National Centre for Pop is a bit hit, miss, maybe

Having hot-footed it back from a visit to the National Centre for Popular Music in Sheffield, I read Pamela Buxton’s review (DW 12 March) with interest.

I found the Branson Coates architecture stunning and was able to view all elevations from my car, in differing light conditions, as I toured endlessly trying to find a parking place, wishing I still had my 1960s Monkey Bike.

Once inside, the four-drum layout of the building was both fun and easy to find your way around. Clear linking spaces picked out the drum exhibition pods and gave wonderful contrasting views of Sheffield at all four vista ends.

On this upbeat note, the Making Music section was both a hoot and gave an insight into the music-making industry. The Stardust room, with its twinkly stars and peepholes, was also utterly memorable.

So much for the A-side of the record. The flip side, however, reveals a deep scratch in the vinyl. With most of the graphics the size of the wealth warnings on most financial packages – unbelievably small – trying to read it was not worth the bother.

The Perspectives drum was spectacularly, to coin Tammy Wynette, C-R-A-P. The Soundscapes drum, billed as the only 3D surround sound experience in the world, left me thinking that I had got extremely good value from my standard manufacturer-supplied, in-car stereo system.

I wish the venture well, but worry that it has not supplied enough content-driven critical mass to make it work. All art, but no soul. I preferred Rock Circus’s more brash, in-your-face style.

My next day’s visit to the British Library’s new displays crystallised my concerns. There, buried in a tiny case were four or five scribbled original Beatles lyrics, time-worn and corrected, not a special effects video programme in sight. Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away… Magic!

Mark Magidson

Creative director

Exhibition Plus

London NW11

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