+ Student & Staff

Magical Meccano Christmas Window

Hugh Baird University Centre undergraduate designs Blackler’s Santa themed window for Museum of Liverpool.

Museum of Liverpool’s shop has teamed up with the Hugh Baird University Centre to create a unique Christmas window display to celebrate the iconic Blackler’s Santa, currently on display in the Museum atrium.

First year undergraduates from the Foundation Degree in Visual Merchandising and Promotional Design – which is validated by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) – were tasked with a brief by the Museum’s retail team to create a visual display in its shop window. They were asked to reflect an iconic figure from Liverpool’s retail history, the giant Santa that used to stand at the centre of Blackler’s department store. Until its closure in 1988 Blackler’s was located on the corner of Elliot Street and Great Charlotte Street and was famous for its amazing Winter Wonderland Grottos which attracted more than 10,000 visitors a week.

After visiting the University Centre and viewing a number of proposals from the undergraduates in what has now become an annual collaboration, staff from the Museum of Liverpool shop selected the winning window design by Izabela Fowler. The striking design features the famous giant Santa emerging feet first from a machine made of giant Meccano pieces; a favourite children’s toy invented by local Frank Hornby in the early 1900’s.

Karen O’Connor, Head of Retail at National Museums Liverpool said:

“We enjoy working with the Visual Merchandising students from the Hugh Baird University Centre and are committed to giving them the experience of working in industry through the live briefs we set each Christmas. We were particularly excited about the theme this year as it gave the students the opportunity to capture the lavish Christmas displays of 1950s and 1960s department stores and celebrate the much-loved Blackler’s Santa. Izabela’s design achieved this, as well as referencing Liverpool’s history and the Museum’s collection.”

Now in place in the Museum of Liverpool shop window, the design is attracting the attention of visitors, who are intrigued by the interesting shapes and bright colours used in the installation.

Describing how the design was imagined, Izabela said:

“When our class was tasked with the brief, immediately I went to visit the Museum and began to carry out research into Liverpool’s retail history. It was obvious how important Meccano and Frank Hornby’s role was in the local economy in the 20th century and his influence is still strong in Maghull where I live – our local Wetherspoon’s is even named after him!”

Liaising with staff from the Museum of Liverpool shop and her tutors from the Hugh Baird University Centre prior to the installation, Izabela set to work making her design a reality, measuring the window space, developing Meccano-inspired graphics and even sourcing a pair of Santa-esque boots from Germany. The merchandise featured in the window display continues the nostalgic theme and includes traditional toys and gifts all available to buy from the Museum of Liverpool shop.

After installing the window display with two of her fellow undergraduates, Izabela reflected on the experience and the industry skills the project has allowed her to develop:

“It’s amazing seeing my design brought to life and I can’t wait to show my family! It’s been great working with the staff here and gaining experience on a live project. I want the display to have a real impact on visitors, particularly those who may remember Blackler’s and Meccano toys, so that they may rediscover their childhood through my design.”

Staff at Museum of Liverpool have been impressed again this year with Izabela’s festive window display. Gemma Moore, Duty Manager at Museum of Liverpool Shop said:

“This year’s design is really bold and eye-catching, as well as imaginative. It closely follows our brief and the detail captures the imagination – we particularly like the Blackler’s Santa’s boots that are featured!”

The Hugh Baird University Centre are also delighted with the outcome of this year’s project and Izabela’s lecturer, Angela O’Brien, explained how the collaboration is beneficial to the Visual Merchandising and Promotional Design students:

“Working on live briefs such as this one really gives the undergraduates an insight into the career they’re aiming for. They are able to build a relationship with the client, interpreting their creative brief, accepting critiques and meeting the client’s budget and timings. The experience they gain from this is invaluable so we appreciate the continued collaboration with the Museum of Liverpool shop and their support of our undergraduates.”

Izabela’s design can be seen in the Museum of Liverpool shop window until 30 December 2016. Blackler’s Santa Christmas cards and mini prints are available online and from the Museum of Liverpool Shop. All profits from Museum of Liverpool shop are returned to National Museums Liverpool to support their work.

For more information about the Museum of Liverpool shop, visit www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/onlineshop.

If you would like to find out more about the Visual Merchandising and Promotional design courses at the Hugh Baird University Centre, click here.

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