I totally went and did it. I took a date to a museum aimed at children and it went down a treat.
See when you think of Bethnal Green, you think Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, E Pellicci and the excellent Town Hall Hotel (posts on all of these soon). The V&A Museum of Childhood sits pretty much slap bang in the middle of all these East London favourites and is an absolute treasure of a museum. Packed into its magnificent Grade II listed building are all kinds of objects related to childhood from the 1600’s onwards. It’s a great place to go on a date because quite literally every single object in there is a perfect conversation starter.
The particular exhibit we went to see is called Confiscation Cabinets and is a curious collection of artefacts confiscated in 150 London Schools over 30 years by teacher and artist Guy Tarrant. It runs until 1 June 2014 and is a familiar and sometimes a little surprising array of forbidden objects confiscated for reasons of distraction or outright danger.
A real trip down memory lane, it will have you recalling the bouncing balls, pea shooters, trading cards and paper planes of your youth. Whilst many artefacts are generic and mass market in nature, there are some that will have you reeling with laughter, disbelief or heartache. There is the lovingly written questionnaire “Sarah do you like me? Yes, No” with the no clearly ticked, and the note sadly confiscated before Sarah was able to answer the second question “Why?”.
There is the entire pack of playing cards painstakingly made by hand where you can just imagine the kind of rainy lunchtime detention that inspired its creation. I mean you can practically smell the fresh varnish of Autumn term in the corridors as the kids mucked in to create some entertainment for themselves.
Then there are the sinister items. If like me, your date is a bit of a bad boy or girl, you can tease out stories of a misspent youth. There is the incredibly creative glue spreader shank, the shopping trolley handle mace and the body spray flamethrower. The chilling reminder that inner city schools can be tough places is all too obvious with brandy, fags and homemade bombs amongst the items that teachers have confiscated in order to lay down the law.
What made the whole thing great for me is the subtle addition of humour into the mix by way of Guy’s cliff notes.
When you are done with the Confiscation Cabinets, you can wander about the main museum and see the rest of the vast collection. Whilst my date did make a very valid point when she said:
A child wouldn’t like this place as much as an adult. They won’t have seen any of these toys before and would just get bored looking at them. They’d want to get back to their games consoles.
Well, thats just the reason to go there on a date and not with a small child. I think anyone can find a few curiosities and heartwarming memories when gazing at the toys and treasures on display. Unless you grew up in a field, or a harshly strict commune, you’ll find delight in re-living the games of your childhood from Monopoly to Subbuteo, the toys and action figures of the Cabbage Patch kids to the Masters of the Universe and the rocking horses, tricyles and yo-yos of yesteryear.
If conversation dries up talk about
- Favourite childhood toys.
- Toys you wish you hadn’t broken.
- Toys you wish you’d never had.
- The trouble you got into as a child.
- Lego or Mechano?
If you really love your date talk about
- Which toys to get your kids.
- How to teach kids to play fair.
- What age they will be allowed video games.
- Who gets to teach them how to ride a bike.
Where to go after
- E Pellicci for brunch.
- Beigel Bake for an evening snack.
- Lahore Kebab House for a down to earth hunger buster.
- Wilton’s Music Hall for live music and a pint.
The vital infoV&A Museum of Childhood, Cambridge Heath Road, London E2 9PA Admission free. Open daily: 10.00 – 17.45, last admission 17.30 Nearest tube: Bethnal Green. Tel: 020 8983 5200 http://www.museumofchildhood.org.uk
Love and mayhem,