Mike Leigh, Mr Turner and Greenwich

Queen's House closure

Visitor notice. On Monday 17 September The Great Hall, the Orangery and South Parlours will be closed from 10am until 5pm. The rest of the Queen's House will remain open, including the iconic Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I.

The critically acclaimed Mr Turner film has gone on general release. You may not know that Royal Museums Greenwich have been involved behind the scenes for years.

After what seems like a very long time, Mike Leigh’s critically acclaimed Mr Turner finally goes on general release today. I say a long time, because in a way I've been living with Mr Leigh’s project for years - my sister, Jacqueline Riding, was the research consultant on the film from June 2011. Perhaps unsurprisingly she made the most of the fact that I was working on my own Turner project, the National Maritime Museum’s Turner and the Sea exhibition, which opened in November 2013.

Turner & The Sea Launch Night at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, 21st November 2013. Me and Mike Leigh in the 'Turner and the Sea' exhibition, Nov 2013


Mike Leigh very kindly opened our exhibition on 20 November 2013 and gave a wonderful speech about Turner's life-long love of the sea.

Turner & The Sea Launch Night at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, 21st November 2013. Mike Leigh at the museum, talking about Turner and the 'sublime' drama of the sea


Some of the film’s cast and crew were also present, including Dorothy Atkinson, who plays Turner’s housekeeper Hannah Danby and Marion Bailey, who plays Mrs Booth, his landlady in Margate and later his companion.

Turner & The Sea Launch Night at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, 21st November 2013. Dorothy Atkinson (Hannah Danby) at the 'Turner and the Sea' opening event


Of course Turner and his contemporaries were extremely familiar with Greenwich, not least because it was at the time the beating heart of Britain’s naval world. So during the extended research period for the film Jacqueline arranged for a number of us at Royal Museums Greenwich to give talks and tours, or have one-to-one discussions on a particular event. We advised on events like the Fighting Temeraire being towed to Rotherhithe or about an individual character, such as the marine artist Clarkson Stanfield, to help the actors develop their ideas and approach. Our very own public astronomer, Marek Kukula, met with Jacqueline and the actor, Lesley Manville, to talk about Turner’s fascination with science and in particular his friendship with Mary Somerville.

I've been lucky enough to see ‘Mr Turner’ twice already; once in March with all the cast and crew and again in June, when there was a big ‘thank you’ for everyone who had given their time and expertise. Over the coming weeks we’ll be posting more blogs about our involvement on the film. This includes a Greenwich day out for fifteen of the actors playing artists and Royal Academicians (including the fabulous Timothy Spall!) So watch this space…  

Posted by Christine Riding, Head of Arts and Curator of the Queen's House