We went to the National Media Museum in Bradford today after being invited by the PR team to check out their February Half Term activities, which centre around the children’s book character, Horrid Henry.

National Media Museum outside

My children were looking forward to the day, not least because my 10 year old who is a huge book fan, wanted to take along her 11 Horrid Henry books to get signed by the author, Francesca Simon, who was doing a book signing and reading! I’d encouraged her to pick her favourite few books, as it would be difficult to get all 11 signed. I didn’t expect it to be impossible.

In one word, the event was chaos. I really don’t like to be negative about things, I’d prefer to find a bright side, but when we arrived at the museum, the entrance was heavily congested with mums, dads, babies, toddlers, school aged children, lots of backpacks (making the space even tighter), lots of queues, and just lots of people. It wasn’t easy to see where we should go at first. I’m not familiar with the layout of this museum, so as a complete ‘tourist’, I tried to get to a place where I could stand back with my children safely under my arms, and look around, to acclimatise and see what was where. There wasn’t anywhere to do this, so instead I spied the loo and took them there. It is crazy that under normal circumstances, ladies loos are usually the last place I’d go unless I needed it, precisely because there are always queues and let’s face it- loos aren’t exactly the nicest places to be, but as overwhelmed as I felt walking into the museum, the loos were a place where I could safely take my children, shut the door, get a little privacy for a few minutes and take off my coat, get my phone out of my bag and make the other ‘comfort’ adjustments that people tend to make upon arriving at places whey they plan to spend some time.

After we left the loos and navigated past the 200 or so people in the queue next to the in house cinema, we found ourself in a part of the museum that was blissfully spacious, in comparison to the rest of it. We’d wandered into an exhibition about the World Wide Web, computers, and the internet in general. It wasn’t what we came to see, but it was really interesting to look around with lots of interactive features like a computer game where you could test your knowledge about online safety, and a place where you can build your own webpage. After some respite from the crowds, and as time was ticking before the book signing started, we made our way back out into the throng to see where we needed to be.

It turns out that the queue we’d been trying to avoid was the queue for book signing. Plus there were 300 more people inside the cinema where the author was, also who would be getting books signed. We had no chance. My daughter, realising that her books weren’t getting signed today, was starting to get upset so I whisked the kids upstairs to see what else was in the Horrid Henry exhibition and what else we could do.

The first floor was another area filled with a long queue. There were green Horrid Henry graphics throughout the museum, but I didn’t feel that there was much signage to signpost what was going on in each room. I looked at the queue but couldn’t tell what it was for- which activity it was that the queue led to, so I spoke to one of the many volunteers around the place. I have to say, the volunteers (identifiable by their red polo shirts) were plenty and helpful. They did an admirable job in managing the quantity of people around and answering as many questions as they could, and the lady I spoke to found me a flyer which listed all the activities that were on during the day and their location within the building. Finally I had some direction! The first floor was where the animation workshop was- and thankfully, we were booked on to this, so we were let into Gallery One to do the activity.

Mercifully Gallery One was calm. I didn’t venture into any of the other areas of this exhibition, because to be honest, by now I was exhausted. But I would guess that all the activity areas were just as calm as the museum operated a booking system to spread out the influx of people to each activity. All the things to do in the museum are free of charge (except if you want to actually go to the cinema to see a movie) and entrance to the museum is free, making it an economical day out during school holidays, but they state on their website that booking is advised for some sessions. The chaos seems reserved for the communal areas, so be prepared for this if you visit. However I went on the day of the author booksigning, which I suspect will be their busiest day of the week.

animation workshop

Inside the animation workshop was brilliant- this was by far the best part of the day. My children made a ‘monster’ from cut out card and felt pens, some blu tac and some stick on eyes, then were shown how to take photos of it on a computer, and how to ‘animate’ it, by moving it bit by bit and taking a new photo in each position.
The children were very proud to have created a short film called ‘Bob The Monster’ which you can see here:

The other things we did before leaving were watched a ‘Menacing Makeover’ demonstration where a make up artist showed how they apply gruesome cuts and scars in movies and on TV, and we also coloured in some monster masks with coloured pencils. There was an opportunity to meet Horrid Henry himself later in the day but we’d had enough by then and left straight after our workshop.

It is a shame but after our experience, I’d avoid taking my kids to the museum again unless it was term time and therefore quieter. There is a tipping point with any event where you want a lot of interest and a lot of people to come, but if it is too many it just ruins the enjoyment of the day because a popular event with a great atmosphere just becomes stressful and joyless. I’m afraid today was the latter for me.

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2 Responses to Meeting Horrid Henry… Or Not

  1. Susan booker says:

    I took 3 very excited children to the museum yesterday and left 2 hours later extremely disappointed as all we did in that time was queue!!! We queued for the book signing but after an hour was told we had no chance of getting to the front…..we then queued 1/2 hour for the lift (we had a wheelchair) when we got to the first floor we were met by more…..queues, horrid Henry? Horrid experience, one that I sincerely hope I never make the mistake of repeating!

  2. Nadine says:

    Hi Susan
    It was so busy wasn’t it? It’s just very disappointing when people turn up with excited children and have to let them down when they have been so looking forward to it. I’m just grateful we did manage to do the animation workshop, although we would have liked to hear Francesca read.
    Thanks for commenting.

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