While John Bright is mostly known to create outstanding period clothing for huge films like Pirates of the Caribbean, he's in the spotlight for his collection of antique toys now. The artist has opened a museum dedicated to his puppets!
Unique Museum Of Antique Toys
Movie appreciators as well as stars like Emma Thompson and Judi Dench have all been fans of John Bright. After all, he’s one of the best period clothing creators, whose creations appeared in various popular films. Yet, this time he’s praised for a completely different reason – a collection of antique toys and puppets! The 82-year-old has opened a museum dedicated to the collection. Highlighted models include rare wooden dolls from the 1800s, a Steiff ride-on elephant, and a train set previously seen on the BBC’s adaptation of The Borrowers. Moreover, they were the first to be displayed in the new museum and a puppet theatre Bright founded in East Sussex. That said, the Barn Museum and Theatre has found a ton of support from Bright’s celebrity friends like Stephen Fry, Hugh Bonneville, and Richard E Grant. The place itself is run by the creator’s charity, The Bright Foundation.
Not all dolls will remain in the museum’s permanent collection. On the other hand, the 50 antique toys there will be accompanied by houses and antique furniture, a pond, and hanging planes, as well as a farm zone with 100-year-old toy animals, eight sizes of toy trains, a handful of working antique train sets, and, finally, 100 antique puppets! Interestingly enough, one of the train sets resembles London Underground’s Metropolitan line. While supporting the museum, Grant is also diving back into childhood, because a puppet collection was “what inspired me to become an actor when I was a boy,” he said.
From Costumes To Puppets
Bright’s career spans from the late ‘70s, when he started creating his first costumes. In 1986, he already won the first Oscar with Jenny Beavan. He made the outfits for Helena Bonham Carter, Dench, and Maggie Smith in A Room With a View. Later, he founded Cosprop, a theatrical costumier, and started collecting antique toys. In fact, Bright was highly inspired by anachronistic Victorian dolls on sets of old dramas. “Twenty-five years ago I was thinking of expanding Cosprop’s range, from clothes to props,” he told the Observer. “I’d seen quite a few programmes where, particularly the dolls, they’d got the period totally wrong. And I realised that perhaps that knowledge that should be there, wasn’t there.” Sadly, his experience with lending the toys to TV productions was rather discouraging, as they returned in a worse condition.
It didn’t stop Bright from collecting antique toys, though. Even a simple touch of the old puppet meant a lot to him as an old costume designer. “I suppose I got fascinated,” he said. Back when he was 15 years old, the costume designer created outfits for his puppets and put them on shows. Now, the Bright Foundation is making free puppet shows for the children and their parents, accompanied by workshops and performances. Bright hopes to inspire children and the youth to dive into the creative arts, especially helping those living in disadvantaged communities.
“Hastings is among the most deprived areas in the country,” he said. “Children respond so extraordinarily to toys and they have got to be given the opportunity to do so.”