From wonderous mechanical creations springing to life and turning your body into a machine, to toy making and lifting a mini, there’s a perfect day out at the Science and Industry Museum this winter. 

This festive period, discover the final work of Rowland Emett, the creator of the inventions of ‘Caractacus Potts’ in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and enjoy playful machines of all shapes and sizes through hands on activities and shows – alongside a whole host of family favourites.  

From 24 November to April 2022 the last work by one of Britain’s best loved artists and sculptors, Rowland Emett, will be on display in Manchester for the first time in the Science and Industry Museum’s Textiles gallery. 

Constructed in 1984, the unique moving sculpture named ‘A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley’ was saved for the UK after being purchased for the Science Museum Group Collection with support from Art Fund, the Science Museum Foundation, the Friends of the National Railway Museum and private donors. 

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Visitors will be able to see two scenes from the fantastical work of art telling the story of a journey aboard the imaginary ‘Far Tottering and Oyster Creek Railway,’ based on one of his cartoons. 

The two scenes – Far Tottering and Oyster Creek Railway featuring the ‘Wild Goose’ locomotive, and Oyster Creek – will come to life twice a day at 11.30am and 2pm. Visitors will be treated to cogs whirring and characters toasting teacakes and catching butterflies and can also discover what this whimsical sculpture has in common with the museum’s thundering textiles machinery. 

Born in London in 1906, Emett initially found fame producing cartoons for Punch magazine before creating a series of intricate mechanical sculptures based on his imaginative creations. As well as numerous artworks and cartoons, he is well known for the inventions of ‘Caractacus Potts’ in the 1968 film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang including the flying car itself and the Humbug-Major Sweet Machine. 

‘A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley’ is one of Rowland Emett’s largest pieces and was originally commissioned for a shopping centre before being exhibited at Spitalfields Market in London. In 1999 while being stored, it was stolen for scrap metal but later recovered and refurbished.  

If that wasn’t enough, from 18 December to 4 January other wondrous winter activities will be bringing the magic of machinery to life… 

Everyday discover the surprising science behind your favourite machines at Science Stops throughout the museum with our Explainer team’s very own inventions. 

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At 10.45am, 1.15pm and 2.45pm each day, under 7s can join us for Mini Movers as we roll, clank, whirr and clack our way round the Textiles Gallery – exploring the machines around us through imitation, invention and imagination.

Meanwhile, visitors of all ages can join the museum’s team of Explainers in the Textiles Gallery to create their own imaginative toy and make a simple wind-up toy from recyclable materials to waddle and wobble its way home with you. 

There are also amazing stories to discover in the rest of the galleries including the Experiment Gallery, a favourite among family visitors, where science is brought to life through a series of interactive exhibits from lifting a mini to creating a hurricane. 

For older families there are two unmissable major exhibitions dedicated to medicine and music.  

Discover the past, present and future of how cancer is prevented, detected and treated at the brand-new headline exhibition Cancer Revolution: Science, Innovation and Hope. Created with support from expert partner Cancer Research UK, it is the first major object-rich exhibition to explore the revolution in science transforming cancer care. Suitable for children aged 8 plus, free tickets are available to book via the museum’s website. 

It’s the last chance to immerse yourself in the history of the iconic Manchester music label, Factory Records in the Use Hearing Protection: The early years of Factory Records exhibition before it closes on 4 January. Unearthing the story of the company’s formative years from 1978 to 1982, and how their innovative work in music, technology and design gave Manchester an authentic voice and distinctive identity. Suitable for children aged 12 plus, see the website for availability and ticket prices. 

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The Science and Industry Museum is currently going through a multi-million pound restoration programme, meaning some areas including the Power Hall remain closed to the public. However, there’s still plenty for families to do, see and enjoy during the holiday period.  

Tickets for the Winter activities are available now and can be booked in advance through the museum’s website (www.scienceandindustrymuseum.org.uk) or by calling 033 0058 0058.

Other activities available at the Science and Industry Museum include: 

The Revolution Manchester Show (Ages 5+) 

Daily: 10.15am, 11.15am, 1.00pm and 2.15pm 

Join our expert Explainers for an action-packed show that tells the story of how science met industry right here in Manchester, building our world and shaping our lives today. 

Meet Baby demonstration (Ages 12+) 

Wed-Fri: 10.30am – 1.30pm 

The Manchester Small-Scale Experimental Machine, nicknamed ‘Baby’, was the first computer to store and run a program. Watch volunteers run our replica Baby and see how far computing has come since 1948.