M Shed will open with a bang at midday today with an outdoor event featuring performers from Cirque Bijou and a steam train, cranes, boats and pyrotechnics. Following this, 150 children from Bristol primary schools will be first through the new museum’s doors, singing The Bristol Song, a new composition about the history of the city. Come the evening there will be music and entertainment on the harbourside and, weather permitting, a mass balloon ascent.

On Saturday, there will be a celebration of “Bristolness and Bristology”, with a Procession of Processions led by the Lord Mayor departing from Castle Park at 11am. During the day there will be walks, talks, boat trips, bike trips and story tours.

On Sunday, the theme of the day will be “Bristol and the Wider World”. Activities will include films from our twin cities, and music and theatre. There will also be a chance to connect with people in other Bristols around the world via the magic of Skype.

Throughout the weekend, filmmakers will also be taking part in the Bristol 0117 Hour Film Challenge, with a brief to make a 2′ 30″ short film inspired by a story, object or artefact from M Shed.

Now is the time to forget that M Shed is opening two years late and several million pounds over budget, and celebrate all that is great about this new attraction that city council leader Barbara Janke yesterday called “a museum of world-class quality that is going to be an enormous contributor to the future economic success of this city”.

Split into three permanent galleries – Bristol People, Bristol Places and Bristol Life – M Shed has been variously described asĀ innovative, ambitious, vibrant, world-class, spectacular, unique, bold, vibrant, exceptional, dynamic and special.

And that’s just the words included on three A4 pages handed to visitors at yesterday’s preview.

The truth is that M Shed can be anything that you want it to be. One of the most intriguing things about it is the emphasis on “real” people. So yes, there are the framed paintings of the great and the good, but also an overall worn by Easton butcher Abdul Malik, wedding photos from Venue writer Darryl Bullock’s civil partnership ceremony and many more very personal items.

On a brief tour around a museum that I will probably not for a long time experience with so few people, one of my favourite exhibits was the circular aerial view of Bristol. I challenge you to walk over it without trying to find your house. Here it is taken from the floor above, with models of hot air balloons floating overhead:

Jonathon Kardasz has donated lots of his old gig tickets. Here’s Massive Attack at Ashton Court in 1994:

Luke Palmer (aka Acerone) and Andy Council have painted a brilliant mural:

This is the Bristol dinosaur designed by Andy Council and made by Matt Pugh, which features in the mural and was first seen in the Crimes of Passion graffiti exhibition at the RWA in 2009:

Just around the corner from the mural, a series of short documentary films funded by South West Screen show Bristol and crowds through the ages, at Rovers and City, at the St Paul’s Carnival, on VE Day in 1945, the return of the ss Great Britain in 1970, and most recently in the queue for the Banksy exhibition at the other museum:

You can watch the films on these reclaimed 1950s cinema seats from the Broadway Cinema in Filwood Broadway, Knowle, complete with fag burns:

Mmmm, Fry’s Chocolate Cream Tablets:

One of the things I like best about going into a new building is the new views you can get. Here’s a view from the top floor of M Shed looking towards the Cathedral with the Wills Tower behind:

Here’s my view of yesterday’s rehearsal of the big opening event, when I sneaked behind-the-scenes until I almost jumped out of my skin as the train steamed into position and I was literally behind the scenes, with my view completely blocked:

The giant M forms a crucial part of proceedings. Make sure you get a better vantage point than me. Outside the Arnolfini or on the Lloyds Amphitheatre will be the best places from where to watch the event:

Visits to M Shed this weekend are being organised with free timed tickets. The museum will be open until 9pm today and tomorrow, and until 6pm on Sunday.

For more information, visitĀ mshed.org.

3 Responses so far.

  1. David Martyn says:

    But what about the ancient and beautiful objects that define the city? Are they not at all represented? Are they of no value? Is there really only focus on the recent past or modern appearance of the city? Is it a museum or an community centre/art gallery? Is there anything old in the museum beyond the twentieth century or not? It isn’t clear from your review at all.

  2. Not For Me says:

    The ‘M Shed’ has been described as ” … by, for and about the people of Bristol”. I guess if you are a Bristolian then you will like this expensive amusement arcade. If you live and work in Bristol, you have paid for this museum – it cost the Bristol taxpayer 16 million and yet it is really not for you. It has been described by the Telgraph as a ‘community attic’ and that is true. It is an attic which needs decluttering. I visited and couldn’t help feeling that it was a huge, wasted opportunity. How typical of Bristol to spend 27 million (the total cost) on some inward looking parochial tat. They could have spent the money on upgrading the Bristol Museum and made it an international attraction, pulling in visitors from all over the world (as the Baltic in Newcastle and Tate St Ives does), rather than people from Bedminster or Easton. Bristol is very good at ‘thinking small’ and the M Shed is the best example of this. Badly curated and with a distinct lack of vision and ambition, it is the museum that Bristolians deserve. And you can read that as you wish.

  3. Bristol Kiddie says:

    Couldn’t agree more! A P.C. minefield lacking in everything that was good about the old Industrial Museum. Bitterly disappointed! Would recommend the Bristol Aero Museum at Kemble Airfield instead. Run on a shoestring with a hangar full of interesting Bristol inventions; Concorde and the first Iron Lung to name but two. Informed volunteer staff a every turn. 27 Million! Unbelievable!

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