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Churchill, Kirchener...and Lilly Allen: The Stories Behind the Faces of Gallery's New Campaign
Sir Winston Churchill by Walter Richard Sickert, 1927. © Estate of Walter Sickert / National Portrait Gallery, London.

LONDON.- Did you know that military leader Lord Kitchener developed a knitting pattern for seamless socks, or that Lily Allen trained as a florist?

The National Portrait Gallery today launches an innovative marketing campaign which highlights the hidden stories behind its portraits of well known Britons. The new campaign - which encourages people to 'Take another look' at the Gallery's permanent collection - builds on research which showed that its visitors enjoyed picking up unexpected information behind the portraits.

Through its underground posters and banners, the campaign, which has been developed for the Gallery by design agency True North, reveals a selection of 'surprising facts' about a cross-section of famous sitters whose portraits are on display.

The sitters featured in the first part of the campaign - more will follow in the autumn - are singer and florist Lily Allen, musician and cheese maker Alex James, jazz musician and fisherman George Melly, statesman and prisoner Winston Churchill, nurse and hotelier Mary Seacole and war secretary and knitting pioneer Lord Kitchener.

Take another look uses either 'long story' or 'short fact' versions at appropriately placed poster sites around the capital, supported by print and online versions. (Kitchener, Seacole and James will feature on posters.)

Denise Ellitson, Head of Marketing at the National Portrait Gallery, London, says: 'Research has shown us that visitors really enjoy the mix of old and new portraiture on display at the Gallery and we hope that this new campaign will encourage those who have not visited before to discover the diversity and relevance of our collections.'

Martin Carr, True North Managing Director, says: 'The task of "opening up" such a well-loved institution has been one we've relished. We've worked hard with Gallery staff to eke out a range of good stories for this campaign - it's been great fun layering on witty and enjoyable stories over all styles of portraits of all kind of famous Britons.'

Expanded the army, Recruited thousands, Knitted their socks
Lord Kitchener was the familiar moustachioed face of the First World War recruitment posters, which read 'Your country needs you.' As Secretary of State for War, he enlisted and trained many thousands of soldiers - but he also had their comfort at heart. He is credited with devising the 'Kitchener stitch', a knitting technique for seamless socks, designed to be gentle on those marching feet.

Musician, Writer, Cheese Maker
Alex James shot to fame in the 1990s as the bass player of chart-topping band Blur, who recently reformed to play numerous sell-out gigs. Alex now lives with his family on a farm in Oxfordshire where he invents smelly cheeses, including 'the phoenix', which is best eaten after it has been baked, doused in apple brandy and set on fire.

Nurse, Healer, Hotelier
Mary Seacole, the Jamaican-born nurse, gained recognition for her courageous work during the Crimean War. But she honed her healing skills as an enterprising hotelier in Panama providing hospitality for men joining the Californian Gold Rush in the 1850s. When cholera broke out she drew on her experiences of similar epidemics in Jamaica and prescribed remedies for her guests.

Vocalist Lyricist Florist
Lily Allen burst onto the pop scene in 2006 with her hit single 'Smile', which became her first No 1 hit. She was one of the first artists to use her MySpace profile to attract an audience for her music, posting demos and blogs which made her one of the most popular artists on the site. She has since gone on to be one of the UK's most successful artists and has seen that success spread all over the world. Before becoming a pop star, Lily spent time studying to be a florist, which she loved - except for the early mornings. Her best selling flowers, she says, were peonies.

Music man Art man Fisherman
It was in 1935 on holiday in Wales that, in the company of his father and his grandfather, George Melly landed his first trout. He was almost nine years old and he later described this moment as a defining one in his life. George Melly's love of fly-fishing never left him; throughout his life he would, whenever possible, escape to a riverbank to indulge this passion. A display of portraits of Melly by Maggi Hambling opens at the National Portrait Gallery on June 27.

Politician Peacemaker Prisoner
In 1899, Winston Churchill travelled to South Africa to report on the Boer War for the Morning Post. Shortly after his arrival, he joined an armoured train on a scouting expedition. Attacked by a Boer ambush, the surviving passengers were taken to a prison in Pretoria. Churchill escaped and made his way to Portuguese East Africa as a stowaway on freight trains. His escape created a sensation and brought him immediate fame.

National Portrait Gallery | London | Walter Richard Sickert | Julian Opie |  |

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