Aside from all of the goings-on I write about on here, my day job for the past twelve years has been working as education officer at Weaver Hall Museum. I've just finished there and in a few days time will be starting at the lovely Norton Priory in Runcorn, Cheshire, where I'll be helping to create an amazing new museum. With all of its links to medieval religion I'll no doubt be writing about aspects of that work in future, but for now I thought I'd write about one of the people I'm sorry to leave behind - my alter ego Samuel Pepys.
It wasn't really planned, a special event week for schools back in 2004 proved so popular that it took on a life of its own and I spent a decade donning the periwig to become Mr Pepys in schools workshops for the Great Fire of London, at least a couple of times a week. These were really popular and I worked with around 30,000 pupils during that time and had some great fun.
The workshop had pupils meeting Sam Pepys, finding out a little about his life, and acting out the events of the Great Fire. Pepys is the only "real" historical character I've ever portrayed, rather than an invented Tudor, Victorian, or whatever and so took a fair bit of research to get him right. Admittedly he was somewhat edited to be appropriate for 6 year olds, and also his love of music extended to include bagpipes... But the details had to be there, and I remember suddenly thinking as I began the first workshop that I didn't know when my own birthday was. Luckily that never came up, but I made sure I knew all the details after that. I've had classes turning up with questions for Mr Pepys many times, in the early days they were quite simple, but now it's so easy for infants to do internet research they get quite detailed. The session was set in 1667, looking back at the events of the fire, and so I've even had questions like 'How many of your brothers and sisters are still alive?' which thankfully I was able to answer. When I started I was six years too young to portray the role and I finished being four years too old.
Reading so much about the character, I couldn't help but grow attached to him, and when wandering around some of Sam's haunts in London it almost felt as if I had been there before. I've written a bit about that on this blog a couple of years back.
My schools' version of Samuel Pepys even got his own fan mail - sometimes arriving like this, (from the days when Weaver Hall was called the Salt Museum).
With my departure he's been put into hibernation, who knows he might make a comeback for an event somewhere in September 2016 when we reach the 350th anniversary of the Fire. In the meantime, my good friend and colleague, Colin Mann made me a miniature Mr Pepys as a memento.
And so to bed.