The largest re-development project in the V&A Museum’s 150-year history is finally coming to a conclusion. Having closed its doors back in 2020, the Young V&A (formerly known as the Museum of Childhood) will finally re-open this weekend, on July 1. It’s yet another boon for families wondering what to do with their kids! (Especially since it’s FREE!)
Formerly East London’s first ever museum (how!?), the Young V&A will be a hub for families to go learn, explore, and play. Co-designed for and by young people the museum will bring the power of creativity to young people’s lives. Young V&A describes itself as a “place to imagine, play, create, debate and design for tomorrow, it is a national museum dedicated to children and young people.” To achieve that lofty, but hugely important goal, the museum will display over 2,000 works from the V&A’s art, design, and performance collections.
The new generation, ‘Generation Alpha‘ as they’ve been termed, has been hit particularly hard by the COVID pandemic, and the recent cost of living crisis. The free museum will thus function as a hugely important resource. It will help nurture the next generation and inspire them to become the next wave of artists, innovators, and entrepreneurs.
It’s kicking off with a free summer festival on July 8-9 with activities and performances throughout the weekend, including an appearance from Britain’s Got Talent finalists IMD Dance.
Inside the Young V&A
A main feature of the Young V&A will be their three permanent galleries, themed around Imagine, Play, and Design. Within these will be plenty of hands-on experiences – the best kind of museum displays! Among them will be sensory playscapes, a finger skateboard park, an ‘Imagination Playground’ construction zone, a performance and story-telling stage, open design studio, and sandpit.
Alongside the interactive pieces will be inspiring examples of children’s creativity from around the globe. These will include examples ranging from Hokusai to Keith Haring, from Micro Scooter to Minecraft, and from Superheroes to the Surrealists.
Said Dr Philippa Simpson, Director of Design, Estate and Public Programme, V&A:
“In creating Young V&A we were set a challenge by our young audiences – to create the world’s most joyful museum. From the start, we involved children in every aspect of the process. They have worked directly with architects to co-design the building, curated displays, and made artworks and exhibits for the galleries, setting out their manifesto for a more sustainable, just, and inclusive world. The whole site is a testament to the power of young creativity and optimism.”
Newly announced installations
Gamers will love the Play Gallery’s game design space, ‘The Arcade’, not least for the interactive Minecraft installation. The installation, built by Blockworks with support from Mojang and Microsoft, starts off with a Minecraft-inspired recreation of Young V&A’s Town Square, before taking visitors across real and imaginary worlds created by Minecraft players across the globe.
Tech-heads will love theRaspberry Pi’s Coolest Projects installation, which will encompass previous works made for the competition. Among them, a gas leak detector designed by 11-year-old Sashrika Das, and the EleVoc 2022 human-elephant conflict device by Chinmayi Ramasubramanian, aged 14.
Highlighting the world-changing impacts of design, the Design gallery will include works that have impacted global issues. Among them will be prints designed by The Suffrage Atelier, artwork from the XR Families Group encouraging children to express their concerns for the environment, and works by icon and youth climate activist, Greta Thunberg.”
Inspired by creative workshops with children at a nearby park, Young V&A also hosts murals from street artist Mark Malarko – known for his cartoon-like characters found in cities around the world. There is also a display of portraits from Rehan Jamil of young people exploring creativity, alongside self-portraits by creatives ranging from Chila Kumari Singh Burman to Quentin Blake, Linda McCartney, and more.
There’s a democracy to the works that highlights the museum’s ethos – presenting work from young people alongside, and in equal esteem with, established creatives.
The future of the Young V&A
The Young V&A will open with plenty of creative education spaces across their galleries, as well as three workshop spaces and a dedicated reading room. These spaces will allow the venue to host year-round learning and education programmes. The museum will also host vital after-school and holiday events and activities for families and young people.
The Young V&A have also already announced their first non-permanent exhibition, Japan: Myths to Manga, which opens October 14. The exhibition will feature Studio Ghibli, Pokémon, manga-inspired fashion, and more. Children will get an insight into how Japanese history, landscape, and folklore have played a huge role in today’s popular culture, technology, and design. Visitors will be able to watch feature films, marvel at spectacular objects, quiz their friends and family on ‘what Pokémon is that?’, play games, and plenty more.
Visiting the Young V&A
The Young V&A will open on July 1, 2023. It is located on Cambridge Heath Road, Bethnal Green, E2 9PA. The nearest station is Bethnal Green. Admission is free. Opening hours are yet to be confirmed, but will likely be similar to other V&A museums and galleries, which are typically open between 10am and 5 or 6pm.
There’s a huge sense of optimism and belief imbued into the new museum. It’s impossible for visitors to leave without a real faith in the abilities and ingenuity of children. The Young V&A is sure to inspire anyone who visits, not just children.