28 Jul 2014

Summer at the Imperial War Museum North

The Imperial War Museum (IWM) North is a remarkable institution located on the Salford Quayside, just a stone's throw away from the city of Manchester. The IWM North is remarkable not just beacause it is a stunning piece of architecture but as it plays host to some fascinating war memorabilia. In a year that marks the centenary of the start of the First World War, the IWM North has organised a series of exhibitions and activities for all the family to take part in this summer.

J and I were fortunate enough to be invited to the family preview session at the IWM North. And I must say, I have never seen a 3-year old this animated in a museum before! That we spent the better part of an entire day there says it all.

Our visit started with an exclusive interactive story-telling session about a pair of brothers, Ali and Abdul, and their journey through the First World War. The story was brought to life with puppets, props and rather importantly, photographs of the trenches from the War. The children seemed fascinated, especially with the horse and the 100-year old biscuit that seems to have survived to date!

Story-time with Jenny
We then had a go at a spot of creative fun. The theme at the IWM North for this summer is traditional family fun. So most activities will revolve around children's games and family pursuits from the war years.

We tried our hand at decorating some lovely wooden yo-yos. Not only did the children try their skills, us parent bloggers got stuck in as well. For the first time in years, I sat down and managed to complete an art activity all by myself. While J had a whale of a time swinging the yo-yo around his head.

They were decorating wooden spinning tops in the Learning Studio downstairs, so we went there and had a go at painting those as well.

Colouring yo-yos and spinning tops

Then it was time to head to the main exhibition area. The last time we visited, J was younger and not as keen. What a difference half a year makes! At 3 years old, the questions were flying thick and fast. He wanted to see and do everything. The larger displays of ammunition and machinery were of particular interest.

The Large Exhibits at the IWM North

But not as much as the array of vintage Edwardian fair games that the IWM North is hosting this summer. He tried hoop-la first and then had a go at the tin can alley. Both without much success. But the kind lady at the stalls still handed him a sweetie, which just made his day.

And then he discovered bagatelle! That was it. His rules, his way. He would have stood there playing it all day long if it had not been time for lunch. The thought of a good meal was the only thing that pried him away from that bagatelle table.

Trying his hand at Bagatelle

So off we went to the Watershard Cafe to restore our flagging reserves. J opted for a 5-piece children's ration pack, courtesy a voucher given to us by the IWM North. I went for the salmon with a side-salad and Victorian lemonade. The portions were generous and the food was delicious.

Food at the Watershard Cafe

With a view to match. We were sat by the window overlooking the quays and the Lowry on the opposite bank. And although it was pouring with rain, J was delighted to see the boats passing by as he sat munching his lunch.

A room with a view - Watershard Cafe, IWM North
Lunch done, we headed back to the exhibition area. We decided to look at the First World War special exhibition that is running till May next year. Although we missed the family friendly tour of the exhibits, we still managed to take a look at how the War affected the North West as a region, its people and its development.

At the Imperial War Museum North

J wanted to go back to playing vintage games. So off we went to play hopscotch in the middle of a war museum. Never thought I would be writing that, not in a million years! We also discovered the dressing-up corner where little people could transform into soldiers or nurses. And then we were back at the games section. J and I tried constructing all sorts using colourful wooden bricks of different shapes and sizes.

Wooden construction bricks
While we were sat at a table playing tiddlywinks, the lights dimmed. It was the Big Picture Show, an audio-visual tale of War. I must say this is the part which had left me an emotional wreck on my last visit to the IWM North. It was no different this time around. The presentation is so moving, it makes you think about the futility of war, of how we refuse to learn our lesson from history.

And just like the last time, I felt a lump in my throat as I clutched J a little bit closer and said a silent prayer over his head.

It was now time to head home. But not before we had one last adventure on our wonderful day out at the Imperial War Museum North. We were given tickets to ascend up to the AirShard, the IWM viewing platform some 100 feet up in the air.

The view from the AirShard, Imperial War Museum North
So up we went. Up and up, surrounded by the roar of a biplane and a field gun (part of an audio installation at the AirShard). Up we went to look out at a spectacular view of the Quays. And brave enough to look down through the mesh gangway under our feet.

The Imperial War Museum North is a wonderful day out for all the family. It is a gentle and peaceful reminder of the horrors of war and a great history lesson for everyone. You can find out more about current exhibitions and events at the IWM North here.

Disclaimer: We were invited to attend a family blogger preview event at the Imperial War Museum North in exchange for this post. All opinions expressed are my own.


  1. I have heard really good things about this place, and your review confirmed it to me even more. Will put it on our list for when we next visit home! :)

  2. Never heard of this plave before but my brother would love it!

  3. It sounds like they have a lot going on and to see across the summer. I bet its an amazing place to look around as well.x

  4. It looks like you had an amazing day. Wonderful views x

  5. Oh wish that was a bit closer! Maybe one day we will visit...looks fab

  6. Wow! That sounds like a great day out. I really like that they really get the children involved in the past, with the games and even the food. That is brilliant!

  7. I would love to visit. We lived v close to the Duxford branch and visited frequently. However - although the planes are incredibly impressive there isn't much to DO there. Your experience looks very different.

  8. I think we went here a few years ago, pre-children. My husband went to uni near there and has a big interest in history. Looks like a good place to go with children too!

  9. We really love the IWM North. It is a great place and with boys they love anything war or plane related

  10. What a great place to visit! I think it is so important for children to learn about history - and even better when it's so much fun!
    Love Vicky
    Around and Upside Down

  11. Sounds like an amazing visit! I wish there would be something similar close to us too!

  12. I would love to visit. It looks like a amazing day out. We love war related things.

  13. Looks fabulous, shame we are on the south coast as I love visiting museums that have lots for kids to enjoy while they are learning something at the same time.

  14. Bit too far for me to travel but it is definitely somewhere I would be interested in visiting - loved the similar museum down South when I was younger x

  15. This looks fabulous and a great lace for kids to go and have fun but learn at the same time! x

  16. It looks like a perfect day out. Learn and play... what could be better?


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