Mayor’s DIY chain is now in museum

The Museum of London has acquired a ceremonial chain created by Councillor Philip Normal, Mayor of Lambeth, as part of its Collecting COVID initiative.

Normal, owner of a popular shop in Brixton Village, made the chain, or collar, for his virtual appointment as Mayor of Lambeth on 22 April 2020 during the first national lockdown.

Made from card and plaited t-shirt fabric, it displays Lambeth’s coat of arms painted inside a fluorescent pink oval with the Latin words “Spectemur Agendo” – “Let us be judged by our acts”.

A councillor for Oval Ward since May 2018, the mayor is well known as a LGBTQ+ activist and ambassador for HIV awareness.

He is the first openly HIV+ mayor in the UK.

Beatrice Behlen, senior curator of fashion at the museum, said the “ingenious interpretation of a mayoral chain provides a marvellous example of the creativity employed by so many Londoners to cope with the hardships and changes we are all facing as a result of the pandemic”.

The chain was one of the earliest objects the museum wanted to acquire when it began its Collecting COVID project.

man in home made mayoral chain
Cllr Normal wearing the chain during an online council meeting

Behlen said this was not only because the object documented the change from physical to online life as it was made for a virtual mayoral ceremony, but also because of Normal’s activism.

“This acquisition, announced in LGBTQ+ History Month and 40 years since AIDS was first reported upon in 1981, marks an important addition to our permanent London Collection by documenting the appointment of the UK’s first openly HIV+ mayor while also reflecting the spirit of Londoners to carry on in sombre times.”

Mayor in home made chain of office
The new mayor made his own chain of office until he is able to get the actual ones

Cllr Normal, said: “Taking office as the Mayor of Lambeth in a virtual ceremony was, of course, not what I had imagined, but it was unique and part of socially distanced life which has, unfortunately, become normal over the last year.

“I am really pleased that my ceremonial chain will become part of the Museum of London’s permanent collection to inform future generations not only about the COVID-19 crisis, but about the stigma still faced by many living with HIV.”

The Collecting COVID project began in April last year and seeks to reflect Londoners’ lives during the crisis to keep a record to ensure future generations of Londoners will be able to learn about and understand this extraordinary period.