Setting sail with the Hackney Pirates

Museum of Childhood
August 31, 2018

Part of the V&A Museum of Childhood’s mission is to showcase work by children as well as for children, and A Pirate’s Life for Me is giving us some great opportunities to work with local kids. We invited the Hackney Pirates to join our motley crew…

Pirates in Hackney? Really?

Yes! Hackney Pirates is a charity working to help young people in Hackney achieve their full potential through building confidence, perseverance and literacy skills. They sail from their magical Ship of Adventures in Kingsland High Street (where you can also get a really great hot chocolate – the shop and café support the work of the charity). This summer the young pirates joined the V&A Museum of Childhood exhibition team to help us create an interactive story for our upcoming exhibition.

That all sounds like fun. Didn’t you make them do some work?

Of course we did! The project took a week. On day one – in the middle of the heat wave –  the MoC team boarded the Ship of Adventures to meet the crew. Led by Captain Aaron Piper, the young Pirates rose to the challenge and for sensory inspiration visited the Eastern Curve Garden, which stood in as the desert island; Ridley Road market as our exotic pirate bazaar; and their own Ship of Adventures. We didn’t get a ration of grog but the exhibition team found their own booty in the form of some well-deserved ice lollies and a seat in a shady corner of the Curve Garden, while the Pirates encountered imaginary jungles, sand dunes and monkeys. They also voyaged to Bethnal Green to visit the Museum.

But what did they do at the Museum? Surely there’s no treasure to find there!

There’s all sorts of treasure waiting to be discovered! Our visiting Pirates had the chance to explore some of the hidden items in the Museum stores, toured the galleries and followed a tricky treasure map to discover a stash of gold doubloons hidden in one of our exhibits. The superheroes and dolls’ houses were the objects voted most wanted by the pirate crew.

When did they find time to write their stories?

On days three and four the intrepid adventurers holed up below decks at the ship to splurge their ideas and then work together to create the story for the exhibition, and on day five they recorded their stories for the audio boxes in the exhibition. In the style of the old ‘choose your own adventure’ books, the tales will help our visitors on their journey through the immersive gallery spaces to find the treasure island. We sent Gemma, one of our work placement students from University of Leicester, along to help out with the recordings. Gemma said, ‘The children got really into their stories, with lot of sound effects and when I was leaving they were getting into the illustrations.”

Wow! I want to hear their stories – when can I do that?

You’ll have to join us on our swashbuckling journey at the V&A Museum of Childhood from 20 October to 22 April, when the stories will form part of the interactive route through the exhibition. We can’t wait!

About the author

Museum of Childhood
August 31, 2018

A long-time lover of the V&A Museum of Childhood, I joined the team in August 2017 from the Museum of London Docklands. I have an MA in Museums and Galleries...

More from Kirsty Sullivan
1 comment so far, view or add yours


Can’t wait to encounter these fearsome stories in the exhibition!

Argh! Museum-hearties!

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