Hailes Abbey near Winchcombe has now reopened, following a spectacular refurbishment programme that has utterly transformed the museum.

During the redevelopment of the museum, Kevin Smith – Plowden & Smith’s Managing Director and Head of Exhibitions – sat down for five minutes with Manpreet Mellhi from BBC Radio Gloucestershire to talk about this exciting transformation and the joy of working on exhibitions.

The following interview is based on the conversation between Manpreet and Kevin. You can also listen to the full show on the BBC Radio Iplayer.

all images courtesy of English Heritage

MM: How do you go about working with all these incredibly heavy pieces of stone?

KS: Quite simply – lots of people working away and various pieces of equipment. We’re using pillar drills, sanding discs, polishing and sanding machines, battery drills and battery grinders as well as hand tools.

MM: Are these some of the finished mounts?

KS: These are the almost finished mounts for some of the smaller pieces of ceramics. At the moment, the mounts are very much taller than they need to be and at some stage we are going to cut them down to the exact height the designers want. Next to them, we’ve got some mounts for little cups and some mounts for some small seals, used with sealing wax to make your impression.

We also have slightly larger, heavier pieces of stone to display, and we’re using bits of steel to work with these.

MM: I’m guessing you actually get to touch some of the pieces – you’re very much entrusted with the artefacts?

KS: This is the joy of our work! We get to look at the objects up close and personal, whereas everyone else sees them – usually – behind glass, so we are very fortunate.

MM: [laughing] I hope you’re very careful – kid gloves!

KS: Absolutely. As a company we aren’t just mount makers, we are also conservators  who deal with a lot of different types of objects so we’ve had excellent training.

The other joy of our work – particularly being involved in a project like this, is that the team from the museum or gallery are always really enthusiastic – they’re seeing their ideas for a new exhibition come to life – so we’re working in a lovely fun atmosphere.

Hailes Abbey, Winchcombe, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL54 5PB. For more information and visiting times, please call 01242 602398