Over a thousand white cups and saucers are laid out on five long tables. Actually, that's not quite accurate: some saucers are all alone, their cups missing. Those empty saucers are worth a closer look, because each bears a good deed.
This is Exchange, the Foundling Museum's exhibition by artist Clare Twomey. Each day, ten random visitors are given a token which they can exchange for a cup. However, there's a price: in taking a cup, you agree to undertake the good deed printed on its base and on the saucer below. You can't peep, and you can't change your mind - if you're not willing to do the deed, you put the cup back and go away empty-handed.
The installation is inspired by the ideas of philanthropy, good deeds and exchange which underpinned the Foundling Hospital. It took in children whose parents were unable to look after them, acting as both orphanage and school; among the exhibits in the museum are little tokens left by mothers so that they could identify and reclaim their child if circumstances improved. Artistic supporters including Hogarth and Handel used their talents to encourage others to support the institution
The modern good deeds have been suggested by former pupils of the Foundling Hospital as well as other schools, charities, and supporters of the museum. I was one of the lucky ten visitors on the day of my visit, and duly picked my cup. It was a nerve-wracking moment, because some of the deeds already uncovered would have been beyond me. (For example, some required a car, and one a garden, neither of which I have.) I'm not sure that the deed I did select is terribly well-suited to my talents, but I'm committed and shall have to do my best!
So, I have undertaken to 'sew something for charity'. My sewing is pretty bad - let's just say that when I suggested I charge £1 to sew on a button or £2 not to sew on a button, my mum thought it would be lucrative! Any more productive ideas as to how best to achieve this challenge are therefore very welcome.