Found backstage at the V&A - a treasure trove of eccentricity

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The Independent Online
First there was The House, the documentary which exposed the Royal Opera House as riven by strife. Now there is The Museum, a fly-on-the-wall documentary that portrays the Victoria and Albert as a loony bin staffed by amiable eccentrics.

The hour-long BBC2 film, which has given the V&A trustees sleepless nights, follows a year in the life of the museum, founded in 1852 as a showcase for the British Empire's treasures, but developed to cater for British eccentrics.

Those set to gain personal fan clubs from the programme are Caroline Cedarwell, the cashier, Martin Ramsay, the mild-mannered security guard, and Stephen Calloway, the swashbuckling, moustachioed curator. The staff's view of the museum as mental hospital is succinctly summed up by Ms Cedarwell. "This museum is like the extension of a West London loony bin. When I first came here I thought everyone was on a day-release scheme," she comments.

Her opinion is echoed by Mr Calloway, a part-time curator in the prints and drawings department, who cuts a startling figure with his curling moustachios, pointed beard, and flowing shoulder-length hair. "It's a kind of nature reserve for eccentricity and I rather value that," he says. "I think it's the kind of place for people who have an interesting perception."

Other quirky characters include front-of-house manager Julian Litten, who explains that "it was either going to work at the V&A or going to train as a buyer in the antiques department at Harrods". He, in fact, chose Harrods, but "I was adamant the station for Harrods was South Kensington. I couldn't see Harrods, but I saw the V&A, and thought: 'I've got a job here, I might as well turn up there.' So I did."

He is seen in the film coaching staff for the private view of the William Morris exhibition. "Your task is to ... make sure they go in orderly groups. Some of them won't want to be orderly, because I can assure you that hell hath no fury like a Blue Rinse scorned," he announces.

Curly, the henpecked warder who oversees the fire-alarm system, confides to camera: "This was out of date when it was put in ... you've got so many wires you wouldn't want to look. Probably got dead bodies in there ..."

The programme, to be shown on 23 October, tracks the museum's life between last October and August, a period when it made plans for a new building, cut its budget, and agreed to introduce entry charges.

Keith Cooper, the corporate affairs director at Covent Garden, soared to fame when he was filmed hurling a telephone to the floor during The House. Now meet Stephen, Martin, Caroline and Curly, the new cultural celebrities.

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