Imperial War Museum North

Imperial War Museum North

I love architecture, and the whackier the better. I tend to love most new arty buildings, which up here in the wastes of Manchester includes the Bridgewater Hall and The Lowry. Until yesterday I had only ever admired the Imperial War Museum from across the water by The Lowry. Up close, I’m not so sure.

Hard to find the way in. It’s whacky and arty, but getting in has some sort of useful functional feel to it. It’s why you’ve come all this way. When you have an asymmetrical warehouse, why skimp on door size?

The staff were lovely and helpful, so it’s not the human side of things I’m grumbling about. The shop is well lit and well stocked, so you can see to spend your money. The toilet is not as well lit as it could be, and with black doors and a mirror that makes you think the place is twice the size, you could go wrong.

Jukebox, Imperial War Museum North

Lovely views over the water should make the café really attractive. But the first thing I noticed, before I’d even climbed all the stairs up, was the smell of school dinners. Second, it’s dark, despite the large windows. It’s noisy, with excellent acoustics if listening to the clatter and din from other visitors is high on your agenda. You can barely hear the person sharing your table, which could be quite useful in many relationships.

Main exhibition hall is very dark. When it comes to preserving old paintings I’m all for darkness. Here I can only guess it’s meant to make it more warlike and atmospheric. The drawback with so much atmosphere is that oldies like me can’t see very much, which almost defeats the idea of looking round a museum. Also whacky and asymmetrical enough to make you get lost, which could add to the fun you have.

And I did say the shop was well lit, didn’t I? It was still slightly tricky to find the exit, which doubles as the entrance, so you have already come through the doors once, and it should be plain sailing. Though, as soon as you’re close enough, they open automatically, which is a useful hint. I’d be willing to pay not to go up in the lift in the tower by the almost non-existent doors.

Michelle Magorian

Other than that it’s OK.

The jukebox is wonderful!

The event organised by the Manchester Literature Festival on Sunday, with children’s war novelist Michelle Magorian was excellent. If a wee bit dark.

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