A puppet theatre at the Barn Theatre and Museum.

Image: The Bright Foundation/Tom Kofoed

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A large private collection of antique toys and puppets has opened as a museum in East Sussex.

The Oscar-winning film costume designer John Bright, 82, has launched the Barn Museum and a puppet theatre near Hastings which will be run by his arts education charity, The Bright Foundation.

Bright, who founded Cosprop, the theatrical costumiers in 1965, told ATG he had been collecting for over 50 years, buying mostly at London markets and shops.

“I followed a strict regime every Saturday, visiting Camden Passage and Portobello and on a Sunday, Camden Town. Some of the nicest things like a 1905 children’s stove were found on a stall in the Portobello Road. For trains I would visit the Barry Potter toy fair at Sandown Park [the next fair is on September 17]”.

He owns more than 50 antique dolls as well as doll’s houses, a pond with toy boats, toy trains and a working model of what is now the London Underground’s Metropolitan Line. All form part of the museum’s permanent collection.


Actors Jeremy Irons and Sinéad Cusack with John Bright at the opening of his toy museum and puppet theatre in Hastings.

Image: The Bright Foundation/Tom Kofoed

Costume accolade

In 1986, the designer shared his academy award for best costume design with Jenny Beavan for the Merchant Ivory film A Room with a View. He also created costumes for The King’s Speech (2010), the Netflix series The Crown (2016) and many others.

He began collecting puppets when he was 15 years old.

The foundation will run free puppet shows and workshops that Bright hopes will inspire children and young people “facing disadvantage who would not normally have access to the creative industries. And at the same time nurture creativity and free play.”

Among the many stars who lined up to support the venture, Hugh Bonneville enthused: “What a legacy, what a gift”, while Richard E Grant said that his own puppet collection inspired him to become an actor.