£13 million revamp of Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood gets under way

The revamped museum is set to open next year Pic: Emily-Rose Payne

The long-awaited £13m revamp of Bethnal Green’s Museum of Childhood has finally got underway after a year of planning.

The Museum of Childhood on Cambridge Heath Road, dating back to 1872, is expected to open its doors in 2023. It will be renamed Young V&A and has been redesigned for children under the age of 14.

The new galleries, designed by De Matos Ryan architects, will include an amphitheatre-style stage in the Imagine area, a free play construction site within the Play zone and a working “open studio”, a room made available to all visitors, in the Design section.

Curators have made several additions already, including a skateboard owned by Sky Brown, who became Great Britain’s youngest medallist when she won bronze in the women’s park skateboarding final in the Tokyo Olympics, and the first 3D-printed bionic prosthetic limb, The Hero Arm.

In a press release, Brown said: “When kids skate, they forget about what they might be struggling through, and just think about happiness.”

“I hope that when people see me, the smallest girl, doing the highest trick, that they think they can do anything, too.”

The Future Plan for Young V&A outside of the museum, Pic: Emily-Rose Payne

In 2022, before the museum’s reopening, it will celebrate the 150-year anniversary of the V&A in Bethnal Green with a project involving every school in Tower Hamlets Borough. It will offer creative assemblies, workshops with students and teacher forums and develop new activities for families with grassroots local organisations.

Director of the V&A Tristram Hunt said: “Young people’s lives have been dramatically altered by the pandemic, yet they have adapted and enriched the soul of the nation in extraordinary ways – from a rainbow campaign honouring the NHS to Sky Brown’s skateboarding achievements for Team GB.”

“A world-class museum that nurtures curiosity, experimentation and celebrates play, Young V&A will be a global champion for children’s creativity in all its forms.”

“This vital investment – working to counter the ongoing effects of Covid-19 on young people’s access to creative education, collaborative play, and artistic inspiration – is more urgent than ever. I am delighted we are one step closer to reopening the museum’s doors in 2023.”

The empty building on Cambridge Heath Road, Pic: Emily-Rose Payne

The local community will vastly benefit from this redevelopment, bringing new tourism to the area and creative education. Lifetime local resident, Bethany Miller, a 43-year-old carer, said: “I’m looking forward to the museum opening. Children from the care home will have access to new activities we don’t have here. The school project will also give children the opportunity to be creative and help them develop their skills.” 

She continued: “Once it’s open, it will bring new customers to the local businesses, which really took a hit during the pandemic and are still struggling.”

The Young V&A will open in 2023 and you can follow updates on their website

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