Institute of Imagination – 11/02/17


It’s been a complicated day. I swear that’s not the first time I’ve opened a blog post like that but maybe we just have a lot of complicated days. So you don’t need any boring explanations of my inner workings to understand why a journey from Highams Park to Hammersmith involved a stop off in Kennington. It just made sense, OK?

The occasion was the opening of the Institute of Imagination and, after talking to some of the people behind it I think I understand the vision. The space in Lambeth is a stepping stone to bigger things – they’ll be here for a year, running regular schools workshops and public days on a more spaced-out basis (around every 6 weeks I think, to fit with the changing themes). The eventual goal is to open a permanent space around 2019 which will be a centre for all things STEAM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Art and Maths) – an interactive family museum. So this warehouse space is a taster of what’s to come.

With that in mind, I’ll try to give you an idea of what was there today. We only did a small amount of it, and it was the lower-level stuff because I only had Eva with me. There was so much that Roo would have enjoyed, including coding for kids (Key Stage 2 upwards) but he was in Hammersmith…I told you it was complicated.

Let’s start at the beginning. The space is also a pop-up museum for the London Fire Brigade, which has a fire station just over the road. There was a 1960s “Look at Life” film showing in the lobby filmed in that very fire station. Look, here are the fire engines going out onto the Albert Embankment:


There was also a play fire engine that Eva didn’t want to go past:


But I made her, cause there was so much else to see. We started at the craft table, making “Superhero Body Armour”. See, I told you Reuben would have loved this. Eva made some spare hands, though I have to say I did most of the glove blowing up work. They are currently slightly deflated.

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Next, we moved to the doodle table, which was hosted by this guy. Dedication or what?


These were such satisfying pens to use – kind of paint-pens. I coloured in a dog and Eva drew a cat. Not such we were really using the outer reaches of our imaginations yet but we were having fun.

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At the same time, there was a workshop on contemporary dance going on in the middle of the room, hosted by the Royal Academy of Dance. I apologise for the general rubbishness of this photo. I didn’t want to stray too far from Eva.


Then Auntie Savage turned up. back in the fire engine!


I should point out that Auntie Savage is a bigshot director at one of those thought-innovation companies so this was partly a casual hangout with us and partly a networking trip. She combined the two with panache. We chatted to Gareth Binns (the Chief Executive of the Institute) Tom Doust (Director of Experience and Learning) and Henrietta Yoxall (Director of Marketing and Communications), which is how we found out so much about what the Institute was looking to do and how wide their remit was – hence the 25 partnerships today with everyone from the aforementioned dancers to FUZE Coding.

We hung out in the Zen Den (I may have got that name wrong but I’m sticking with it cause I like it), where there was calm music, fake candles, beanbags and rosequartz. It was a lovely little calming spot in the midst of the busyness. Soon though Eva got hungry and we moved into the Imagination Lab to grab a table and eat her sandwich. She got a little distracted by the play area though:

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And making some structures with paper straws:


So I had a little play around with the wooden letters, while Auntie Savage had a go on the 3D printers.


I’d packed lunch for Eva but I figured I would pick something up as I went. And there was a crepe stall selling savoury crepes, right next to where we were seating. Result!

I won’t tell you how long it took to get a crepe but we definitely had time to do another activity before it arrived. So we chose one of the artist installations that the Institute might be funding (they were taking votes on three options). I missed the subtleties of this one, as I was hovering around Crepeville, I know that Eva had to write on a tag what her favourite activity of the day had been (“Making body armour”) and then choose which areas of her brain she’d used and thread the appropriate beads onto the string. Savage was supervising that one.


It was almost time to go and get Reuben but Eva was thirsty, so we stopped off at the Vivid Drinks stall, and she mixed her own juice, before carefully writing a label for it:

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It was a great space – the pipes were painted in bright primary colours, which apparently had been like that when the iOi got the space and even the toilets were funky, if ambiguous over which gender they were intended for. The Imagination Lab is the permanant space for the year, and the bigger space will be used for large-scaled events like this. There was a room for buggy parking and bag drop, which featured a sofa curiously like the one we used to sit on at the Doghouse. Could it be the same one, rescued from this roadside where I photographed it four years ago? Compare and contrast!

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We didn’t do any of the techier stuff at all and would have done if Roo had been there. But, as I may have mentioned, he was in Hammersmith, which is where Eva and I now headed before returning to HP for a party at 3…ish… I only mention the Hammersmith bit because of a wonderfully condescending remartk from Eva as we disembarked at Hammersmith tube and I expressed a small concern that just moments before, we’d been on the wrong side of the A4 to where we were meant to be and I was hoping we didn’t have to someone traverse the Hammersmith Flyover. “Don’t be silly” said she of  the full 4.75 years “Haven’t you heard of a thing called ‘Crossing the Road’?”

Thanks for that Eva. It’s been a pleasure hanging out with you today. Mostly.


Find out more about the Institute of Imagination, including upcoming events, here.


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