News - The Caretakers

Eloise Moody

Artist Eloise Moody brings previously unheard voices on art to Radio 4 in The Caretakers, a new series which captures the perspectives of gallery cleaning staff as they go about their work...


Press Release

In every museum and gallery, cleaning staff look after our artistic and cultural treasures and the buildings that they sit in. They have an intimate knowledge of both, yet their opinions on about them are rarely heard.

For a new Radio 4 series of three half hour episodes, artist Eloise Moody has been working closely with nine people across the United Kingdom tasked with keeping their respective museums, galleries and collections clean. This series offers a rare chance to perch invisibly on the shoulders of these unique guides, noticing what they stop to consider about the collections they look after as they go about their work.

Eloise conceived the idea for The Caretakers as a way to give voice to workers whose thoughts about – and knowledge of – the museum and gallery collections they look after often go unheard. The project began in 2020, exploring the perspectives of UK museum and gallery security staff and those maintaining buildings and collections during lockdown. This project was supported by arts organisation Metal.

In a new series coming to Radio 4 from Tuesday 5 April, Eloise has turned her attention to the perspectives of cleaning staff - bringing together nine new voices from a set of galleries and museums located across the UK:

  • Doreen is the cleaner in the Glasgow Woman’s Library. At the end of her shift, she sits in what was once an exclusively male reading room, thinking about its change in identity. As she imagines, she reveals potential – in people, objects and places.
  • Art gallery Compton Verney, is set in a historic mansion. In its impressive halls we meet Michael who left a career in the Chinese army before settling in Warwickshire. Having completely rethought his lifestyle, he explores the collections whilst considering the role of destiny in his life.
  • Philippa works in conservation at The Hardmans’ House, a National Trust property. The specialist cleaning she does brings her in close contact with the contents of the house and its former inhabitants. What were once belongings are now a ‘collection’. As the house has its annual deep clean, we re-examine the objects through Philippa’s eyes.
  • Working as a cleaner at the William Morris Gallery- a museum dedicated to the Arts and Crafts designer and socialist - we meet Liliana. Having rebuilt her life in London after fleeing Columbia twenty years ago, she finds her mind traveling back to her native country as she considers the artifacts that surround her. Haunted by a past exhibit, she considers what makes a home.
  • In renowned sculptor Barbara Hepworth’s house and garden in St.Ives, now cared for and run by Tate, we join Deborah, head of conservation. Having dedicated herself to the restoration of Hepworth's summer house, she reflects on the balance between representing and preserving what was once a home and workshop.
  • Lisa cleans at St. Fagans, a living museum in Wales where historical buildings are relocated and re-constructed brick by brick. As she goes about her shift, she shares some of the more unusual tasks that connect her to past generations.
  • June is a cleaner at the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA). Whilst buffing the floors, she takes a closer look at a series of photographs that transport her back to her teenage self.
  • Andy was a traffic warden who found a new life working in outdoor maintenance at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. In between cleaning the sculptures, mowing the lawns, and emptying the bins, he finds quiet moments to reflect on the previous lives of the park.
  • Keeping Titanic, Belfast shipshape is Jackie, a native of the city. Whilst cleaning the cabins, she considers extraordinary moments in the life of the ship – and the city that created it.

Eloise Moody said, “Who gets to talk about culture? Usually not the cleaners. Yet who better to share their favourite artworks and objects from UK collections, than the people working amongst them each day. For me, these intimate responses illuminate, surprise, educate and delight and I can’t wait for listeners to discover these fantastic individuals.”

Daniel Clarke, Commissioning Editor for Factual at BBC Radio 4, added “Exploring our museums and galleries through the eyes of those who look after them is such a simple yet revelatory idea, and I’m delighted The Caretakers is coming to Radio 4. Listeners will get a new set of perspectives not only on the artworks and exhibits but on the people who take care of them, too.”

The Caretakers is a new series created and produced by Eloise Moody, supported by Metal. It is a Whistledown Production for BBC Radio 4. Emma Barnaby is Producer and Editor. Executive Producer is Anishka Sharma. It was commissioned for Radio 4 by Daniel Clarke.

It will be broadcast on Tuesday 5th, 12th and 19th April at 11:30 on Radio 4, and be available as a podcast on BBC Sounds.

Image - Henrik Knudsen
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