Glowsticks, Spitfires, Rolf Harris and mustard: Museums at Night 2012 in cities and regions

| 17 May 2012
A photo of a ship on a river at night surrounded by floodlights on a river of ice blocks
The T Spider is just one of the highlights in Lincolnshire for Museums at Night 2012© Dave Everatt

In pockets of the country, arts and heritage venues have got together and decided to put on joint initiatives for Culture24's Museums at Night.

As well as pooling the brilliance of each collection involved, it allows visitors to enjoy several venues across the course of an evening or two, meaning you can absorb a really diverse selection of exhibitions and experiences.

Here are some of these clusters of culture to look out for – click on the links to see everything going on in the region we’re talking about…


Journeys are very much the theme in Lincolnshire. “Smell the history” by climbing aboard two ancient ships courtesy of the Humber Keel and Sloop Preservation Society, who have plenty in common with the Spider T, a post-World War I ship. Catch it while it’s docked at Keadby, because it’s off to represent the county as part of an enormous Jubilee flotilla in a couple of weeks.

The vessel is steeped in local industrial history, a proud heritage coursing along the railway system of TATA Steel, one of the largest private railways in the country. Take a guided tour around seven of the 100 miles of this track on a steam train ride with the Appleby Frodingham Railway Preservation Society in Scunthorpe.

The boats and trains look amazing, but they’re not to be outdone by their aerodynamic cousins – An Evening of Aviation Heritage at the Kirton-in-Lindsey town hall is a memorabilia-strewn night dedicated to the men and women who served the local airfields.

And then there’s Middlegate Lane, an Elsham patch now owned by the Anglian Water Authority but once used as a vital part of the WWII war effort as part of Bomber Command. Home to three squadrons, it closed in 1947 but will be open for viewings of a restored Spitfire cockpit, medals, uniforms and photos as well as insights from Ken Duddle, the chairman of the Elsham Wolds Association who served at the base. A real one-off.

The rest in the county is covered in a proverbial blanket of fun, from a wildlife-inspired night at Danes Terrace in Lincoln and re-enactments of The Farming Museum's rural past to a ghostly evening at the North Lincolnshire Museum and music in the 15th century St Oswald's Church in Althorpe.


More eastern promise slightly lower down the country in Norfolk, where there are a couple of dozen highly imaginative nights out going on.

Already an idyllic area to spend a weekend in, this time around there are performances of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, walks through Victorian Sheringham, Parlour Portraits at the RNLI Henry Blogg Museum and murder mysteries.

A photo of a man holding a lit-up projector smiling inside a darkened historic room
The Cromer Museum opens late in Norfolk
Hear a master storyteller at The Museum of the Broads and find out about a late Victorian seafront and pier from the vantage point of a beautiful pavilion.

Over in Norwich, there are dimly-lit tours of the Castle, working letterpresses from the 1950s, adult storytelling performances ominously predisposed to tales of evil and tours inside the magnificent Cathedral of St John the Baptist.

An Exhibition of Circus History is surely worth a clown-nosed peep, although you might want to keep your nostrils closed while sampling some of the invigorating exports of Colman's Mustard Shop and Museum. And slalom through “a night-time playground of music, performances and walkabouts” at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts.


A photo of three people pointing mock rifles at a made-up range in a military museum
The Keep Military Museum is part of a seven-strong armoury of venues in Dorchester© Kate Hall
If you didn’t know there are seven places to pick from in Dorchester, then the surprise should be a pleasant one if you’re anywhere near Dorset. Teaming up to allow you to visit the whole lot for £8, they make an excellent team of distinctly contrasting venues.

Wee ones and cuddle addicts will love the Teddy Bear Museum, but the more boisterous will enjoy the exotic weaponry of the Terracotta Warriors Museum. A guaranteed favourite is the Dinosaur Museum, or there’s an intoxicating trilogy of historic tales for curious minds, taking in Tutankhamen's Tomb, Keep Military Museum and the Roman Town House.

Liverpool & Newcastle

It would be impossible to do justice to the packed programmes in Liverpool and Newcastle, so we’re not selling them short by pointing you in the direction of the full listings for Light Night Liverpool and Tyneside’s infamous, glowstick-obsessed Late Shows.

Pick the greyest Monday of the year and both cities would still be culturally fantastic in their own right, so suffice to say they’re both something special on a Friday and Saturday night.

A photo of a group of young people locking arms and smiling in a city street at night
The Late Shows make Newcastle glow
Visually, try the spectacular views from the Liverpool Wheel of Culture or the Geordie Toffee Factory, which has turned its chimney into a giant version of one of those glowsticks. Art-wise, how about a sneak preview of Rolf Harris’s new show at the Walker Art Gallery or a series of 20-minute live art demonstrations at Newcastle Arts Centre? And for unparalleled artefacts, and Newcastle’s Great North Museum stand out.


The fab four are entertaining Oxford for Museums at Night – the Ashmolean, the Museum of the History of Science, Pitt Rivers and the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Between them, they can lay genuine claim to some of the finest collections in the world, let alone nationally.

A photo of a group of people inside a museum illuminated by kaleidoscopic lights
The Pitt Rivers Museum is one of four uniting in Oxford
They’ll all be drenched in illuminations and ready to entertain families, although there’s a late-night ending any music festival might be envious of for those who stay late. See our Preview for more, and keep an eye on Culture24 this weekend if you can’t get to the historic city yourself.

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