New creative hub for children planned at Young V&A in Bethnal Green

Within the newly fitted museum is the “town square”, which this mock-up shows as a hub for the building’s different wings and galleries Pic: Picture Plane and Victoria and Albert Museum.

London’s children and young teenagers will regain a historic creative hub from July 1 as the V&A opens a new museum aimed at children and young people.

The Young V&A in Bethnal Green replaces the famed V&A Museum of Childhood and will open its doors after a three year renovation costing £13m.

The museum will provide arts-focused exhibits and activities designed for 0-14 year olds and families, including a year-round programme of creative education. It aims to inspire creativity in children and young teens.

The refurbished museum will house 2,000 selections from the V&A’s collection, with works by Hokusai and Keith Haring sharing space with superheroes and video games like Pokémon and Minecraft.

“The Great Wave off Kanagawa” (left) and “Radiant Baby Pull Toy” by Hokusai and Keith Haring respectively are two of the more famed works on display Pic: Victoria and Albert Museum, composite by Jamie Richards

Dr Tristram Hunt is Director of the V&A. He considers the renovation a “flagship project” for young people’s creativity. He said: “Our plan is to foster Britain’s next generation of artists, thinkers, makers, innovators, and entrepreneurs”.

The V&A Museum of Childhood, as the museum was then known, closed in May 2020. The ensuing renovations, which are approaching their end, were first projected to finish in 2022.

MP for Bethnal Green and Bow Rushanara Ali said: “Based in an area known for its vibrant culture, creativity, and extraordinary history, yet with the highest levels of child poverty in the country, Young V&A will help transform the life chances of children both in my constituency and around the country”.

Emma Thompson at the V&A Museum in London, reading from her new children’s book “Jim’s Spectacular Christmas”, illustrated by Axel Scheffler, to schoolchildren from Globe Primary School. Pic: James Watkins – Puffin

The museum will relaunch with a healthy amount of celebrity support. Dame Emma Thompson has supported the creation of three new galleries, and works have been supplied by such notable figures as Chila Kumari Singh Burman, Quentin Blake, and Greta Thunberg.

Young V&A has also collected artwork from controversial climate protest group Extinction Rebellion, specifically the XR Families Group.

Amidst classically trained artists and shelves of historic toys are works by modern and even controversial groups, like Extinction Rebellion Pic: Victoria & Albert Museum

Miranda, who declined to give a surname, is the organiser of XR Families. She told ELL that the cultural space has a massive role to play in fighting the climate crisis. She said: “a lot of the battle is public pressure, and it’s culture that can move people’s hearts”.

The Young V&A’s reopening comes at a time where arts funding across London, particularly funding for arts education, is in an uncertain position. In November 2022 the Arts Council announced its 2023-26 funding portfolio, with sweeping cuts for London galleries and theatres.

The cuts are part of a larger drive to move arts funding away from London and into other regional centres.

Actress and author Emma Thompson said the Young V&A will help young people access arts amidst these cuts. She said: “Access to arts, culture, and design opportunities, both in school and out, has been so impoverished by decades of underfunding”.

The museum will feature several themed galleries, such as the Adventure Gallery (above) and Play Gallery Pic: Picture Plane and Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum was founded in 1852, and describes itself as “the world’s leading museum of art and design”. V&A has since become a global brand in arts and culture.

The Young V&A building opened twenty years later, in 1872, as the Bethnal Green Museum. The current iteration opens after three years of renovation, consultations with young people, and a full rebrand

The Young V&A’s first exhibition “Japan: Myths to Manga” opens October 14.

Leave a Reply