Wellcome Collection puts lucky charms on show

Peter Watts
Saturday 22 October 2011 08:34

As lucky charms go, it's hard to better a mole in a bag. This desiccated mammal – believed to protect the holder from all forms of danger – was one of many such charms collected more than 100 years ago by Edward Lovett, a City banker and self-taught folklorist who spent his spare time trawling the East End for lucky mementos held by the capital's superstitious population. Lovett's vast collection was absorbed by the Wellcome Collection, and it is there that the artist Felicity Powell has curated an exhibition of 400 of them, alongside some of her own related art.

"What was interesting was the humbleness of the objects, which gave them a strange allure," says Powell. "There was also a real diversity of items, from shells to shoes. There were several boxes of mascots that soldiers carried with them in the First World War and throughout the collection there is this real feeling of comfort, that these items will allay fears and anxiety, to keep one safe."

Lovett wrote about his finds in 1925 in Magic in Modern London, and this fascinating but largely anecdotal tome offers some of the only information available on many of the items. "In the book you get this sense of his passion for talking to people that others were ignoring," says Powell.

Felicity Powell: Charmed Life, Wellcome Collection, London NW1 ( www.wellcome collection.org) to 26 February

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