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Brick Wonders at the Horniman Museum: Hands-on fun for all ages

Brick Wonders

By Amy Brotherton

“It’s like an exhibition AND a creche!” These are probably not the words a museum hopes to hear parents gush as they spend time betwixt their hallowed walls, but this is what tumbled out of my mouth with glee inside the Horniman Museum’s new exhibition ‘Brick Wonders’.

Now, I don’t make a habit of leaving my kids unattended in public, my point here was that this exhibition provides a brilliant mix of entertainment for adults AND kids of all ages at the same time. Everyone’s happy. And this is a rare feat to achieve. While my 6-year-old son busied himself pressing bricks into the LEGO graffiti wall to spell his name out, my 3-year-old daughter happily built various creations at the LEGO table. My husband and I took turns joining in with the kids and checking out the amazing LEGO buildings and landscapes on display. We were in the exhibit for around 90 minutes, an impressive attention span achievement.

Before I go any further I must tell you my top tip for visiting this exhibition – Get there at opening time. 10am. For real. Not 10am-but-actually-10.25am. This first-in arrival makes such a difference. We arrived at the Horniman before it even opened (nerd alert) and we live in North London. It’s worth the pain of getting up and getting organised straight away and out the door to be first in, trust me. The museum’s café opens at 9.30am so you can even go extra early and relax with a cuppa waiting for the doors to open. Brick Wonders does not have a timed-entry ticket, and throughout the day we saw the queue grow. Even Rob Delaney from Catastrophe was waiting in the queue. Celebs, just like us.

Walking into the exhibition space  while the play areas were still organised and fresh was exhilarating. Ok maybe I need to get out more. But the kids raced around the space for a good 5 minutes like they owned it before anyone else came in. Then the space slowly got busier, but it was nice to see it all before you had to poke your head around other people or jostle for space at a LEGO table. Even when it’s bustling it’s enjoyable though.

The main components of the exhibition are: over 50 amazing models made using half a million LEGO bricks, from an ancient Egyptian pyramiad, to Old London Bridge, to the Grand Canyon, to the museum you are standing in while gawping at these. The Horniman’s original 1901 building including the Clocktower and the famously over-stuffed Horniman Walrus feature in brick form alongside a tour of wonders from around the world.

The Horniman’s famous Walrus features not only inside the museum replica but on solo display in grand scale – a 1.2m-long LEGO replica which took 142 hours to build, uses 10,727 bricks and weighs in at 19kg (somewhat less than the one-tonne original taxidermy specimen). By the time we left the exhibition I noticed some kids had built little friends for the Walrus out of LEGO and placed them at his flippers.

There are several interactive play areas, which include varying sizes of bricks so little hands, and big, can all get in on the action.  A colourful corner has been set up featuring a fancy-dress box, colouring tables, and benches with books. We all enjoyed watching a series of cleverly made LEGO stop-animation in the mini cinema area.

Also on display are selected objects from the museum’s natural history and anthropology collections showing human beings’ widespread fascination with miniaturising and modelling their world.

And thoughtfully by the door resides an Honesty Box where little ones who might ‘accidentally’ still have LEGO in hand or shoved in pockets can return them before leaving.

Brick Wonders is open until Sunday 27 October 2019. To book tickets online or for more information click here.

We were invited to attend this exhibition.

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