Saturday, 5 January 2013

Hobbiting around the National Media Museum

I've got a confession to make. Until the other day, I'd lived in Leeds for over six years and I'd only ever visited our neighbouring city of Bradford once - which is a really appalling effort for someone who thinks they know this area of Yorkshire pretty well.

My first ever trip to the city -which is just 8.6 miles from Leeds - happened during the summer that I graduated from Uni. Some of the boys that I lived with at the time decided they'd like to go and see Transformers 2 at the Bradford Media Museum's IMAX. I hadn't started full-time work yet and I was pretty broke, but I was really bored and needed cheering up, so I decided to go too. Wrong decision. I'm not a fan of action films, cars or Megan Fox. It's fair to say that the Transformers 2 experience was well and truly wasted on me. The curry we had afterwards definitely wasn't, however. It was at the moment when I was wiping my plate with my nann bread that I promised myself a return trip to the city that is famed for de-industrialisation, economic deprivation, excellent curries and is UNESCO's first ever designated City of Film.

The National Media Museum

Fast forward three and a half years and I still hadn't been back. However, this Christmas I'd booked an extra week off work - the first time in three and a bit years of full-time work that I'd booked holiday for doing absolutely nothing in (apart from designated blowtorch experimenting time of course). It offered the perfect opportunity to venture over the border - and when I bargained with Ash for a trip to the National Media Museum in return for seeing the Hobbit at the IMAX and a curry afterwards, he was more than happy to oblige.

So off we trundled to Leeds train station and in a mere 20 minutes we'd arrived at Bradford Interchange. Walking through the newly opened City Park (which features some of the tallest fountains in the UK and is -in my opinion anyway- a really excellent example of a new multi-purpose civic space) we found our way to the museum.

City Park  Photograph: Christopher Thomond c/o The Guardian
The two and a half hours that we spent exploring the museum really were a joy to behold - and we didn't even manage to see all of it! Here are my personal highlights:
  • The museum's new Life Online gallery - which is the world's first gallery dedicated to exploring the social, technological and cultural impact of the internet - was absolutely fascinating. Completely hands on and exceptionally well designed, it told the story of the internet - from the very first networks to SEO and Social Media- in a way that was very easy to digest. Despite working in digital marketing, it taught me a whole heap of new stuff.

  • The Experience TV and TV Heaven galleries were great fun. My maternal Grandad was a TV actor from the early 1950s to the 1970s and tracing the changes he must have experienced during his career in the  'Race for Television' section was especially interesting. All of his stories about playing Judas and eating cold BBC cafeteria stew whilst filming (live!) the Last Supper really came to life - as my Mum says, it must have taken a lot of skill not to automatically grimace at that on live TV! After battling some kids out of the way, I also had a go at being a newsreader in the interactive Experience TV section, and Ash has decided to give up teaching and focus on a new career as a weatherman. The gallery also offers the opportunity to 'hire' a private booth to watch old TV episodes - which unfortunately we didn't have time for during this trip, but we'll be back!
  • Michael Fish better watch out
  • The Games Lounge was also a big hit. Featuring a whole host of old arcade and console games, we spent a good while playing Goldeneye007. I am proud to say that I shot Ash at least once.

After finding Goldeneye, there was no talking to Ash.

By this time, the Hobbit was calling us (or Ash, anyway), so off we ventured to the museum's adjoining IMAX screen. Now, a bit like my attitude to films featuring cars and Megan Fox, I'm not the biggest Tolkien fan. I just don't get it. I've never watched a Lord of the Ring's film without falling asleep. My main problems with the Hobbit were as follows:
  •  I knew that Martin Freeman was going to be alright in the end, despite the number of Trolls/Orcs/Goblins he came across, because he's Martin Freeman and he's indestructible. If he's not indestructible, I knew that Sir Ian McKellen would turn up with his big stick and make it alright anyway.
  • It was miles too long. I know this because - true to form - I had a little nap when the Trolls came. When I woke up about twenty minutes later, not much had happened.
  • I spent the whole three hours (or whatever it was) wishing they'd just get to the bloody mountain/Middle Earth/whatever it's called and stop taking diversions to pick up swords and fight stuff. Scratch the Unexpected Journey bit, they should have called it the Interminable Journey.
Don't get me wrong, there were a few bits that I enjoyed. Gollum is genuinely scary and dark. I also liked Sir Ian McKellen and Martin Freeman and James Nesbitt a lot. Watching it in 3D and at an IMAX screen was, for once, an immersive experience (which surprised me a bit as I'm not normally the biggest 3D fan). I guess my assumption that it just wasn't going to be my thing were correct. Ash enjoyed it though, so many girlfriend points were scored. Hurrah.
By this time it was about 5 o'clock and my stomach was a'rumbling, so off we went in search of some of the finest grub that Bradford has to offer. Alas, despite asking Twitter for some good Curry House suggestions earlier in the week, it was just a tad too early for the good people of Twitter's top suggestions to be open. We decided to pop on the train back to Leeds and save some dollar by cooking at home, safe in the knowledge that we'd be returning to Bradford soon to check out the parts of the museum that we'd missed.

All in all, it was a fantastic day out. I really don't know why I'd left it so long to visit the Media Museum, but I have already made a mental list of people who I know would love to visit that'll give me the perfect excuse to visit again. There's also so much more to the city than meets the eye, and I need a curry inside of me soon.

Bradford - I'll be back.


  1. You can take me. I need to see 'Living with Dinosaurs' again (Juliette Stephenson and an Elvis impersonating Dino - remember it?). Maybe Mum will come with some bits and bobs for the screening?


    This one?