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RWA galleries – visiting with children

On a hot day this week, me and a friend, and our two year-old babies, went up to the Royal West of England Academy at the top of the Clifton Triangle. It was my first visit, having passed it many times, I was really excited to go. It’s known as Bristol’s first art gallery and is a gorgeous example of Italianate architecture, as well as a beautifully tranquil space to house works of art.

We were there to visit the current exhibition The Power of The Sea. It finishes on July 6th, so this weekend is your last chance to visit, and I highly recommend it as a place to go this weekend with your kids, especially if you have a coast loving child, or are off on holiday this summer – it’ll really get them excited about the seaside and maybe inspire them to create some artwork of their own!

For a fiver for adults and no money at all for under sixteens, you can see some of the world’s finest artists interpret one of the hardest things to express in art on canvas, sculpture and video installation. Constable, Moore, Turner, Hambling (my favourite), Jackson, and many others, are displayed in a very intuitive way on large walls across four rooms.

In the main room (the only one photographed, as permission isn’t granted in the smaller galleries), there are huge canvasses and sculptures that absolutely assault your sea-going senses. How I wished (and I’m sure the toddler did too) that you could touch them and see how they felt! This could obviously be a bit of an issue if you have children that haven’t quite learned not to touch yet. We kept ours in a sling and a pushchair, but, at 4pm on a Wednesday, we were the only people in the gallery, which meant they could babble away, point and enjoy the echoey acoustics without upsetting other visitors.

The video installation, which has a lovely spoken word commentary, was fascinating for the kids and would be a real treat for a small baby who is keen on big monochrome shapes.

It would be an ideal place to take older children who are interested in art to look at wonderful examples of different types of works. Everything’s there – from watercolours, acrylics and mixed media, as well as photography.


There’s a free seaside postcard stand, and a really cool group art project where anyone (including a keen 15 month old with crayons) can contribute a ‘view through the port-hole’ picture to a wall of pretty impressive efforts.

Papadeli cafe has a branch downstairs, and sitting out on the original balcony off the main gallery, drinking coffee and looking out over the top of The Triangle, was a really nice treat.

The next exhibition is some artwork generated by members of the amazing Kids Company, featuring art created from adversity which I’m sure will also be great for a visit with children.

If you have a tiny baby and enjoy wandering round a gallery, or older kids that are interested in art, the RWA is really worth a visit. It has an amazing, confidence-boosting pro-children statement on its website, here’s a few of its commitments:

  • You CAN come in for free if you are under 16.
    You CAN visit the cafe and use our highchairs and books.
    You CAN use the lifts for pushchair access.
    You CAN use our baby change toilets and facilities.
  • You CAN pick up a children’s activity sheet at reception.
    You CAN ask at reception for paper and crayons for children to take around the gallery.
    You CAN take photos and make sketches while in the Gallery.

Isn’t that great?


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  1. This looks fantastic – if only it was near to me!

  2. Wow they have some great commitments – this place looks great and for older children as well 🙂

    Laura x

  3. What a great place – it’s lovely to see a gallery so committed to accommodating children!

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