Young V&A – Countdown to Summer 2023

March 1, 2023

After seven intensive years of dedicated planning and design, we can announce that Young V&A will open its doors in Bethnal Green on Saturday 1 July – in time for the summer holidays!

A boy wearing a mask and cape – looking fearless!
This is Me, a photography display featuring local young people and their creativity at Oxford House community
arts centre. Co-curated by Young V&A, young people from the Mile End Community Project and
photographer Rehan Jamil. © Rehan Jamil / Courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Co-designed with children and young people, Young V&A is a free, national museum designed to showcase the power of creativity in children’s lives as they build new skills and develop the creative confidence needed to thrive in our fast-changing world.

Young V&A will be a ‘doing’ museum – a joyful, buzzing, and optimistic place underpinned by the power of design and creativity. Today we shared some of the amazing hands-on experiences audiences can look forward to, including sensory playscapes, a finger skateboard park, an ‘Imagination Playground’ construction zone, a performance and story-telling stage, and an open design studio for children and young people. These elements – and more – will help to celebrate playful learning through creativity and create multigenerational activities and experiences.

A group of children exploring the Young V&A of the future
View of the pre-walker and toddler zone of the Play Gallery at Young V&A. © Picture Plane / Courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The museum’s three permanent galleries – Imagine, Play and Design – will showcase around 2,000 objects from across the V&A’s vast collection of art, design and performance in surprising and inspiring ways. Highlights include a sensory environment for pre-walkers in the Play Gallery, alongside a range of new commissions, co-designed and co-curated projects and live programming. Every aspect of Young V&A has been developed with a rigorous eye to childhood developmental theories and practice, interwoven with the expertise of our curatorial, interpretation and learning teams to create experiences that will be social, relevant and inspiring.

More new features include an interactive Minecraft installation in the Play Gallery’s game design space ‘The Arcade’, new murals by street artist Mark Malarko, and innovative creations by young people made for Raspberry Pi’s Coolest Projects competition. Young voices are also featured in This is Me a co-curated display within the Imagine Gallery. Here, Rehan Jamil’s portraits of local young people captured at Oxford House community arts centre during our Reinvent Festival, are set alongside self-portraits by leading creatives from Chila Kumari Singh Burman to Quentin Blake, Kenneth Branagh, Dapo Adeola, and Linda McCartney.

Japan: Myths to Manga

Young V&A’s first exhibition will be Japan: Myths to Manga, which opens on 14 October 2023. From sky to sea, and into the forest and city, the exhibition takes us on an exciting and atmospheric trip through Japanese history to explore how landscape and folklore have influenced popular culture, technology, and design. Alongside a series of sensory interactives and activities, the exhibition features films such as My Neighbour Totoro (1988) and Ponyo (2008) from the iconic animation studio, Studio Ghibli, a manga-inspired coat by Comme des Garçons, and dizzying heel-less shoes by Noritaka Tatehana, plus plenty of Pokémon. Also on show is Doodle Champion Island Games (2021), a role-playing browser game created by Google with Studio 4°C, epic sculptures by Keita Miyazaki and a moving installation of 1,000 cranes – a symbol of remembrance from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Japan.

The coming months will be a hive of activity for our V&A teams as we continue our wide-ranging community outreach programme, building on the success of YV&A’s Reinvent Festival, which took creative activity far and wide across Tower Hamlets and into neighbouring boroughs, embedding local partnerships and working with schools. To date, we have worked directly with over 12,000 children, young people, and families. By opening week we’ll have engaged all schools in Tower Hamlets as well as key schools and community organisations nearby.

A group of students sharing their work – everyone is smiling
Co-curating This is Me photography display with Young V&A team, east London photographer Rehan Jamil and young people from the Mile End Community Project. © Rehan Jamil / Courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum, London

We want Young V&A to inspire young people and families with the creative ingenuity of art, performance, and design, to empower educators from early years workers to teachers, parents, and carers to promote creativity, and to influence child-centred museum practice across the sector.

In the lead up to opening, we’ve been presenting Young V&A at national and international conferences exploring how museums are evolving to meet the needs of ‘Generation A’ (children born after 2015). Last October, we took part in the Education Integration Global Forum (EDI) in Naples, which brought together 180 senior arts professionals from around the world. Here, we gave the keynote speech on our vision for museum learning focusing on the role of co-designing with children. In November 2022, we gave the keynote at the A&DO annual seminar, organised by Design Museum Helsinki, aimed at Finnish teachers, educators and designers exploring the role of museums as educational resources in the lives of young people. Focusing on co-design at Young V&A, we shared case studies on our early design development workshops with architects De Matos Ryan and the substantive co-design gallery fit out projects with Agents of Change, including co-creation and activities with schools, young people, and families to build our learning programmes. Further information on the co-design and co-creation workshops can be found here.

We are so excited see Young V&A come to life this summer and can’t wait to welcome our first young visitors and their families. But between now and when we open our doors, there is much activity to deliver, as we strive to fulfil our young co-designers’ brief to create the most ‘joyful museum in the world’.

11 comments so far, view or add yours


Really looking forward to the reopening. Looks amazing.

Japan exhibition sounds great. Will be bringing my teenage children.

Will any of the old exhibits be on show? I don’t have children but have been visiting since the 1970s particularly to see the old dolls house collection.
Will there be any activities for adults? The dolls house one a few years ago was excellent.

I agree with Frances’ comment above. I will bring my grandchildren to the museum but also want to see the old dolls’ houses close up. I once did a tour of the many stored in the basement which are not on show.

Hi. I live in the area and can’t wait to discovered the new look!
Any special activities planned for the opening weekend ?

Will the old toys and dolls be included? I don’t have any children or family so would feel excluded if everything was geared towards youngsters with no exhibits for us older “children at heart”. Everything these days is advertised as Family Fun.

When I was a child,I enjoyed visiting the museum with my parents and seeing how children of the past lived and to look at the toys they played with.It was a great place to learn about social history from a young person’s perspective.
It looks as if the number of exhibits will have been severely reduced (2000 is not a great deal).
What will have happened to all those beautiful objects donated to this once unique museum?. Where will they go?.
I particularly remember a complete,late 19th century baby’s layette that had been stored away by the child’s parents when it tragically died and was re-discovered ,decades later, by a sibling and donated to the collection.
Surely items like this won’t be hidden from public view in a basement somewhere?.
And the dolls houses?.Again,this collection was unique and expansive.Its of huge interest to adult collectors and children.A shame to have it depleted in favour of some finger painting.
I’m also hoping that the beautiful,black and white fishscale tiles laid by female prisoners from the Brideswell that covered the ground floor entrance will remain in place and not be covered over with something bland.
I hate sounding like a killjoy,but it very much appears as if this won’t be a museum at all but just another ‘activity centre’ (albeit an upmarket one) with little to attract adults or the kind of child (like I was) who’d have just stayed at home if they wanted to do something creative.

I took my daughter and her friends a few times in the old days 28 yeats ago! Looking forwards to taking my 8 year old granddaughter. Are admission fees same as the main V&A? I cannit seem to find it??

As others have said here, I’d love to know what special events might be happening in July /August. My grandchildren ( currently abroad) really live in Bethnal Green and would love to see it

We (grandmother with grandchildren aged 5 & 7) went for the first time since the reopening and were rather disappointed. Which age group is the museum aimed at? The interactive displays were certainly not exciting for over 5s and we did miss the lovely rocking horses, the light show as well as the lovely sand pit.

It is a wonderful building but not exploited to the full. Too many objects are still behind glass with inadequate information for children. The central hall was curiously empty but maybe we have missed something?

Hi there,

We wanted to reach out for your help with an exciting new campaign we are running. As part of our new campaign we are using UGC content and famous art work. We would love to get your permission to use your “This is Me” (superhero little boy) artwork.

If you’d like to know more, please send me an email.

Hope to hear from you!


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