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“He had a living grace about his movement and a living intelligence in his eyes,” was his verdict. That same swan was one of the stars of the Robots exhibition at the Science Museum in London for the first six weeks of the show. The Silver Swan was on loan from the Bowes Museum in County Durham, where it is a familiar and very popular exhibit.

For Robots, Matthew Read, horologist and programme tutor for the conservation of clocks at West Dean College, dismantled and reassembled the Silver Swan, which has 2000 moving parts. He had previously worked on it in 2008.

As part of the college’s annual Arts and Craft Festival held from Friday to Sunday, June 2-4, which involves 200 artists, writers and performers, Read will give a talk on his conservation journey of the shimmering automaton. The college, near Chichester in West Sussex, is the former home of Edward James (1907-84), a renowned patron of the Surrealist art movement. It is now the foremost ‘go-to’ centre of education in the UK for conservation and the creative arts.

This year’s festival offers a giddying selection of workshops, talks, including one on James’ extraordinary creation of a sculpture garden in the Mexican rain forest, installations and art performances around the gardens, as well as 120 designers and makers selling their work.