Saturday, 5 October 2013

Our Visit to Imperial War Museums (IWM) North for the #BigDraw

We were delighted to be invited to a preview event for this October half term activities by Imperial War Museum (IWM) North. Families are being invited to take part in the world's largest drawing festival this October. You can take part in The Big Draw 2013 by creating  their own artistic work inspired by collections at the museum!
As you know I am a history student so I love this museum. We have been a few times before, but we were really looking forward to going as bloggers so that we could share with you their programme for families.

We were all up bright and early this morning to go to Manchester for our visit. We took the double buggy along with us for Rosie and Alice, but we let Alice walk around. We had a fantastic day.

Story Time

We began the day by attending a Story Time session in the family activity room. The activity room was fantastic. It had a soft play area for Rosie, plenty of toys, games, books and even a dress-up rail. The children sat on the mat as a lovely lady named Carys sat and told the story of Nancy's Land Army Adventure. The story was fun and Carys made sure to involve the children by asking them questions and interacting with them. Emily really enjoyed this part, and Rosie sat watching too. They had a bouncer for her, so it was really easy for us. Alice was being a bit narky at this point, so she played with building blocks on the other mat! Nothing was a problem for the staff - Alice had a bit of a moan about whatever it is 2 year olds moan about, but there was no issue, everyone was friendly and helpful - keen for the children have a good day.

Story Time
The Big Draw

After Story Time we moved across the room to a large area with desks, paper, pens, glue, scissors - everything you could think of for kids to get crafty! The children were encouraged to draw objects from history such as gas masks and powdered egg packets. Emily drew a soldier's tin, and Alice drew..drum roll...a fish. Although it wasn't actually a fish it was more of a rainbow of scribble with coloured tissue paper sticking it down.

The Big Draw!
The Museum 

We then walked around the museum itself. It contains thousands of unique objects on display - each telling its own tale, revealing how war shaped people's lives. What I love about the museum is that it is so personal. Of course you have the large displays of tanks and bombed-out cars and the like - these are fascinating to see. But every item in there has its own, very personal tale - a real story, a real experience. Sometimes it is difficult for us to grasp how war affects real people. Men, women, children. It's so important  that we remember the impact war can have on real families, and the impact that it is still having on people around the world. Here I will list just a few of the key experiences - and of course there are many more.

* The First World War Field Gun - This is the actual field gun that fired the British Army's first shell of the First World War.
* 9/11 Steel - Standing in the museum is a 7 metre tall piece of steel from the wreckage of the World Trade Center, weighing more than a ton. It is among the first pieces of steel from Ground Zero to go on display in the UK.
* The Big Picture Show - The lights fade in the museum, and videos are projected onto giant screens, immersing you in the experience.
* Personal Stories - One example are the possessions of nurse Edith Cavell, who was executed for helping Allied soldiers escape from German-occupied Belgium in the First World War.
* Free Family Activities - You and your family can see, touch, feel and smell objects from the collections. Timestacks object-handling sessions allow visitors of all ages to take part.

Big Picture Show

The Big Picture show we saw was a brilliant Horrible Histories offering called Rotten Rationing. Emily is learning about World War Two in school, so this was particularly great for us. The scampy rodent Rattus Rattus takes you on a journey back to the Woeful Second World War where you can discover foul food, dig for victory, and make do and mend. It is a family-friendly audio-visual show projected onto the 20 walls throughout the museum. We loved it. We thought that it was fun, and informative, as Horrible Histories always is - I'm a big fan!

Interactive Activities

There are lots of activities for children to get involved in at the Action Stations. Emily particularly enjoyed these - such as creating a message through code, and touch-screen activities.

Action Stations

I don't think she was actually meant to turn these over to spell out this, but kids are kids...OK Warren may have had a hand in this...

Around the museum itself


After this we literally stuffed our faces in the WaterShard Cafe and Kitchen. The waterfront view as we ate and drank was great. They had colouring pens and worksheets for the kids, and they did great little packed lunches for them. I'll confess to eating 3 Oreo biscuits  1 Oreo biscuit with my lovely cup of coffee!

Random Mum-Fail

Alice dropped a part of her chocolate wrapper into her bottle of water. I tried to fish it out with a spoon. I failed. You couldn't make these moments up.

This is what happens when we go to places - FAILS all over the place!

Baby-Change Break!

Changing facilities and toilets were fab - clean and easily accessible. We used the lifts easily with the double buggy. Once we were suitably refreshed, we then took the lift to the Air-Shard Viewing Platform.

Air-Shard Viewing Platform

The jagged shape of the IWM North viewing platform is one of the most iconic features of the Manchester skyline, and there was no way we were missing out on the 100 feet high view! We took the lift with the buggy, no problems fitting in. Once at the top, there are some interactive features to get involved in such as listening to soldier's personal experiences from World War Two.

The views at from the viewing platform are amazing. Manchester is a wonderful city, with a rich and amazing history and fantastic buildings. From here we could see MediaCityUK and The Quays - amazing views all round.

October Half Term

IWM North are keen to get people involved in their free family activities this October half term from 26th October. The activities are part of The Big Draw and family arts festival. Visitors of all ages are encouraged to get involved with the workshops, children's tours and activities - all of which are free unless stated. Activities are generally suitable for children over the age of 5 and kids under 12 should be accompanied by an adult. You can see their events for this half term by visiting their website.

Our Verdict

We absolutely love this museum. I would really recommend you visit - and half term would be a great time to do it with all of the extra activities taking place, such as a Walkabout Performance, The Big Draw: Sketch What You See and a Monoprinting Workshop.
It is a great family-friendly, fun and educational place to take your kids. It's also free, a donation is warmly welcomed, and it really is a full day out for you and your family.


  1. That looks fantastic, and it's a great review - you've packed in so much!
    I wish we'd been able to go to this, but I'm having real issues with my broken leg at the moment and just didn't think it'd be wise. I'm very jealous, I love Horrible Histories and so does my 5 year old! Fingers crossed we can get over there in half term :)

  2. Wow it looks ace. I've been meaning to go to the IWM for ages and haven't made it yet.

  3. this looks ace, i've been meaning to go but not had the chance. my work are having their xmas part at the IWM but I doubt they'll let us look round! :0)

  4. Wish we had made it! Must get over there

  5. This looks really good! I'd like to visit (and eat an oreo cookie now!)

  6. I'm glad to read about your experience as this isn't the type of museum I'd usually feel comfortable about visiting with children. Your review has made me think that maybe I should give it a go :)

  7. I've never been but it looks like there's a lot for kids there.

  8. This looks far more engaging than I expected it to from the title :) fab!


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