Reflections: Mary Powell – Revealed, restored and rejuvenated

Well we did it! In the nick of time and practically on our knees, but ‘Team Castle’ re-opened the 1068 building on April 1 after its £22m restoration.

Magna Carta was placed in its case at 7am as we opened the gates to the public at 10am, which demonstrates what a close run thing it was. But everybody: contractors, design team, staff, volunteers – a cast of hundreds in fact, all worked like Trojans.

If we thought the hard work was over we were very much mistaken as the visitors just poured in from then on – 242,425 April to November – and best of all they like what we’ve done!

For me, Lincoln Castle Revealed began in 2005 with an ever accelerating work load and some stressful milestones, like our subsequently successful bid to HLF for £12m, vital to gaining all our other funding.

Standing back from the project after ten years, I feel that we’ve delivered just what we said we would. So number one 2015 achievement is that the Castle looks magnificent, the whole site has been revealed and is offering a great visitor experience.

Number two is that with some real partnership working we achieved a great events programme across the city which demonstrated a real appetite for more. One night I went to a brilliant concert in the cathedral, the same evening there was also an event on at the castle – both were sell-outs, inconceivable a few years back.

My favourite event, out of many, was Lincolnshire’s Great Exhibition at The Collection, Usher Gallery, cathedral and castle. We gave up counting how many multi, multi million £’s of artworks we had on display. But their sheer value and quality made their display and security very challenging. I was very much on the sidelines, helping to put the lovely accompanying book together, but it was inspiring working alongside some extraordinarily knowledgeable people and realising what goes into putting on an exhibition like this.

The night before it opened, I wandered around, as the final labels were being put up, pondering on which artwork I could happily live with. A take-home option wasn’t actually available, but regardless I narrowed it down to a Stubbs of a foxhound, which with its perfectly captured bright-eyed, wet nosed, wag-tail dog-ness looked like it could just bound straight out of the frame!

I was thrilled when we got the news from 14-18 NOW in late November that our application to host the iconic sculpture Poppy:Wave at Lincoln Castle had been successful. I had been thinking that 2016 might be a bit dull after the 2015 excitement. It will be the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, in which seven Lincolnshire battalions fought, so having the poppies will be a fitting tribute.

The logistics of installing the poppies will be another challenge and I’m looking forward to putting together an exhibition to accompany them.

Both my grandfathers fought in the First World War and I have long been meaning to research further, so that can go on my personal 2016 job list.

My New Year’s Resolution

Be a bit less obsessive about my projects; but with new and exciting plans developing I’m not sure I’ll be able to stick to it….

Mary Powell has worked for Lincolnshire County Council for over 20 years, setting up Tastes of Lincolnshire and the Lincolnshire Waterways Partnership, before moving onto the Castle and the Historic Lincoln Partnership. She says she’ll leave when she gets bored!