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Stiff competition


The Sir John Soane's Museum was packed for a party to mark the retirement of its much-loved director Margaret Richardson.

George Ferguson made the first speech and, given the red walls of the Soane's dining room, this was probably the only time in his presidency when his trousers were in harmony with the decor.

George praised a stewardship that had seen the new gallery by Eva Jiricna, continuing restoration by Julian Harrap, the acquisition of Soane's house next door for use as an education centre, shows by the likes of Libeskind and Gehry, and more than double the number of annual visitors.

Margaret recalled a story of the museum before her arrival, when one 80-year-old warder had a heart attack in his chair outside the Monk's Parlour and no one noticed before rigor mortis set in. No danger of that today. But, said Margaret, Soane set exacting standards for the staff there to live up to. 'We think he would have approved of Libeskind - he's fairly intellectual.' Not sure that Danny would approve of the 'fairly'.

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