Marvel at mechanical theatre exhibition when museum reopens

The Barecats by Matt Smith and Paul Spooner, left, and Lion Tamer by Ron Fuller. Pictures: courtesy of Cabaret Mechanical...

The Barecats by Matt Smith and Paul Spooner, left, and Lion Tamer by Ron Fuller. Pictures: courtesy of Cabaret Mechanical Theatre. - Credit: St Albans Museum + Gallery

A lively exhibition exploring the fascinating world of automata opens at St Albans Museum + Gallery this week to coincide with its reopening.

St Albans Museum + Gallery's Cabaret Mechanical Marvels exhibition includes The Barecats by Matt Smith and Paul Spooner.

St Albans Museum + Gallery's Cabaret Mechanical Marvels exhibition includes The Barecats by Matt Smith and Paul Spooner. Picture: courtesy of Cabaret Mechanical Theatre - Credit: Courtesy of Cabaret Mechanical Theatre

Displaying a range of mechanical masterpieces, this touring exhibition from Cabaret Mechanical Theatre showcases work by some of the UK’s finest contemporary automata makers.

Using cams and levers to make them move, automata often feature recognisable characters telling an amusing story.

Visitors to the museum in the former town hall will be entertained by the automata’s actions and intrigued by the mechanisms that make them work.

Councillor Anthony Rowlands, St Albans Council’s portfolio holder for leisure, heritage and the public realm, said: “The museum and gallery is bringing some much-needed cheer to the end of a difficult year for everyone.

St Albans Museum + Gallery's Cabaret Mechanical Marvels exhibition includes Lion Tamer by Ron Fuller. Picture: courtesy of...

St Albans Museum + Gallery's Cabaret Mechanical Marvels exhibition includes Lion Tamer by Ron Fuller. Picture: courtesy of Cabaret Mechanical Theatre - Credit: Courtesy of Cabaret Mechanical Theatre


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“This exhibition is guaranteed to put a smile on the faces of all our visitors.

“It’s wonderful to be able to showcase such an intricate craft and see these amazing, amusing automata in motion.”

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The exhibition in the Weston Gallery coincides with the reopening of the rest of the building following the second national lockdown in November.

COVID-secure measures have been put in place to allow visitors to press the buttons that start the automata and get involved by making their own animated moving models.

St Albans Museum + Gallery's Cabaret Mechanical Marvels exhibition.

St Albans Museum + Gallery's Cabaret Mechanical Marvels exhibition. - Credit: St Albans Museum + Gallery

Admission to the exhibition will be ticketed to ensure numbers within the gallery are limited.

Tickets are available to purchase in advance from the museum’s website – www.stalbansmuseums.org.uk/whats-on – or in person at St Albans Museum + Gallery. Admission charges apply.

The exhibition has been brought to St Albans in collaboration with Cabaret Mechanical Theatre, a company that started making and displaying these whimsical mechanical artworks in 1979.

Since then, over 10 million people have seen their exhibitions worldwide.

A truly inter-generational experience, this is an exhibition to entertain all the family over the cold winter months.

Displayed alongside the automata is a selection of old wood-working tools from the museum’s collections, particularly from the Salaman Tool Collection.

These tools, which were formerly displayed at the Museum of St Albans before its relocation, are similar to the ones used by automata makers in their craft.

St Albans Museum + Gallery has been closed during lockdown but is due to reopen on December 3.

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