Review: Historic Dockyard Chatham

October is birthday month, and what better way to spend it than quality time with the family – at a museum of course! As birthday girl, I got to choose – I wanted somewhere new but close enough we could drive to with a screaming baby. I plumped for the Historic Dockyard Chatham – less than an hour from home. There was no escaping – the whole family came on this trip.

Entrance to Historic Dockyard Chatham

Entrance to Historic Dockyard Chatham

The Historic Dockyard Chatham boasts of being the world’s most complete example of an historic dockyard from the age of sail. With roots in Tudor times, and parts still in use today there’s certainly lots to see –  historic buildings, Royal Navy warships and lots more ship-building heritage – all on a massive 80 acre site.

Continue reading

Museum Mum’s FREE October half term holiday museum activity calendar

It’s soon to be half term – and what a long term it has been! You guys may recall this summer I created a calendar of free museum family events happening in London over the summer holidays – with no entrance or event charges. Well, you guys LOVED IT, and it very quickly became the most popular post I’ve written so far.

Getting crafty with the stained glass activity

Getting crafty in May half term

So, to say thanks for all the page views, I’ve done it again! Although obviously not for the summer holidays, that would be silly. Instead, I’ve done another trawl of over 75 websites to find out what you can do with the nippers in London museums this October/Halloween half term – for nowt. All treats, no tricks! And think of all that money you can save for the dreaded ‘C’ word. There are currently 525 events listed, so ‘witch’ ones will you choose?

Here’s the timetable:

Listings start from Saturday 25 October 2014 and run until Sunday 2 November 2014, with a few stragglers outside these dates.

It’s a google calendar – so you can easily copy any events that interest you to your own diary.

Any errors are entirely blamed on museum baby. Wherever possible I’ve added the URL of the original listing so please check before you head out. If you’re a museum with a free activity that hasn’t been listed, drop me a line!

If you want to say ‘FANGS!’ then please do the following:
* add a comment below – a simple ta will suffice, or let me know what you’ve enjoyed
* tweet me on twitter @vykisparkes
* share with your networks – facebook, twitter, your local parenting groups
* follow me for more updates – click on the brown cog on the top right hand side of this blog and enter your email to get automatic updates

For all you non-Londoners, I hope this inspires you to contact your local museums and see what they are up to.

Have a ghoulishly good time!

PS. If you want some inspiration, you could check out these reviews:
Museum of London, Jacqueline Wilson at the Museum of Childhood, Grant Museum

Review – Quentin Blake: Inside Stories at House of Illustration

Confession time: I love Quentin Blake. I wouldn’t dare try imagine my favourite Roald Dahl books without him. One of the joys of parenthood has been sharing the stories I loved as a child with my own daughter. That is, until she learnt to read by herself, just as we were getting to the good stuff. Still, I have another two chances, right?

We’re going on a drawing hunt!

Quentin Blake: Inside Stories is the opening exhibition for The House of Illustration, or as it calls itself, ‘the home for the art of illustration’. Given that it has been pledged Blake’s archive and library, I’ve been very excited about taking my drawing mad daughter there. We took a visit with the whole family plus adult friend. Continue reading

Calling all nosy parkers! Open House 2014: the museum edit

Are you and your family the inquisitive type? Have a nosy at your local museum this Open House weekend! On the 20th and 21st September there will be over 800 buildings, neighbourhood walks, architects’ talks, and much more available to explore – including a little known museum gem near you!

How do you drive this thing? Walthamstow Pumphouse Museum, Open House 2013

Get in for free to paid museums like the Canal Museum, the Old Operating Theatre Museum or The Fan Museum.
See places that are rarely open, such as London Fire Brigade Museum or Walthamstow Pumphouse Museum.
See parts of the museum normally closed to the public, like the Victorian kitchens at Gunnersbury Museum.
Or do a special themed activity- make a Thames tunnel peep show at Brunel Museum. Or complete a special trail at Bruce Castle Museum and the Museum of the Order of St Johns.

Open House weekend is billed as ‘your opportunity to get out and get under the skin of the amazing architecture in every London neighbourhood’. Visit the Open House website to see what else your curious tribe can get up to as part of your day out. All activities are free!

As always, check with venue before setting out, particularly as some events are just on one day.

Whatever you do, have fun exploring!

Review: Ancient Lives, New Discoveries at the British Museum

Last week the British Museum held an exclusive morning view for families of their exhibition Ancient Lives, New Discoveries. The same price as a normal ticket got you exclusive access to the exhibition (apart from members of the museum), a tour by the Exhibition Curator and a free tea or coffee afterwards. Plus the promise that you wouldn’t feel pressured to keep your kids quiet – just what every mum of a toddler wants!

The tweenager is back at school, so in our group were two adults, two toddlers, and the baby.

I’ll focus on the exhibition as it was the main purpose of our visit. But I can’t ignore the way I felt almost as soon as we stepped into the main museum. My oh my. This goes down as my most stressful museum visit since, well, 2004*. As a seasoned museum visitor and a mum of three I have nerves of steel – but even these were severely tested. The British Museum turned out to be one of the least friendly places I have ever taken a toddler. But more of that later. Continue reading

Review – Mysteries of the Unseen World at the Science Museum IMAX

The tweenager was very busy doing her own thing this summer, including a week at cadet camp, and two weeks at transition camp for secondary school. What with the whirlwind which is the new baby, we were much in need of a bit of quality time together.

One day she bounded home from a camp trip to the Science Museum, begging to see a 3D film at the IMAX cinema there. Mysteries of the Unseen World, a new 3D film was opening. I picked a day the toddler would be at nursery so that we could have our girlie day out (with baby, of course). The tweenager had a theatre trip planned that evening (I told you she was busy!) – I didn’t want to tire her out, but I wanted it to be special.

I sees it – the Unseen World advertising

 And special our visit was – normally we come to visit the galleries, but this time we enjoyed the museum in a different way. Continue reading

Review: Digital Revolution at the Barbican

My last review took two and a half weeks to write – this one I’m giving myself two and a half hours*. Why the rush? Because it’s of a fantastic interactive exhibition full of lights, noise and adventure which ends very, very soon! So soon you only have two weekends to fit it in.

Concrete zen

Concrete meets zen on the Barbican terrace

Held at the concrete palace which is the Barbican, Digital Revolution is an exhibition celebrating digital creativity – looking at how digital technology has transformed gaming, films and the arts since the 1970s. Continue reading