The British Music Experience at the O2, London

By on Wednesday, 13th May 2009 at 4:00 pm
 

British Music Experience logoThe British Music Experience (BME) opened it’s doors at hot-new London venue, The 02, in March of this year. Described as “the world’s only fully interactive, permanent exhibition devoted to the history and influence of popular music in Great Britain”, the BME excitedly takes you on a journey through time and space, colourfully exploring the fundamental British music movements that have rocked the world over the past 50 years and more.

You begin your “experience” by entering a cinematic-type room where you are given an exciting video introduction to the museum by top-DJ, Lauren Laverne. Amidst the intro, we are told about our “Smarticket”. Turns out the entrance ticket to the BME is no ordinary ticket, oh no! In fact, it contains a nifty little device which you can scan at certain points in the museum that take your fancy. Once you’re home, you can then load this saved info (may it be musical facts, videos, photos, etc) onto your PC using your personal “MyBME” number. Cool, huh? Anyway, following this 5 minute or so mini-movie, the doors to your right fling open and finally! into the British Music Experience you go (..to the screams of wild crowds, as if you’re about to magnificently walk onto a huuuge stage).

The outer area of British Music Experience is divided up into seven sections, all donated to a particular musical era. Each section offers you the chance to “learn about British music’s influence on art, fashion and politics”, through a range of exciting interactive displays. You can lovingly gaze at amazing memorabilia, explore interactive musical maps, glide your way around defining musical events on several humongous screens and even listen in on fantasy musician dinner parties.

British Music ExperienceYou begin your journey amid the years of 1945 to 1962, discovering and learning about the key musical movements of skiffle and rock n roll – meeting everyone from Lonnie Donegan to Cliff Richard on the way. The swinging 1962 to 1966 section is particularly exciting. Highlights include a huge display of Beatles artefacts, as well as a selection of beautiful vintage dresses worn by 60s goddesses Dusty Springfield, Cilla Black and Sandi Shaw.

1966 to 1970 takes us through the hippy-movement that was Summer of Love and beyond, with everything from Jimi Hendrix’s psychedelic clothing to the famous Sgt. Pepper album cut-outs on display. 1970 to 1976 meanwhile, introduces us to glam-rock, showcasing the original flamboyant outfits worn by Bowie and Bolan – along with Marc’s personal (and rather awesome) flying-V guitar.

1976 to 1985 is great for the punk fans, with original Sex Pistol handwritten lyrics and clothing on show. Also be sure to check out the displays dedicated to the reggae, ska and new romantic movements of this era while you’re there.

Next up we have 1985 to 1993. This section recalls both the hard-rock of Motorhead and Black Sabbath, as well introducing us to the pivotal ‘Madchester’ movement – as lead by bands such as Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses.

Finally, 1993 to Present journeys all the way from the Brit-pop of Oasis (pictured top), to the boy-band mania of Take That, to the girl-power of the Spice Girls….finally ending up among our wide array of RnB, indie and singer-songwriters of today. Check out Noel Gallagher’s famous union-jack guitar, the outfits worn by the Spice Girls during their recent reunion tour, a selection of Arctic Monkey memorabilia and even a few dresses belonging to Amy Winehouse, Leona Lewis and Kate Nash!

The British Music ExperienceIf that’s not enough, the middle of the British Music Experience, or as The 02 prefer to call it, “the core”, contains further interactive displays to get your musical mitts on. Hit “Transmission” and “Playback” to visibly learn how the British public have listened to and played music since the 1940s (…no YouTubes and iPods back then!). Check out “Where It’s At”, a major interactive map that allows you to locate your home-town (or wherever else you please!) and find out a plethora of interesting musical facts about said location (I was shocked to learn that Pink Floyd played a gig a few minutes down the road from me!). “Hey DJ!” allows you to flick through an array of virtual 12″ dance records…. while the “Dance the Decade” booth teaches you some serious moves which you can record on your nifty “Smarticket” and play back when you get return home…(if you dare!).

Yet perhaps the highlight of the day is the Gibson Interactive Studio – a room brimming with instruments for you to rock out on at your leisure. Try your hand at a Les Paul, have a tinkle on the piano, play with some tunes on the mixing desk, sing your heart out in the vocal booth or have a bash on one of the drum kits (oh ..and don’t worry if you’re not any good, you wear headphones so nobody can hear what you’re playing). Interactive videos allow you to learn and play along with hit tracks, and you can even record yourself so you can listen back when you get home (…that’s if you can drag yourself away from this stupidly addictive room!).

Finally, your experience comes to a close with “The Beat Goes On”, an epic 5 minute audio-visual collage of the greatest gigs to have happened in British musical history. Feel like your on stage with Led Zeppelin, Oasis, Radiohead…heck even Elton John during this completely immersive life-sized show.

Admittedly, British Music Experience will probably not provide too much new information for those musical geeks out there. Yet, either way, the BME is still an incredibly fun day-out, brimming with lots to see, do and play. The interactive element of the museum is really cool, and the hands-on approach means you never get too bored. You may come away from the Experience with a bit of a knowledge-overload headache, but, basically, if you’re a fan of music, you should definitely check this place out, even if it’s just for the shop at the end of it (which had some uber-cool pencils, may I add.).

British Music Experience, at The 02, Greenwich, costs £15.00 per adult (£12.00 per child). For more details, hit their website now

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One Response

11:53 am
14th May 2009

Sounds like a great day out and a fun history lesson all rolled into one.

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