On Saturday, the Sainsbury Centre came alive after dark with over 400 people turning up to see what was going on. Museums at Night is an annual initiative across the country intended to encourage people to go and visit places on their doorstep that they often overlook. By opening at different times and putting on unusual events, the idea is to provoke residents to actually 'get round' to visiting their local treasures.
The Sainsbury Centre at UEA suffers a little bit from being tucked away on the UEA campus. The Robert and Lisa Sainsbury collection that is housed there was originally intended for academic study and not particularly for public visits so being in a purpose-built architectural gem on the edge of the campus was a logical decision. But 30 or so years later, the view has changed and the Centre wants to attract as many people as possible. The Museums at Night event is one of a series, following the well-attended launch party for the current temporary exhibitions when people danced till midnight and After Hours which was a big dress-up party in March linked to the current Kingdom of Characters manga-based exhibition. The plan is to host more big events that will attract a wider audience and get them a bit more used to visiting the Centre and how to get there.
Shortly, I'll be posting some pics, but to give you a taste of the atmosphere, let me tell you that most people turned out dressed in pyjamas, dressing gown or some kind of nightwear. There were people of all ages who avidly listened to tales from the Pacific rim by Kelly Kanayama, East Anglian Folk tales by Suzanne the Story-weaver, and bedtime stories and lullabies by Molly May and Matilda from City College Norwich. A whole range of talks and film-showings took place in the education studio, and Bernardo Bueno conducted Writing in the Dark sessions linked to the Bill Viola installation in the Lower Gallery. Nunah Theatre kept us entertained in the conservatory area with random acts of physical theatre and there was lots of activity around the Toothbrush Museum, the Art Blanket and the opportunity for people to create their own Nightmare Nightwear or Pimp up their Pyjamas. There was also cocoa and cookies and for the night-owls, the Sainsbury Centre Young Associates were running projections, music, art activities and dancing in the Modern Life Café.
All in all it was a great night out, and although it was exhausting for those of us working on it, it was also great fun. Not often you are allowed to go to work in your pjs!