A record breaking exhibition, that contributed £1.75M to the local economy

One of Arch’s most successful projects to date, Mods : Shaping a Generation celebrated the remarkable story of the stylish 1960’s youth sub-culture and the 40th anniversary of the release of the cult Mod film, Quadrophenia.

The project featured a major three month exhibition at Leicester’s New Walk Museum and Art Gallery that told the story of the Mod scene in Leicester and Nottingham through the eyes of those that were there.

We’re incredibly proud of the exhibition which received a record attendance for a spring start, was covered by the national press and won a tourism award for bringing £1.75M in to the local economy.

View our case study video below.

“This stunning and immersive exhibition showcased Mods’ fashion, music, film and design. It was hugely popular and it was fantastic for us to welcome many people who had not previously visited New Walk Museum.”

Joanna Jones

Head of Leicester Arts, Museums, Festival and Events
New Walk Museum

A passion project inspired by a personal connection and developed with a unique partnership

Arch Creative Director Joe Nixon’s late father John (known as Jelly) was a Mod ‘face.’ Back in 2003 Jelly had recorded his memories of the 1960s Mod scene with an interview with Leicester University’s East Midland’s Oral History Archive – see more information here. When author Shaun Knapp was researching his new book about the Mod scene, he was inspired by the recordings and approached Joe for his blessing to use the content. Joe agreed, and suggested there was potential for a wider Mods project including an exhibition. We pitched the idea to New Walk Museum & Art Gallery, they loved it and Mods : Shaping a Generation was born.

We then approached local charity Soft Touch Arts, who use creativity as a tool to help change the lives of disadvantaged young people. Arch have been working with Soft Touch for many years now and have nurtured a close relationship. We worked with them developing a successful funding campaign, and the project received support from The National Heritage Lottery Fund, BID Leicester and a range of local sponsors.

The unique partnership between a design agency, an author and a charity was the perfect combination to bring the story to life and help create a community focussed, intergenerational project.

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Curating and organising the exhibition

The Mods project was a departure from Arch’s typical way of working in that we didn’t only look after the creative. Working closely with the team, Arch had a crucial hand in curating content for the exhibition. We sourced archive photography and newspaper articles and brought in acclaimed fashion stylist Roger K Burton who provided original Mod costumes from the film Quadrophenia. Roger has styled many high profile artists over the years, from David Bowie to The Rolling Stones, so was able to bring his experience and design expertise. The team also linked up with Alan Fletcher, author of the novel Quadrophenia, and story consultant on the film, who added another high-profile element.

As a community project we were able to work with the public who loaned nine of their precious original scooters, including the iconic Vespa ridden by Sting in Quadrophrenia which became the centrepiece of the exhibition. Other items included original film scripts, posters, ephemera, memorabilia, a Dansette record player, pinball machine and jukebox.

The team at New Walk Museum worked with us to help curate and install the exhibition, and develop a comprehensive events programme including fashion talks, films, gigs and workshops.

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Creating a brand to appeal to all generations

For today’s audience, Mod culture is a bit of an enigma. Most of us have heard of Quadrophenia. We know The Who. We understand it’s about a particular look and style. But that’s about as far as it goes. Shaping A Generation was a project that readdressed the gulf in knowledge about the movement that made the sixties – and our designs needed to reflect the creativity and individuality of the original Mod scene.

Mod was a British phenomenon and the Union Jack and RAF logo are synonymous with the graphic design, however we wanted to change the perception of the Mod stereotype. This iconic imagery was an important inclusion, but they were used in an understated way. Our brand identity, typographic styling and overall look and feel had a sophisticated, but contemporary twist , which would appeal to a design savvy audience.

Our wide range of marketing collateral included signage, brochures, outdoor and social campaigns and audio-visual driven website. Utilising source material used within the exhibitions and the books, the website provided an opportunity to include additional photographs and audio reminiscences than those used in the exhibition. The website captured ‘heritage at risk’ by including interviews of people who were part of the scene, and archiving their stories and their legacy for future generations.


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A collaborative approach to designing an exhibition

Working closely with the Mods team, Arch set about designing an exhibition layout which would give a real wow-factor and explore all of the senses, whilst also balancing accessibility factors such as wheelchair access and typography sizes. Using 3D software Sketchup and Podium, we generated CGI’s of the 3000 square foot exhibition space, which enabled us to give highly accurate images of the final look and feel.

Using content from the books Mods: Two City Connection and Rebel Threads, we then created a range of sections throughout the space, from ‘fast moving fashion’ to ‘rockers and riots.’ The panels and graphics throughout the exhibition were designed to give a high class image, and we introduced a secondary colour palette of bottle green, burgundy and camel which echoed the clean cut fashion styling and colours from the period. Sixties advertising fonts Clarendon and Futura were used to give a modernist feel.

Four stage areas were created to showcase the curated content, whilst allowing it to be showcased in a safe and secure way. Central to these was the scooter stage, made out of pallets and staggered into layers so the scooters and mannequins were visible from all angles. We recreated a busy nightclub scene at the rear of the exhibition complete with with eighteen mannequins, and projected footage from popular Mod TV programme ‘Ready Steady Go!’

The gallery walls were painted grey to enhance the costumes and create an atmospheric night-time feel, taking visitors on a journey and accompanied by an energetic Mod soundtrack. We produced a series of short films of key Mod characters, documenting important local heritage, and featured on a TV screen with headphones. The ‘sound and vision’ element of the exhibition created one of the most emotionally engaging exhibitions staff at the museum have seen and visitors were encouraged to take as many photos as possible – changing people’s perceptions of museums being stuffy, and allowing sharing across all social media platforms.

The exhibition became an unforgettable audio-visual experience, with many visitors dancing around the gallery, and bursting into tears as they were taken on a trip down memory lane.

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Highlights and achievements

  • 35,000 visitors in two and a half months – a new attendance record for a Spring exhibition at the museum, and above average dwell time
  • Visitors came from across the UK and abroad, most notably Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA, France, Germany and Spain
  • The exhibition generated a substantial increase in donations and retail income to the museum, and attracted new audiences who have never visited the museum before
  • The exhibition received local, regional and national coverage. There were reports across BBC and ITV East Midlands News, and several features in local press, and The Independent
  • The exhibition generated three visitor books, something unprecedented for a temporary exhibition
  • The Facebook exhibition opening film achieved over 67,000 views, reached 119,400 people, had 4,800 reactions, comments and shares and over 4,500 post clicks
  • Legendary Mod band ‘The Who’ tweeted about the exhibition
  • The two exhibition Facebook group and pages have a combined ‘like’ and membership of over 2000 people, which will be built on for future exhibition venues to utilise

“The Mod scene in the 1960s wasn’t just about music, it took in fashion, photography and design, and it involved many young people from across the country. While London is often the focus for writing about youth culture in the 1960s, young people in provincial towns such as Leicester and Nottingham created their own scenes. They developed their own tastes and styles and took them out into the wider world. In some cases, they were hugely successful and influential, but their stories have barely been recorded. This project addresses that problem incredibly well.”

Colin Hyde

East Midlands Oral History Archive
University of Leicester

A community driven project with a lasting legacy

What started as a small celebration of Mod culture developed into an ambitious exhibition and festival and captured the imagination of cultural leaders, organisations and a large Mod fan base in Leicester, Nottingham and across the UK. The exhibition turned into a social hub, a meeting point for friends, old and new, to regularly meet up, and the project has connected people, creating lasting positive change for our communities.

Headed up by Christine Wigmore and Sally Norman, Soft Touch Arts developed a programme of Mod inspired creative activities, engaging with their young people, schools and colleges. Soft Touch Arts involved almost 100 young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, giving them the opportunity to meet the older generation and participate in creating an ‘inspired by’ Mod culture exhibition entitled ‘Modified’ at Soft Touch Arts which ran alongside the New Walk Museum exhibition.

Due to the success of both the exhibition and festival, the ‘Generation : Subculture‘ team have been invited back to the Museum to work on another project – and we’re already working on ideas for Punk : Rage and Revolution.

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City wide sixties festival - ReVive

The interest in the exhibition helped to inspire a new sixties festival ‘ReVive’ which brought the past to life and saw the whole city turn Mod with hundreds of scooters lining the streets. ReVive featured vintage fairs, live music, vinyl records, street food and an events programme included talks, dance pieces, gallery tours and guided walks of Mod related sights across Leicester. There was also a separate black and white photographic exhibition and book, Mods19:64, which captured local Mods as they are now and contrasted them against images of them in 1964.

In collaboration with the team, Arch Creative were instrumental in helping to organise the festival, working closely with Leicester’s most prominent venues and Soft Touch Arts to make it happen. Venues included De Montfort Hall, New Walk Museum and Art Gallery, LCB Depot, Phoenix, Highcross and a host of shops, bars, pubs, clubs and cafes who came together to celebrate the sights and sounds of the sixties.

Arch also created the branding, website, videos, social media and outdoor ad campaign and range of printed marketing materials to promote the festival across the Midlands.

ReVive is a celebration of sub-cultures, with its inaugural focus being on the 1960s. In years to come, we’re planning on exploring different counter-cultures in order to preserve the rich, cultural heritage of the UK and the global communities that are linked to Leicester.

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