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The R100 & R101 Airship Exhibition is About to Land

The ‘R100 & R101 Airships at Cardington’ exhibition opens at the Bedford Gallery, from 2nd October - 19th December 2010.


The exhibition coincides with the 80th Anniversary of the R101 disaster and has been organised with the support of the Airship Heritage Trust.


It will chart the story of how a small village two miles from Bedford became the country’s major airship centre. Starting with the building of the huge airship sheds at Cardington and the village of Shortstown, it then explores the government’s grand plans for long-distance airship travel across the British Empire. Film, photographs and objects will bring to life the construction of the R100 and R101, the stories of the staff and crew and the R101’s final fateful flight to India in October 1930.


The exhibition includes a wide variety of objects on loan from museums and private collections, on display together for the first time in Bedford. Personal belongings, unique documents and objects including a passenger bunk bed from the R100 will show what life was like onboard these giants of the sky, designed to be ‘floating hotels’.   


Although airship building slowed down after the crash of the R101, the exhibition will also show how this was far from the end of the story of Cardington. 


The Mayor of Bedford Borough, Dave Hodgson, said: “Cardington is of course famous for its connections with the airship industry. The iconic sheds, which housed the R100 and R101 airships, are visible for miles around, and are striking reminders of this significant feature of Bedford’s history.”


Cllr Doug McMurdo, Portfolio Holder for Leisure & Culture, at Bedford Borough Council, said: “The exhibition promises to be fascinating, and personally, I am particularly looking forward to learning more about the airship experience for Cardington through the personal stories included.”


Further events at the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museum include:  


1930s on Film screening will provide a great insight into what life was like on board the R101. The British Pathé newsreel will feature rare glimpses of the R101 in flight alongside clips of popular entertainers of the day, Sunday 31st October, 3 – 4pm.


There will also be an Airships Big Draw Family Day on Saturday 16th October, 11 – 4pm. The Event is part of the national Big Draw Campaign, organised by The Campaign for Drawing, which runs for the whole month of October. This year there will be some monster airship making, joined by experts from the Airship Heritage Trust.


There will be an airship theme to the Friday Family Drop-In during October half-term Holiday. Suitable for all ages – go along and build your own model airship. The fun begins at 11am – 1pm and is repeated from 2 – 4pm on Friday 29th October.


There will be a special evening lecture on Thursday 21st October at 7pm. Bedford’s Own – the R101 Airship Disaster will be given by Giles Camplin and Peter Davidson.


The Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museum’s lunchtime talks are also back. This time all of the talks will be given by experts from the Airship Heritage Trust. The talks are on selected Wednesdays, and are held at Bedford Gallery from 1 – 1.30pm. All talks are Free to attend – why not pop by in your lunch hour?

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