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VM choice: Liberty and the maypole

A repurposing of Liberty’s Christmas ship’s mast, installed in the Scarf Room and majestically setting its sails up through the building to the fourth floor, sees it turned into a maypole.

A critical part of European folk festivals, maypoles are thought to be a celebration of axis mundi, the axis of the world, and to recognize the return of the sun. The addition of ribbons seems to be a 19th century invention, held by paired dancers who interweave the ribbons as they dance, until they are all drawn to the base of the maypole.

Liberty’s version, adorned with carefully pressed strips of Liberty-print floral fabric as ribbons, gloriously and completely fills the void space of the atrium.

The masthead remains bare but just below, filling the crow’s nest, is a huge arrangement of flowers - quality artificial versions as maintenance would be too difficult for fresh ones. The selection is season-appropriate too.

Imagine for a moment the complexity of installing this, through four floors of a narrow space, taking great care not to crush the fabric strips. For the VM team it must have been a virtual dance on three floors.

As the fabric strips loop towards the edges of the atrium they are elegantly secured to the underside of the floor pillars, finishing at the ceiling beams of each floor.

It is charming that such a lovely tradition is showcased in a store enshrining British customs, particularly the way it employs Liberty fabric, literally intertwining Britishness with Liberty.

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