Ice Cream Van

Beau Belles Ice Cream Van Project

Collecting and Celebrating local cultural rituals and traditions!
Introducing the Beau Belles Ice Cream Van Project, run by artist Rebecca Davies.

This wonderful project is something that Club Historians simply had to get involved with!

The Ice Cream Van

The Ice Cream Van outside the V & A Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green, April 6th 2013 (photo: Ruth Cherrington)

The Ice Cream Van project shares many of our own ideals and aims in terms of collecting memories and experiences of shared local rituals that are enacted when local communities come together. Many of these may not happen any longer due to social change and the dispersal of communities particularly in urban areas. They are in danger of simply being forgotten and lost forever.

But they can be kept alive by inviting people to remember them, to record their memories and then pass these on to other generations. This is something that we’ve been doing at Club Historians for almost 5 years now and we support Rebecca in her endeavours. She has bought this lovely old ice cream van (sorry to say she cannot actually sell ice creams!) but the van conjures up so many happy memories in itself.

I am far from alone I’m sure in remembering our local ice cream van that drove round the streets of our estate when I was child and those chimes were a welcome sound. If mum had the money, we could run round the corner to go and buy an ice cream or lolly. Sometimes the van, it was often Di DiMascios, may have moved on already and we would go tearing off down the street in a panic that we would miss the chance! But usually we caught up and were rewarded with the ice cream of our desire.

What other childhood memories have we all got stored in our heads? And what about now? Rebecca invites people to visit the van and to tell their stories, no matter how old they are or where they are from. From very young to very old, from these isles or elsewhere, what were, and perhaps still are, the important rituals that brought communities together? She will record stories and memories and illustrate them for the teller. They automatically become a member of the Ice Cream Van library and, where possible, some rituals are re-enacted.

As Rebecca says, ‘Beau Belles Ice Cream Van celebrates the cultural rituals and traditions occurring historically and at present in the UK.’

During half term week in early April this year (2013) Rebecca was parked outside the V & A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, London. On the final day, there was collective singing of the traditional Oranges and Lemons, plus some double dutching (hop skip jump!), and other musical events.

What great fun for those involved, as these things used to be way back in the past. There has also been maypole dancing!  My mother used to tell me about that from when she was at school in the 1920s but it’s not something we see much of now.

So- as with Club Historians, it’s all about ordinary people sharing their memories to keep alive those things that have helped them to celebrate their local communities. Many of those rituals and cultural experiences used to take place inside local clubs such as Easter bonnet parades and community singing. But they also happened outside, in other places. Rebecca is interested in collecting as much as possible not only for posterity but in order to pass these things on!

‘Beau Belles Ice Cream Van will breathe new life into traditions and whip them up for all to share.’
Great stuff!  We fully support that aim.

Inside the van there is a seating area and small library. It’s a comfortable place and I stayed a while talking about clubs and their place in the past, their place In the future.

Rebecca will be taking her van around the country in the summer so look out to see when it might be coming your way!

(The Ice Cream Van is supported using public funding by Arts Council England and Lottery Funding)
Rebecca and The Van

Rebecca Davies outside the ice cream van, April 6th, V & A Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green (photo: Ruth Cherrington)

More from the Ice Cream Van at The Olympic Park 2013

Rebecca and Ruth are shown on this video of their time at the Olympic Park.



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