in an attractive-looking picnic, complete with picnic rug, and set up in Dinosaur Way at Friday’s event. We may need to start frisking people for strawberry cheesecakes next season. News of our summer After Hours coming soon...

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Coming around faster than I’d have thought possible, we are now approaching the last in this season’s late night openings of Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year and the Darwin Centre. It’s been an excellent if short run of After Hours this time around, and we are very pleased with the very good numbers we have been getting.

 

People seem to engage very deeply with the wildlife photographs in the exhibition, which is wonderful to see, because they are engaging with nature in its myriad forms, as well as the photographic skills on display. Pictured left is the exhibition's wall display of 1000s of wildlife competition images, closely studied by an After Hours visitor. Visit our After Hours web page to book for the exhibiton.

 

At this Friday’s After Hours on 26 March, we welcome Ludo Graham, the executive producer of BBC Two’s Museum of Life series about the Museum, who is giving a talk with film clips in the Attenborough Studio about the making of the series. Find out about the After Hours BBC tallk with Museum of Life executive producer on our website.

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Our feisty arachnid curator Jan Beccaloni is back for another stint in the Darwin Centre's specimen preparation lab. She'll be there with some of her beloved specimens between 18.30 and  21.30 approximately.

 

The Darwin Centre bar will also be open again, as well as the Central Hall and Fossil Way bars.

 

And the great news is that although After Hours is finishing its winter season on Friday, it'll be back in the summer. So watch out for more updates in my blog and on the website.

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Late-night visitors wowed by the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition

We had the biggest turn-out for Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year at After Hours so far this season on 29 January, and as many people went to visit the Darwin Centre on the night. All of which was great to see.

 

after-hours-renouf-talk-as.jpgAt his sell-out event in the Darwin Centre's Attenborough Studio (left), Jonathan Renouf, series producer of BBC Two's illuminating How the Earth Made Us gave us a diverting account of the making of the 5-episode series. It's about how our human history has been shaped and developed by the planet’s elementary forces.

 

The footage Jonathan showed included arresting film from the ‘Fire’ episode with the likeable and enthusiastic presenter, geologist Iain Stewart, in a special fire-proof suit walking through a wall of orange fire. Jonathan told us how, out of shot, a horde of firemen and fire equipment stood ready to douse Iain as he walked through the flames - it being particularly dangerous if he fell over. His fire-protective suit was so heavy, he’d have been unable to right himself. Other fascinating shots were those from ‘Wind’ taken from the peak of Mt Connor in central Australia, which pulled right up to the atmosphere to show the immense wind forces that circulate the mountain. He also told his fascinated audience how a succession of shots were taken by helicopter and then stitched in with satellite images. And how, if you looked very carefully, you could see the join! I’ve looked several times at these shots on BBC iplayer and I still can’t see it. The film clips worked brilliantly in the studio as they are so immersive. Jonathan also brought along a nice surprise for us - some very amusing outtakes from the series, which the audience loved.

 

affer-hours-climatecchange-wall-600.jpgOther Darwin Centre hotspots included the Climate Change Wall (right) just outside the Attenborough Studio. And up in Cocoon, another great communicator, our entertaining curator of arachnids, Jan Beccaloni, attracted quite a crowd in front of the glass-fronted specimen preparation area. It was great to see people engaging so enthusiastically with science on a Friday night out. Showing the public our behind-the-scenes science is of course one of the driving factors behind the Darwin Centre, but that people are doing this as an evening-out experience is really fantastic.

 

Explaining that she was behind glass because of pest control requirements, Jan was working on British arachnid specimens destined for the new Angela Marmont Centre. She had, as promised, also brought along an example of the world’s biggest spider, as well as a black widow and a scorpion. ‘I feel I may have erred in not pointing out these are not British,’ said Jan jocularly, as her audience measured up mentally the goliath bird-eating tarantula in the large specimen jar beside her.


There are only two more late openings of Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year this season on 26 February and 26 March. So do book your tickets well in advance to avoid disappointment if you want to see this year’s competition winners after hours.

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jonathan-renouf-160.jpgThis Friday’s After Hours (29 January) sees the second of our very exciting Meet the BBC Series Producer events in the Attenborough Studio. This time, Jonathan Renouf (left), series producer of BBC Two’s momentous How the Earth Made Us will be showing clips and images from the series. It is a real thrill for us to be running these fascinating events.

 

Back at November’s After Hours, Martha Holmes, the wonderful producer of the BBC’s Life series had to come across country to give her talk and only just made it in the nick of time due to transport problems, so we are relieved that Jonathan is coming from North London.


We will be putting a bar just outside the Attenborough Studio as usual on Friday night where you can relax over a drink before or after the event, or after you've visited the Darwin Centre Cocoon.

 

Jan Beccaloni, our excellent and very amusing curator of arachnids, will be doing a stint in the specimen preparation area in Cocoon. She tells me she will be working on spiders that are destined for the Angela Marmont Centre - our showcase for UK biodiversity which opens later this year. Jan is thinking about bringing along some other specimens from our collections as well, including examples of the world's biggest spider! Hopefully no one will faint. Including me. Come along and have a chat with Jan - she will be very pleased to see you.

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Tickets for this Friday's late opening of our Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition in the Waterhouse Gallery have nearly sold out, so you'll have to be really quick if you'd like to see the exhibition at this After Hours. Look out for this beautiful leopard image if you go.

 

We are starting planning now for our new summer After Hours. This will be a chance for you to catch up with our fascinating new exhibition The Deep after hours and enjoy a summer cocktail or two and our new summer menu out in the Darwin Centre gardens, so make a date in your diary for the first event, which is on 25 June. If the weather holds it will be fantastic.

 

If it rains it will be slightly less fantastic but we have contingency plans!

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It was a real privilege to have Martha Holmes, the BBC Life series producer with us at our November After Hours night. Martha (pictured left) had very kindly agreed to give a talk on the making of the BBC's Life series and it proved to be a truly fascinating event.

 

The high-tech, very impressive Darwin Centre Attenborough Studio was the venue, a fitting place to be discussing Sir David Attenborough's new Life series. Martha was introduced by Nathan Budd, who used to work with her at the BBC Natural History Museum Unit in Bristol, and is now an Assistant Producer in our Interactive Film Unit here. Nathan is a member of the After Hours project team and the event was his idea.

 

Martha is a great speaker, and made a perfect, humorous and quite moving selection of images and film clips to illustrate her talk. And her talk was so engrossing, in particular the dedication of the cameramen in difficult environments was an eye-opener, as well as seeing clips of the animal behaviour that  Martha emphasised new technology is allowing us to see for the first time.

 

What came across most profoundly for me was the BBC’s commitment to excellence. Martha explained how only the very best shots were used in the Life series - even if that meant disappointing the cameramen who had endured horrendous conditions to get footage that would not ultimately be used.  It is this process of selection that ensures the very best footage comes to our screens.

 

I noticed a small, rapt boy in the audience with his parents - he was first in line afterwards at the book signing and went off happily with his signed Christmas present of the Life series book that Martha co-wrote with Michael Gunton.

 

As Martha signed away, Nathan told me how he’d spent a year living totally isolated from civilisation when he was working as a cameraman on the BBC’s Yellowstone series. He said that about five shots from his year’s footage were eventually used. He also told me some amusing stories of running away from the wildlife which, of course, included grizzly and brown bears. Now all I need to do is persuade Nathan to do an event about cameramen living in the wild...

 

Come along to our next After Hours on Friday, 29 January 2010, when we're planning another special event.

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Central Hall, the place to meet at After Hours, where you can enjoy music, tapas and cocktails

 

The first After Hours event this year took place on Friday 30 October. For the uninitiated, After Hours is our season of Museum lates when we open the doors until 22.30 every last Friday of the month, except for December. This year it goes on until 26 March 2010. Have a look at the After Hours web pages to find out what's on offer.

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A glass of champagne in the Red Bar

 

This year is the 5th season of late night openings of the Museum. As well as giving you a great Friday night out at our extremely popular Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition,this year we also have a bar open in our new Darwin Centre and some special events planned there in the Attenborough Studio.

 

I'm the After Hours project manager and over the season I hope to bring you regular updates. In this blog I will be giving you a behind-the-scenes look at our winter lates and news on our planned summer late openings.

 

We started After Hours in the winter of 2005. Our intention was to give people who couldn't come to the Museum in the day or at weekends the chance to come and see our Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition in the evening. Back in 2005 I was thrilled when our Head of Business asked me to set up the After Hours project. My enthusiasm, however, might have been tempered had I realised just what I was taking on!

 

Only 150 people turned up at the first After Hours event, much to our horror. But things have progressed nicely over the years and we almost always sell out. It is a great project to be working on and I have a fantastic project team behind me.

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Relaxing in the Central Hall Blue Bar

 

This year, the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition has a great new home in our Waterhouse Gallery. As well as the Red Bar in Fossil Way near the exhibition gallery and the Central Hall Blue Bar which serves tapas-style food with drinks, there's a new bar in the Darwin Centre which we hope you'll stop by at - before or after you experience Cocoon.

 

Our shop will also be open, where you're sure to find some unique Christmas presents.

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Laura Harmour

Laura Harmour

Member since: Nov 18, 2009

Find out what will be happening at Lates - the late night opening of the Museum on the last Friday of (almost) every month.

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