Silver Seventies at the Leeds City Museum is an exhibition full of memories for those of us who have reached middle age and even beyond. It was great fun, and sometimes moving, watching people going round and telling each other about the exhibits. There was a frail elderly lady, being gently led round by her carer, who was taken to look at the film posters and asked whether she remembered The Exorcist (I rather hoped she didn’t) and a mother who was pointing at a wedding photograph happily and saying to her granddaughter, “Look! This is like me and Granddad.” My favourite was a very small boy who was fascinated by the strange television from “the olden days” and wanted his mother to show him how you switched it off. A scornful teenage girl remained unconvinced that the long v necked pink dress was as cool as she was being told it was, “Can you imagine me in summat like that?” A whole group of people were gathered in front of video footage of the decade, including the return to Leeds of the victorious FA cup winning Leeds United team, pointing out things delightedly to each other, their faces alight with memories. It brought it all back.
I was a teenager and student in the 1970’s so there was a lot there to bring back memories for me as well. I saw an arctic roll pack which reminded me of when I thought that a slice of that stuff was the height of sophistication, a pack of Babycham which reminded me of my favourite alcoholic drink as a young teenager, and a blue plastic wallet with the first examples of decimal coinage in it which was just like the one my mum bought me. It reminded me of the first time the “new money” turned up in the change when our school dinner money was collected. It will be obvious then that a lot of people have had a lot of pleasure from this exhibition. There were things to enjoy.
Having said that I have to be honest and say that I found it rather threadbare. The layout was rather old fashioned, it was very flatly lit, the space was not well used and many of the choices when it came to the exhibits were all too predictable. The real power of an exhibition like this is felt when it shows you things that you have half forgotten but which were important at the time. There were also some important icons of the time which were missing and there was little political context to what was shown. I would like to have been transported back, not just shown what felt like a random collection of things from the past, many of which I would have been able to write down in advance as things which I expected to see.