'2010 is the year to make people sit up and notice stamps!'

Jennifer Flippance is the 2010 Exhibitions and Project Manager for the greatly anticipated London 2010: Festival of Stamps, which takes place only once a decade.

Continuing a career managing exhibitions and following a personal interest in stamps, she is relishing the challenge of directing this phenomenal event.

What is your role in the festival? How did you come to be involved?

I have a museum background and I joined the British Postal Museum & Archive (BPMA) as project officer for the London 2010: Festival of Stamps. For me, the attraction was the opportunity to work with the diverse collections on a complex, multifaceted project with many partners.

Business Design Centre
The Business Design Centre in Islington,
where the International Stamp Exhibition takes place
(Click to enlarge)

With the festival occurring only once every ten years, how long does it take to organise such a huge event? How do you and your team go about planning it?

Planning began in the philatelic community and at the BPMA almost as soon as the previous international event in 2000 had finished!

I joined the BPMA two years ago to co-ordinate the wider festival events beyond the International Stamp Exhibition in May at the Business Design Centre in Islington. I'm now also responsible for the BPMA exhibitions this year.

As well as the main exhibition in the Business Design Centre in May, can you tell us about some of the events taking place throughout the year?

Obviously the International Exhibition at the BDC is a key event and the highlight of the year for collectors but there is also an exciting and diverse program of exhibitions and events throughout 2010, with something to appeal to everyone.

Philatelic exhibitions of exciting rarities at the British Library and the Royal Philatelic Society are not to be missed, as is Empire Mail: George V and GPO (May 7-July 25), a major exhibition at Guildhall Art Gallery, which will appeal to collectors and non-collectors alike.

Artwork for George V Silver Jubilee stamp
Artwork for George V Silver Jubilee stamp
(Click to enlarge)

There are many other displays and events at partners such the British Museum, the Museum of London Docklands, Twickenham World Rugby Museum and Bletchley Park, among many others.

Outside London, the Bath Postal Museum hosts a fascinating exhibition looking at the period of George V's reign through postal and broader history, while member federations of the Association of British Philatelic Societies are holding 19 special stamps shows all over the country.

See www.london2010.org.uk for the full programme and the latest information.

You must be thrilled that the Queen has agreed to be the patron of the Festival. Can you tell us about the Queen's private collection of stamps? What are the highlights?

We are delighted that Her Majesty the Queen is patron of the London 2010: Festival of Stamps.  This continues a long standing tradition of philatelic patronage by the UK Royal Family. The Queen herself has been Patron of the London International Stamp Exhibitions each decade since 1980.

Her Majesty's collection, which includes the stamps amassed by her grandfather King George V, is one of the finest in the world and we are very excited to be showing many of these philatelic rarities in the exhibition, Empire Mail: George V and the GPO.

1924 British Empire Exhibition Stamp
Empire Mail exhibition, artwork for a 1924 British Empire Exhibition Stamp

This year also marks the centenary of the accession of George V and his philatelic passions. What, in your view, was his influence/impact on stamp collecting, and how is this represented at the festival?

2010 is the 100th anniversary of George V's accession to the throne and many of the events this year celebrate both his reign and his passion for stamps. At the International Exhibition, one entire competitive class is devoted to George V.  

Royal Mail are also issuing special stamps in May to celebrate this anniversary and their stand at the International Exhibition includes a display on the definitives of George V's reign by the BPMA featuring original dies and printing plates.

And the Festival also celebrates another anniversary - the 170th Anniversary of the Penny Black and Twopenny Blue, the world's first adhesive postage stamps. Can you tell us how this is being celebrated?

Opening in May at the British Postal Museum & Archive, we have a very special exhibition of 'Treasures of the Archive'. 

This features the 'Old Original' die from which all Penny Blacks and most Penny Reds originated, a unique proof sheet, before the addition of the corner letters, and an example of the first 'First Day Cover' in the world, showing a Penny Black used on6 May 1840, the first day of validity.

Can you tell us how this year's event has grown and developed since the last event ten years ago?

In the past the International Stamp Exhibition has been an event lasting just 8 days, which very much appealed to existing collectors.

This is the first time anyone's taken the concept of an International show and expanded it out into a year long programme of events and activities, celebrating stamps and bringing them to new audiences. 

There will be collectors from all over the world, visiting and exhibiting at the International Stamp Exhibition.

Do you have a great interest in stamps? If so, how has this interest evolved over the years?

I collected stamps as a child and had what I would now recognise as a thematic collection about horses.  I still buy the occasional stamp, nothing expensive or unusual but through my work on the Empire Mail Exhibition I have developed an appreciation of the stamps of King George V's reign. 

I also like to stock up on mint commemorative stamps so I can use them on my post, matching the stamp to the recipient!

Since joining this project I have learnt a great deal about stamps and come to see how there is really something to interest everyone. 

I particularly enjoy the design aspect, seeing the original artwork and how this is developed into the final stamps, and how they reflect the tastes of the time.

How can collectors become involved in the Festival?

There are many exhibitions and events to visit, so do take advantage of these. If you don't belong to a society or club, why not think about joining one and sharing your interest and knowledge with other collectors. 

Spread the message to your non-collecting friends. Perhaps think about writing an article on collecting or your collection for your local paper or giving a talk. 2010 is the year to make people sit up and notice stamps!


Jennifer Flippance worked in IT and management consultancy, before moving into museums. She worked at the Imperial War Museum before joining The British Postal Museum & Archive.

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