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Merry Christmas from the Museum of Londoners

Our new home, in West Smithfield, will be a Museum of Londoners - telling the stories of this great city and the people who live and lived here. We're creating the new museum for, and in partnership with, all Londoners. We wanted to send our Christmas message this year via four groups of Londoners, capturing their very different festive traditions.

Alwyn Collinson

Digital Editor

18 December 2017

Since 2016 Bisi – and activist, actor and refugee who spent many Christmases alone – and his partner Anthony have put out a social media invitation for the lonely to come and celebreate Christmas in their own home.

Merry Christmas from Bisi and Anthony

Since 2016 Bisi and his partner Anthony have put out a social media invitation for the lonely to come and celebrate Christmas in their own home.

From inside the photographer's studio.

Inside the photographer's studio: Londoners Bisi and Anthony

All Londoners are different, and they all do different things come Christmas time. We wanted to reflect that diversity in our Christmas card this year, showing that no matter how you spend the festive season, you're welcome in our Museum of Londoners. We worked with photographer Annie Collinge and four groups of Londoners who all celebrate Christmas in an unconventional way.

Annie: The brief was to make portraits of Londoners that also described their diverse Christmas traditions. Seeing as it wasn’t Christmas when we made the photographs, people weren’t actually doing their festive traditions yet, so I needed to think of a way to illustrate this. I chose to photograph the people, and then rephotograph their images in small, constructed scenes, like a 3D collage, so that I could emphasize the ideas of their traditions.

Kessels Kramer [our partner agency] found people for this project by scouring the internet, putting adverts in newspapers and posting on social media. All the people I photographed for this were incredibly generous and open to the idea, which was great considering it needed a bit of explaining. The main challenge was trying to photograph people during daylight hours, as the sun goes down so early this time of year.

The Peliccis make traditional ravioli every Christmas.

Merry Christmas from the Peliccis

The Pelicci family make Christmas ravioli every year.

The Pelliccis

What would you like to see in the new museum?
Nevio Pellicci: Right, ok, in the new museum, what would I like to see in there? Cos there’s lots of stuff in all the museums ain’t there? So the Museum of London, I’d like to see… I don’t know you’ve got me there… Anna what would you say to that question? What would you like to see in the Museum of London?
Anna Pellicci: A bust of me.

Nevio: There we are, that’s it. Anna give me a good answer!
Anna: Actually, there’s not many old school family places, like Bleetmans, our place, you know like places like that ‘cos it’s all dying out ‘cos of the chains.
Nevio: I’d like to see more about the different places, like the old Jewish people, the old Asian people, the old Italian people, all the different people that have come into London. When they started coming into London and how it changed.

Creating the Christmas card.

Annie, you use a very interesting style of collage to assemble your pictures. Could you tell us why?

Because I was photographing Londoners who weren’t necessarily used to having their picture taken, I wanted to work out how to make the images playful without making my subjects feel uncomfortable during the process. I decided to photograph them at their ease, and then use the collages to add the Christmas spirit.

I chose to cut out figures as I don’t use photoshop a lot in my work, I like things to look home made and rough, I’m not particularly interested in things that look really digital.

Every year the Ebony Horse Club decorate their ponies with tinsel.

Merry Christmas from the Ebony Horse Club

Every Christmas, they decorate their ponies with tinsel and fairy lights.

Ebony Horse Club

What would you like to see in the new museum?
Naomi: I think I would like to see a representation of the different kind of cultures of London- so all the different communities that live there, like how each borough is different, and how each wall is different. I would like to see more about cultural diversity.
What is great about London?
Andrew: There is lots going on, and everything is really accessible and easy to get to like shops and different facilities. I think if you lived in the country it would be hard to get to the stuff that you want to see and do and harder to see your friends.

Annie, how will you be celebrating Christmas this year? Do you have any unusual Christmas traditions of your own?

Annie: I have to say I’m a bit prone to slightly dull Christmas traditions: watching loads of not very good television and eating too many toffee pennies. This year will actually be the first time in my whole life that I haven’t spent Christmas in London, where I grew up.

Goths who spend Christmas Day in a Wetherspoons wish you merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas from the Goths

For 12 years over 100 goths have met at the Rochester Castle pub in Stoke Newington.

The Goths

What do you think makes a Londoner?
Andy: Gosh, is there one single identity?
Chris: I think Londoners are self selecting. I think people who are born here, a lot of them move away and people who aren’t born here move here and become Londoners.
Andy: I’ll go with that too – that’s clever.

Annie, what makes London great? What defines a Londoner?

Annie Collinge: I think London is great for the fact there is always new things to discover because of its size and diversity. I think a Londoner is someone that is open to things and used to living amongst different cultures.

What should we display in the new museum at West Smithfield?

Annie: I think it would be great if the new museum had more interactive exhibits for children, so that they can really get involved and learn about history through play. It would also be nice to have a permanent photography gallery, to show how London has changed and is changing so rapidly now.

Whatever your tradition may be, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy new year.