Object of the Month:

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Photograph by Paul Metcalfe Johnson

Cyrus Cylinder

(Described as the first charter of human rights)

From Babylon, southern Iraq. Babylonian, about 539-530 BC

A declaration of good kingship.

The clay cylinder that Rachel examines in this photo, is inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform with an account by Cyrus, king of Persia (559-530 BC) of his conquest of Babylon in 539 BC and capture of Nabonidus, the last Babylonian king.

Cyrus claims to have achieved this with the aid of Marduk, the god of Babylon. He then describes measures of relief he brought to the inhabitants of the city, and tells how he returned a number of images of gods, which Nabonidus had collected in Babylon, to their proper temples throughout Mesopotamia and western Iran. At the same time he arranged for the restoration of these temples, and organized the return to their homelands of a number of people who had been held in Babylonia by the Babylonian kings. Although the Jews are not mentioned in this document, their return to Palestine following their deportation by Nebuchadnezzar II, was part of this policy.

This cylinder has sometimes been described as the ‘first charter of human rights’, but it in fact reflects a long tradition in Mesopotamia where, from as early as the third millennium BC, kings began their reigns with declarations of reforms.


The Past Month: Honing Our Vision

The past month has been busy; filled with tour content preparation, exciting meetings with our website designer and even more exciting meetings with the organizations that we are considering working with to achieve Arts Unlocked’s most important function: helping to make careers in the arts not only accessible, but also sustainable for talented and determined people, regardless of family background or personal wealth.

Our vision:

Many universities are involved in Broadening Participation schemes, encouraging Further Education College students without the benefits of financial and class privilege into arts degrees and creating access for them. However we have recognized that it is also important to prepare students for the long, hard and expensive slog that can await beyond the first degree, and also to provide practical means for them to earn as they go. Arts Unlocked London aims to be a leading light in this.


Pictured above: We met with Josie and Bryony from Arts Emergency to talk about broadening participation at stage 1: undergraduate level.

1/ Broadening participation at stage 1: Some profit from each tour goes into a pot and during the summer a number of Further Education college students will have their places on our Introduction to Art History and Making Sense of Modern Art summer short courses paid for. Short courses can be crucial in helping students to understand art’s relevance to them, to feel comfortable around it, to ask frank questions about it and to meet arts professionals who will hopefully prove to be allies in their future careers should they choose to enter the field.

2/ Sustaining careers at stage 2: Most of our excellent AUL Experts are early career academics and museum professionals. Our field is one of the few in which ‘early career’ means post-doctorate with lecturing experience and perhaps a published book or two. In those early years between MA and Post Doc or Lectureship, university teaching work can be scarce and museum work unpaid, but both are necessary for career progression. Likewise the artists among our number are at exciting stages in their careers. Post-MA, they are exhibiting their work nationally and internationally, as well as keeping the studios necessary to create their work. This process, necessary to any artist, is both expensive and time consuming.

Bright and talented people who are passionate about the career paths they have chosen are by and large willing to pay their dues this way in order to achieve their goals, but it necessitates a means of working that is flexible and well-paid enough for them to spend part of each week either writing for PhD or publication, gaining work experience, creating artwork or attending conferences. Guiding with us allows AUL Experts to use the extensive knowledge gained on PhDs and from working with museum collections first hand, as well as their talent for effective educating, to help them sustain careers.

Will this work? We think so! Here are some photos from our first Meeting of Minds:

Emotionally and intellectually, the company of people who are in the same field is necessary in an arts career as research and the creative process can be equally isolating. It was great to see some of the Experts come together in the British Museum for the first time this week, to have their photographs taken for the AUL website. Paul, Alex, Nicola and Rachel shared their research love of teaching, and listening to them converse was like being in an art and design history think-tank. We look forward to many more AUL get-togethers, when we will be able to share our thoughts on art and life, swap ideas and encourage each other.

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Our Expert and photographer Paul, photographs our British Museum Expeerts Nicola and Alex in front of the Parthenon Marbles…

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Alex schools the Experts on a point of Byzantine History before lunch…

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Paul and Nicola hit it off over talk about teaching and guiding…

…And we all go for tea in one of AUL’s recommended lunch spots – the London Review Bookshop, near the British Museum.

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No more Skype Meetings!



Arts Unlocked London is the brainchild of sisters Antonia and Davinia Gregory. Yesterday, Antonia packed up her Birmingham apartment and relocated down south to join Davinia. Now time to begin looking for an “Arts Unlocked HQ”. These are exciting times! Davinia writes:

This weekend we finally moved into the same town, and that is something huge for us! It’s the first time we’ve lived together for years and shows our commitment to building Arts Unlocked London: tying either of us to one place isn’t easy…

I took the photo above a moment after Antonia and I first decided to go into business together. The photos below were taken just before our next meeting (yes, it was a breakfast meeting 😉 ). The idea for AUL as it exists now was developed between us last year via Skype, because I was in Jamaica on a research trip and Antonia was volunteering at a school in Honduras. We’re both keen travellers for work and play, which has meant that we’ve taken quite a while to turn Arts Unlocked from the rice-grain idea that it was in June 2013, to what it is now: a real arts organization on the verge of launching.

Back then, we skipped about on our respective balconies in our separate countries, excited at the prospect of working together and wishing we could celebrate with each other. That wasn’t to be a reality until now; Antonia took a job in Birmingham upon her return to the UK, and I continued working between London, Bath and Paris. We continued with our Skype meetings, dividing work and squirreling away separately, until now. Antonia took the plunge and moved back down south yesterday, so we are finally living in the same city!

Once the university term has begun and I have finished preparing lectures and meeting my students, we’ll begin looking for a place to live and work together. Until then, my house will be our whole HQ, from illustration studio to finance office!   I am busy editing tours and Toni’s drawing up contracts for our wonderful AUL Experts. We are looking forward to getting stuck in at our new premises… Watch this space!


With Best Wishes


Davinia Gregory

Creative Director, Arts Unlocked London


What is Arts Unlocked London? Well, here’s what we will be once we open….

arts unlocked

The Basics:

Arts Unlocked is a new company that delivers private specialist tours and informative experiences to small groups of creative visitors and residents in London. Our tours focus specifically on the Capital’s rich and vibrant arts sector, covering the fine and visual arts, architecture, fashion, jewellery, theatre, music and literature. All of London’s major museums and galleries are included and we deliver tours for families with children as well as for adult groups. Our aim is to ignite a passion for the arts in children, and re-ignite or sustain it in adults.

The People:

We are part of the same professional network; and have come together to deliver high quality, specialist tours for small groups of creative visitors and residents of London. Our aim is to provide an unusual and in-depth insight into the world of arts in London, delivered by its arts professionals. All of our experts have been educated to postgraduate level at London’s art schools and are specialists in their field. Each expert adds personal character to the tour given, leading tours primarily in the institutions where they have worked and trained. 

Do look out for spotlights on individual experts, as well as on the tours as they develop!


With Best Wishes


Antonia Gregory

Executive Director, Arts Unlocked London.




The countdown to our launch begins… Plotting the Explorer Tour

In the run up to our November 30th expected launch date, it’s an exciting time for us at Arts Unlocked London. Our wonderful British Museum tour for adults has been researched and written by scholar of Byzantine history, all-round-classics-buff and AUL docent Alex Rodriguez Suarez. It is now fully edited, runs smoothly and is ready to go! Now to work on the British Museum tour for families with children. The aim is for it to have as much research packed into it as the tour for adults, so my challenge is to turn that material into a mystery-adventure tour that will leave kids wanting more of the Museum, of history and of artefacts.

map compass spyglass2

I have begun with the props that will be used on the tour. These will help AUL docents to turn the museum into a field of exploration for the children in our client-families. I am a visual person, so these objects were great starting points for me. The plan is for each family to be given a canvas knapsack upon arrival (explorer style). It will contain a golden compass, a large treasure map of the British Museum, hopefully printed on something resembling parchment or vellum, and a spyglass. Reliable suppliers of these haven’t been too difficult to source, and the props look fantastic – I am already picturing the swashbuckling narrative that will go along with them, immersing children in the various faraway lands and historical periods that the BM’s collection brings to life.

lightning thief

Next I need to get inside the heads of the children that we’ll be guiding, to try to understand what catches their attention and fires their imaginations. In recent years I’ve noticed that young clients in the Louvre have known a startling amount about Greek mythology, and are excited about it. The reason? Percy Jackson. Our aim is to inspire this same level of passion for the stories of the Ancient Egyptians, Aztec, Mesopotamians and Romans in each child that we come into contact with, and to do so successfully in a 2hr time frame (!). To help with this channelling of my inner 9 year old,  I delved into Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief for the first time a couple of days ago. I must say I’m loving it!

Please do look out for future developments to the British Museum Children’s tour on As It Happens, in the run up to our launch date.

Best Wishes,


Creative Director, Arts Unlocked London.