Serious art lovers head to Manchester Art Gallery to view its renowned collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings, and works by artists including Lowry and Bacon. But don’t overlook it when planning a family day out, it’s an excellent place to go with kids.
The last time I visited, heavily pregnant and with a small toddler in tow, we had a wonderful time exploring the Clore Interactive Gallery; so I was disappointed to hear that it had closed. However, it has been replaced by the Clore Art Studio, a constantly-changing space which reflects the Gallery’s main exhibitions. The mirrors and dressing-up clothes are gone, but a still-life drawing station remains and children are encouraged to engage with real works of art. My one-year-old loved playing with the colourful objects on display in the Grayson Perry-inspired installation.
Now, with two children, mooching around a gallery at leisure is an impossibility. So, to keep everyone happy, I plan what I want to see and find a way to involve them. The information desk helps with this task. There are free ‘tool kits’ to borrow, so youngsters can explore the exhibits with hard hats and magnifying glasses; and story bags complete with a rug to sit on, a book and fun suggestions of what to do in the gallery. The bags come in four themes: line, shape, colour and texture. We took ‘texture’, which had great activity ideas, including looking for rough or spiky objects in the Gallery.
The lovely café is a popular place to eat, and the staff helped us to a table with our food – crucial, as I struggled with a toddler, a baby, and a buggy to manoeuvre. There was a delicious selection of cakes and savouries. The kids’ lunch box (sandwich and selection of snacks) was £3.95, or a hot meal (Bangers’n’mash on our visit) was around £5.
Check the website for details of family events like the monthly Baby art and Mini art clubs. And here’s a tip to keep your older children entertained – who can find the Banksy?Daily 10am-5pm (Thurs night until 9pm). Admission free. Manchester Art Gallery, Mosley Street, Manchester M2 3JL Tel: 0161 235 8888 manchestergalleries.org