Have a MAD Day Out
Dinasaur Head by Jim Bond. Photo Rob Tysall.
The MAD Museum, 4-5 Henley Street, Stratford upon Avon.
Review by Ann Evans If you or the family love mind-boggling mechanical creations, quirky art and mesmerising movement then a visit to the MAD Museum in Stratford-upon-Avon is a must. ‘MAD’ stands for Mechanical Art and Design and the museum is the only permanent venue for mechanical art in the country. It was voted the ‘Best Museum in Warwickshire’ on Trip Advisor amongst other awards.
The MAD Museum features more than 70 pieces of kinetic art and automata which has been created by innovative artists from all around the world. And if you aren’t sure what kinetic art and automata actually are, think about the machines and gizmos in Wallace and Gromit and Scrapheap Challenge. In this case, it’s a fascinating collection of ingenuous inventions, often beautifully crafted, which rock, roll, spin, open, close, mesmerise and intrigue.
The MAD Museum. Photo courtesy of Rob Tysall Pro Photography
Visitors of all ages have fun watching and interacting with all the whirligig inventions. There’s an educational zone and a family zone where visitors can get hands on and inspired, discovering and learning in a thoroughly enjoyable way science, technology, engineering, art and maths. The educational zone also has resources for school workshops and a range of basic automata kits that teachers, parents and kids can buy to take home or back to school.
Founder of the museum, is Kenilworth man Richard Simmons, who says: “I want kids to put down their mobiles and get inspired by interacting with engineering and design.”
Richard Simmons (L) with Swiss kinetic sculptor Pascal Bettex. Photo Rob Tysall Pro Photography.
Richard has always been fascinated by how things work and loves to see how mechanical parts interact with one another. Creating a museum to showcase such things has been his lifelong dream. As a trained chartered surveyor, turned property developer and online entrepreneur, he finally decided he would create such a museum.
So, in 2012, with the help of his family, in particular his son Iain and nephew Mike Abbotts they gathered together a team dedicated to turning that dream into reality, creating the amazing MAD Museum.
Gremlins vandalise Shakespeare. Photo courtesy of Rob Tysall Pro Photography.
After finding the right location for the museum, Richard put on display pieces of kinetic art that he’d collected and created over the years as well as building up an impressive line-up of resident artists. Other artists have come from the UK, Holland, Poland, Switzerland, Germany, France, China and the USA. Notably amongst them, Frederick Rowland Emett OBE who created eight machines for the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang film starring Dick Van Dyke. Also, Pascal Bettex who created the Shakespeare-themed kinetic art sculpture in a telephone box for the MAD Museum.
The museum is in Henley Street not far from Shakespeare’s birthplace and from the moment you set foot in the door you are met with the rhythmic sounds of whirring and clicking, and the intriguing sights of weird and wonderful inventions the likes of which Inventor Caractacus Potts from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang might have made!
Halifax Tableau by Frederick Rowland Emett OBE. Photo courtesy of Rob Tysall Pro Photography.
There are rolling ball machines, a roaring mechanical dinosaur head, an invention that swings out if you clap, there’s lasers and 3-dimensional illusions, steampunk-type creations, impossible gears and cogs, intricate wooden moving sculptures, old fashioned and modern – so much, in fact that you don’t know where to look first!
Behind the scenes, is the workshop where Mike Abbotts and other members of the team create new pieces and kits on their laser-cutting machines, as well as making sure all the inventions are maintained and in good working order.
Mike Abbotts in the MAD Museum workshop. Photo courtesy of Rob Tysall Pro Photography.
“A lot of it is reverse engineering,” said Mike. “You are always trying to work out how they have done it. Sometimes you have to go away and come back. It is always challenging and no two days are alike, but you always find the solution eventually.”
There’s activity sheets and craft facilities, plus tickets to the MAD Museum last all day, so you can take a break for lunch or shopping and sightseeing and come back later that day.
For opening times and admission prices please go visit www.themadmuseum.co.uk.