Wednesday 18th April 2018. The graduation ceremony for the “Class of 2018”, the successful trainee Blue Badge guides, in the Foundling Museum. The “Class of 2018” has been an amazing friendly, collegial and supportive group. They come from all backgrounds and ages, but we melded together as a group as we lived through an intense, hard-working two years. Sadly, a few have to resit an exam or two before they can collect their Blue Badges, but it was typical of our group that most of them turned out for the graduation ceremony with us, so we could all celebrate together.
And after the presentation of our Badges, there were prizes. For every prize there were three or four people whom I wanted to win, and who all deserved to win, but everyone was happy that the winners did indeed win. I was fortunate enough to be awarded the prize for the best written exams. It is the only prize that does not recognise guiding skills, so I was gratified when the Chief Examiner, who announced the awards, also praised my clear structured presentations in the practical exams as well.
The venue was a delight. The Foundling Hospital was established in 1739 by Captain Thomas Coram, to care for abandoned babies. It became so popular that there was a ballot for entry. The hospital was supported by great artists, notably William Hogarth and also Sir Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough, and the composer George Frederic Handel, who conducted annual benefit performances of the Messiah in the Chapel.
The Hospital moved out of London in the 1920s, and the buildings were demolished, but the site was re-acquired by the Coram Foundation and the Museum is situated in its headquarters, built in the classical style of its predecessor. The grounds were eventually preserved after a campaign led by Lord Rothermere, and exist today as Coram’s Fields, the only substantial open space in London where adults are admitted only if accompanied by a child!