Falmouth Art Gallery Wins Guardian Family Friendly Award 2006

By Caroline Lewis | 28 July 2006
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photo of a family smiling and punching the air

The Walker family picked a winner with Falmouth Art Gallery.

In its third year on the shortlist, Falmouth Art Gallery has won the Guardian Family Friendly Museum Award 2006.

The Cornwall gallery beat hundreds of venues nominated by Guardian readers which offer a family-welcome. A shortlist of five was ‘road-tested’, unannounced, by families. As well as Falmouth, they visited the new National Waterfront Museum in Swansea, the North Somerset Museum, Weston-super-Mare, the Horniman Museum and the Livesey, both in London.

The judges for the 2006 prize included the 24 Hour Museum’s Head of Learning, Anra Kennedy, and the founder of the Kids in Museums campaign, Dea Birkett.

photo of two children working at a table in a gallery

Dad Mike couldn't remember the last time his family spent so long in a museum.

Gallery Director Brian Stewart was extremely pleased with the award. He said: "This is the award we would most like to win as it matches our philosophy ... Our aim is to show that you can be family friendly and put on a major exhibition - you can have curatorial scholarship alongside a family friendly atmosphere."

Falmouth is currently showing an exhibition entitled Visiting Picasso, including works by Miro, Max Ernst and Man Ray.

"Key to the gallery is a learning atmosphere - teaching children something without their knowing it," said gallery assistant Natalie Rigby, who is involved in educational activities at Falmouth.

photo of a man showing an award to four little girls whose faces are reflected in it

Brian Stewart of 2006 winners Falmouth Art Gallery shows off the award to some appreciative customers. © The Guardian

“Putting children and families at the core of a museum’s purpose,” said Guardian columnist Dea Birkett, “rather than just tolerating them, is the mark of a good family-friendly museum and on this basis alone Falmouth deserves to win.”

“When the family judges saw a notice in the entrance which said – ‘Noisy workshop in progress. Please come in.’ – they knew they were on to a winner!”

The Walker family – parents Mike and Anna, with children Susie-Jo (12 years old), Maty (9), Herbie (7) and Susie-Jo’s friend Carly Mann (12) – stayed almost three hours when they visited Falmouth Art Gallery.

Mike couldn’t remember his family ever spending this long in a museum before: “Here they’ve sat down, been enthused, and had a whale of a time. It’s difficult to see what more this gallery could do.”

“It’s a really good introduction for a child to a museum and to art,” said Anna.

photo of four children with masks they have decorated sitting at a painting table

The 'noisy workshop' sign was a good indicator of family-friendliness.

The prize includes a ‘Guardian photographer for the day’, to take a photographic portrait of the gallery.

The Award was founded in 2004, when Killhope North of England Lead Mining Museum, County Durham, won. Last year’s winner was the Pitt Rivers and Natural History Museum, University of Oxford.

Judges for the 2006 prize also included Liz Forgan, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Scott Trust, Guardian Family Editor Becky Gardiner and Mark Taylor, Director of the Museums Association.

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