All aboard the sinking ship

14 May

Titanic Exhibition, o2 Arena

Closest Tube Station: Greenwich

Ninety nine years ago a tragedy hit the seas which contorted what everyone believed in modern technology. The sinking of the Titanic resulted in the deaths of 1,517 people and has attracted those in the realm of ‘morbidly curious’ for decades. Including myself.

Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet brought it back to life in 1997, showing how like any natural disaster, the sinking brought all classes under the same net. Men are men, after all. Women and children first.

Yet what the exhibition shows is how the rich families were able to survive after the sinking; the words which stick in my memory are one woman’s recollections of a ship steward saying, “But I have 8 kiddies back at home, how will they survive?”

It starts off rather Disney, with the awkward superimposed photo of you standing by the grand stairs of the ships ball room, whilst laden down with London touristy bags. Then you get your identity card which you use to board the journey. You can even put your hand into an iceberg.

Yet the Disney glee of the ‘get involved’ exhibition is short lived as the stories and artefacts start to unfold. You are immediately gripped into the heart of the Titanic, starting in first class (naturally), where you can delight in reading how the other half lived.

Impeccable displays of both first class and third class bedrooms are laid out; the third class room being very similar to room I stayed in on a mini cruise room to Amsterdam.

The exhibition manages to capture the immense bravery of many people. The harrowing words of one woman are presented, “I have lived all my life with my husband, I will die with him.”

Not to mention the remarkable amount of coincidences; people who were never meant to travel on the Titanic, and the flamboyant Captain who had promised his wife and daughter that this would be his last shift.

After what was a rather draining experience, it was a relief to see that the lady on my identity card with which I was issued at the beginning survived. I overheard one man asking his friend, “Are you still alive?” to which his friend replied, “Ah, no.”

There’s the predictable tourist shop. You can buy a tiny piece of the Titanic for all those people who absolutely love collecting crap. Although I did come close to purchasing the Titanic cookbook, which has recipes from all three classes on the ship.

Complete with fake palm trees (which my mother pointed out needed a dust), the o2 is a fantastic venue if you fancy a mainstream day out, with a large selection of cinemas and chain restaurants. Void of character, it’s the kind of place you’d take you ten year old niece for her birthday. Sky and o2 have firmly fixed their stamp on it. It’s almost like a Capitalist’s crystal globe. But it certainly does its job, and if nothing else the Titanic exhibition is certainly worth a look.


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