Finding myself in Bethnal Green, around dirty streets with perfect names, Paradise Row…Sugar Loaf Walk, not near as pretty as their pretty names would have hoped, I came across the V&A’s Museum of Childhood. Starting to rain and feeling I could do with a bit of shelter, I decided this was the right way to spend an hour or two.
The museum houses the Victoria and Albert Museum's collection of childhood-related objects and artefacts, spanning the 1600s to the present day. Floors of intriguing, delicately intricate toys behind vast vitrines, from Anamorphoscopes to marionette puppets that verge on the sinister. Obsessive doll’s houses populate the upper floor creating a miniature city inhabited by very little people whose houses, like Aladdin's cave, are decorated in all the luxuries thought possible.
Jake and Dino’s Chapman’s etchings from their ‘My Giant Colouring book’ series, were my little highlight, modestly displayed, these seemingly disturbed and grotesque images also had something innocent and quietly fantastical about them, creating dark scenes that subverted the intended line between dot and dot. At the entrance of the museum, greeting us and bidding a farewell, was the installation ‘The Stuff of Nightmares’. A creation inspired by the Brother’s Grimm, a menacing constructed forest based on their ‘Fundevogel’, a tale of abduction, fear, evil old women, revenge and ultimately, friendship. Made by children, this forest is their imaginary landscape. Both this and 'My Giant Colouring book' examined the dark capabilities of the imagination of children, revealing itself againts their innocence like the darkest and most violent part of the most virtuous fairy tale.
Stepping back into the chill of kebab shops and taxi ranks, feeling inspired, slightly nostalgic, and digging up memories from my earliest days, I thought about my toys, the pictures I made, the clothes my mum made that I wore...all of these things came together to assemble my own, rather more modest, Museum of Childhood.
(And if you should visit, Just up the road and to the left is Vyner street, a condensed gift of contemporary art, all on one street.)