I’m having another of my weekends on my own with Barney. Currently managed to get him to sleep, so thought I’d use the time to write up our adventures yesterday.
I’ve noticed he likes buses – I think it’s the variety of people he gets to see while he’s on there, and also the fact that he can get on them and go somewhere without being tethered down in the same way he is in the car. His nan’s also commented on how much he’s enjoyed his bus trips with her. So, I thought – if he likes the dull single deckers we get in Sunderland, he’ll love a trip on a double decker.
That’s why we found ourselves in Peterlee bus station yesterday morning waiting for the X9 express to Middlesbrough. We were lucky to get seats at the front of the top deck, and the result was one very happy chappy. The top deck of a bus does give you a different perspective, and the route the X9 takes down the A19, then through Billingham, past some of the Teesside industrial plants and then over the Tees via the Newport Bridge meant there was plenty for Barney to spot from his brilliant vantage point. For me, there was free wifi and plug points – a thoroughly modern bus service!
Once in Middlesbrough, we headed for mima – the town’s Institute of Modern Art which was one of the more surprising additions to the north east I discovered when we moved back up. Part of a new ‘centre square’ it’s an asset to the town, but the inward-facing nature of the Cleveland Centre shopping mall means the impressive square (complete with fountains, library, town hall, etc) isn’t really linked to the rest of the town centre.
I have to say Mima’s current crop of exhibitions didn’t do a lot for me. There’s a touring Yannis Kounellis exhibition in the ground floor galleries, which I quite liked – but I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say – as mima has – that his use of everyday materials is something that should particularly resonate with a north east audience.
Elsewhere, there’s quite a fun set of installations by Liliane Lijn called Cosmic Dramas. The galleries are dark, and the installations seem to interact with you as you walk round – lights flash, voices etc. Barney was asleep by this point so I didn’t get to find out whether he’d think it was terrifying or the best thing since double-decker buses.
The other slightly disappointing thing about mima was how quiet the galleries were – I was the only one in both the major exhibitions, and passed only a couple of people in the smaller galleries. It’s odd, because the public areas of the institute – the foyer and terrace – were teaming with young people. Loads of teens on the terrace, and their Saturday Art Trolley is obviously really popular with younger kids, and something we’ll have to check out with Barney when he’s a bit older.
We stayed on for lunch, which was great. They do a 3-for-£3 deal for kids, so Barney got a toastie, fruit and juice for lunch. Plenty of high-chairs, plastic plates, etc. He loved it (a small fit-as-much-as-I-can-in-my-gob choking episode aside). Baby-changing was in the disabled toilet (good news for dads!) and they even had lockers so I could dump the changing bag.
Finally, given the debate on arts funding that’s raging in the north east at the moment, I did find the list of FAQs mima had in the foyer quite interesting. Top of the list: “who pays for mima?”