Outdoor classroom opens at The Bowes Museum
Outdoor classroom opens at The Bowes Museum

Outdoor classroom opens at The Bowes Museum

Open sided structure can accommodate 30 people for outside learning and fun activities.


The Bowes Museum is delighted to announce that its new outdoor classroom will open to its first visitors on Saturday 14th August.


Tillytootales will captivate youngsters from 11.00 until 3.00 with her exciting and wonderful stories linked to the collection from inside the eight by four metre wooden structure.


It took Natural Playscapes three days to build the open sided classroom which will seat up to 30 children (when integrated benches are installed later this month). It also features a bespoke apex canopy design inspired by the parterre garden and collection, which creates shadows on the timber decking below for children to enjoying tracing around with chalk.


It is made from robinia wood, which has a very low environmental impact as it is quick growing, naturally weather resistant without the need for chemicals and FSC certified.


The fully accessible £22,000 outdoor classroom was made possible thanks to the second round of the government’s Culture Recovery Fund, which was administered by Arts Council England.


Alison Nicholson, the Museum’s Fundraising Officer, said: “We are really pleased to have secured the funds that allowed us to create this amazing resource in the grounds between the bowling green and the tennis courts.  We worked with Durham County Council’s Conservation Officer and Planning Officers to ensure this was the best position for it in the Museum’s 22 acre parkland.  It’s close to the coach park and outdoor toilets but also tucked safely away from the drive.”


Julia Dunn, the Museum’s Education and Learning Coordinator, added: “We’re so looking forward to using this lovely outdoor space.  It’s a fantastic addition to the Museum’s education and events offer and means that we will be able to provide many more activities for everyone to enjoy in the grounds whatever the weather.”


The outdoor classroom will also be used as part of the Museum’s accessibility programme where we offer a dedicated place for disadvantaged community groups visiting the Museum to eat packed lunches.  It will also be able to be used as an outdoor space by groups who may be nervous of enclosed spaces post COVID.


The weekly summer free family fun activities celebrating the adventures of Clara exhibition that have been held in the grounds will now take place in the outdoor classroom.


This Saturday visitors can join in the free Venice Welcomes Clara activities, from 11 until 3.00, where members of the Museum’s education team will be handing out kits to create a festive rhino eye mark or horn headdress inspired by Venetian masks that can be decorated with lace, ribbon, sparkles or pompoms.


On Mondays from 11.00 until 3.00 families can make free Woven Dreamcatchers inspired by Clara’s journey by land and sea.  Materials can represent land, sea, culture, fashion or climate – whatever takes their fancy!  Decorate the dreamcatcher with sticks, straws, leaves, ribbons and bows.


On Tuesdays people can join in the free Message in a Bottle activities in the grounds from  11.00 until 3.00.  They can design and create a map celebrating our adventures of Clara exhibition. Stain it with tea and add rhino paw prints to show part of her journey, India to Rotterdam or her trip around Europe.  Use a feather quill pen to inscribe a message of hope, kindness, courage and friendship, just like Clara and the captain’s journey.  Roll and tie with a ribbon before popping in a bottle to take home.


Our Little Treasures group continues to meet throughout the summer months, from 10 until 12 on Thursday mornings.  Costing just £3 a child, it’s great way to introduce little ones to the Museum in a fun and exciting way.  They get to make a craft and explore the collection with stories and singing along the way.  It’s also a chance to make new friends for young and old alike.


The summer school continues with Magic Workshops on Monday 16th of August from 9.30 until 4.00, where youngsters will be able to learn amazing magic tricks to wow their friends and family with from the Museum’s favourite Magic Andrew. They can then enjoy a yummy packed lunch followed by an afternoon of crafts and exploring the adventures of Clara exhibition.


Children can embrace their inner diva’s on the final day of the Museum’s summer school on Monday 23 August.  From 9.30 until 4.00 they’ll be able to follow in the footsteps of Museum founder Joséphine Bowes by learning theatrical skills! After enjoying some scrummy packed lunches they’ll don stage make up and put on a show!


Visitors can follow the fantastic adventures of Clara exhibition trails until October 31st to hear, see and even smell what life was like for the most famous rhinoceros of the 18th century, who travelled from her home in India to become a celebrity in Europe. She toured cities meeting kings and noblemen and was greeted by cheering crowds wherever she went; inspiring poems, paintings and sculptures like the Museums own white marble one to be created.  Visitors can follow fun rhino fact packed trails both inside the Museum and in the grounds to discover more about this amazing rhinoceros as well as find out how to save the species for the future as the Museum has teamed up with the charity Helping Rhinos.


Come and join Clara’s escapades around the Museum on Saturday 25th September from 11.00 until 3.00 with our Clara family fun day, with lots of crafts and trails for people of all ages to enjoy during this magical event, with lots of free activities in the grounds and others, free with admission, inside the Museum.


Wanting to head off to foreign shores but concerned about the travel uncertainties – let us take your worries away with a European getaway at the Museum with the return of the ever popular Late events costing only £5.00.


On Friday 27 August visitors can relax and enjoy the sights, sounds and taste of France as they join us for a very French affair with our Lates, French night, Bonjour France!, where from 6.00 until 9.00 for £5.00 they can find out all about our incredible founder Joséphine Bowes and see some of the amazing artwork she created that now adorns the walls of the Museum bearing her name.  They can also discover why the Museum resembles a fabulous French chateau during a fascinating talk by Dr Simon Spier before rounding the evening off by booking a meal with the delicious taste of Paris in Café Bowes.


Do you feel sometimes feel like everyone else comes up with the bright ideas just ahead of you? Well, you can find out their secret during our Get Creative - Explore, Experiment and Play with Light (in the Museum) sessions on Saturday 21, Sunday 22nd August and Sunday 4th September, from 10.00 – 3.00 for those aged 16 +.  It costs £50 including lunch and bursary places are available on application.  During these day long sessions with the creative thinker Dave Bramston, you will explore, experiment and play with light using ceramics, glass and paper. No specialist equipment or knowledge required.


Join the internationally renowned textile artist Pauline Burbidge for an Illustrated Talk on Saturday 28 August from 2.30 until 3.30 to find out what inspired her to create the quilt she donated to the Museum that’s on view in the North Country Quilts exhibition. She’ll give a presentation that will track her inspiration, making and completing two of her most recent quilts, “Plantforms”, which is on display and a recent “Quiltscape” called “re-told Stories: Pitt Rivers Legacy”.  The talk, which costs £5.00 per person, will end with a short film and there will be opportunity to ask Pauline questions at the end.


Bring your picnic and a blanket and join us for a day of creativity on Monday 30th of August on the back lawn of the Museum for our Young Curator’s Tea Party.  They’ve been inspired by the Fashion and Textiles collection and have put together a day of workshops you can try your hands at from 11.30 until 3.30.


Jess Langford and Lucy Addison will be leading a jewellery making workshop and you can also create your own statement fashion accessory in another.  There will also be an open-air photo studio where Young Curator and photographer Sophie Somers will be taking portraits of people adorned in their newly created jewellery and fashion pieces.

Please note if you are under 16 you must be accompanied by an adult.


Join North East painter Gavin Watson for his sketching the Museum workshops on Saturday 4th September, where you can do some sketching in the grounds, looking at the Museum building, the people in the grounds and taking inspiration from the current exhibition by ceramicist Paul Scott.  If the weather is poor, this will take place indoors in the Jubilee Room.  The sessions run from 10.30 until 1.00 and from 2.00 until 4.30. They cost £30.00 per person and all materials will be provided.


Visitors can learn the relaxing art of Tai Chi Qigong in the beautiful grounds of The Bowes Museum on Mondays 13th, 20th and 27th of September from 12.00 until 1.00.  Andy will guide you in this gentle art, that’s been shown to benefit the practitioner’s physical and mental health.  Costing £5.00, everyone is welcome and the class is suitable for all ages.  If the weather is poor the session will take place online.


Be inspired to create and develop your “mind’s eye” by one of the world’s leading multimedia artists as Kaffe Fassett highlights work from projects and collaborations, past and present, including his patchwork, fabric, needlepoint, mosaics, painting and knitting designs. Kaffe's inspiration comes from his travels throughout the world. His lecture is designed not so much to instruct but to empower and inspire the audience to create and develop their "mind's eye”. Audiences will be invigorated, entranced by Kaffe's sense and use of colour and be ready to try it themselves and are encouraged to do so in this online colour inspiration lecture on Thursday 16th September at 7pm.

Costing £5.00, the slide show lasts approximately one hour followed by a Question & Answer session for approximately 15 minutes.


Help the Museum celebrate its sensational Spanish collection of paintings, which is among the very best in the UK, during a superb Spanish themed evening, Hola Spain! For £5.00 on Friday 24th September from 6.00 until 9.00. Enjoy live music and sangria as you saunter around the Museum’s awe inspiring galleries. Hankering after the flavour of Spanish fayre? Then book a table in Café Bowes to savour some scrumptious tapas to make an evening of it.


Book your gallery ticket to see the finest examples of historical and contemporary quilts from northern England in North Country Quilts: In Celebration of New Acquisitions, which is open until 9 January 2022.


And explore the latest ceramic works by the contemporary Cumbrian artist, Paul Scott, in New American Scenery featuring historical transferwares that have been updated for today’s audience, telling modern stories based on his trips around America.  Also open until 9 January 2022.


The Bowes Museum is open every day, (except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day) from 10.00 until 5.00. Entry to Café Bowes and the shop is free. 





Notes to editors:

  • There is a photo-opportunity on Saturday 14th August from 11 until 3 when the classroom will be in use for the 1st time.


  • The Bowes Museum was created over 125 years ago by an extraordinary couple, John and Joséphine Bowes.  Together they built up the greatest private collection of fine and decorative arts in the North of England and constructed a magnificent building to house them in.  The collection contains thousands of objects including furniture, paintings, sculpture, ceramics, textiles and many other items covering an extensive range of European styles and periods. 
  • The Bowes Museum receives a core funding grant from Durham County Council and as a National Portfolio Organisation receives support from Arts Council England. Arts Council England is the national development body for arts and culture across England, working to enrich people’s lives. It supports a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to visual art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2018 and 2022, it will invest £1.45 billion of public money from government and an estimated £860 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country. www.artscouncil.org.uk
  • The Bowes Museum has undergone major redevelopment, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, One NorthEast through the County Durham Economic Partnership, English Heritage, Northern Rock Foundation, The Monument Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation, The Foyle Foundation, The European Regional Development Fund, DCMS/Wolfson Museum and Galleries Improvement Fund, Designation Challenge Fund, The Shears Foundation, The Richard and Suzanna Tonks Family Fund at County Durham Foundation, Durham County Council, The Friends of The Bowes Museum, The Headley Trust, Sir James Knott Trust, Catherine Cookson Charitable Trust, Fenwick Ltd, Mercers Charitable Foundation, Welton Foundation.
  • The Bowes Museum is a member of the Discover Durham partnership of attractions. Our commitment is to promote Durham as an exciting and vibrant group travel destination and to provide the travel trade with a professional and knowledgeable service: hotline number 03000 262626, www.discoverdurham.co.uk


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