On 9 March 2009 the British Music Experience (BME), a permanent, high-tech, interactive music exhibition opened within the world's most popular music venue, The O2.
The BME is housed in the 22,000 square feet on the top floor of The O2 bubble, The O2's exhibition space which staged Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs and Body Worlds & The Mirror of Time.
The O2, Peninsula Square, London SE10 0DX
Use Journey Planner to plan your route by public transport.
Official Website: www.britishmusicexperience.com
Visit Duration: 2 hours
- No food and drink.
- No photography.
- No re-entry.
British Music Experience Review
The exhibition space is basically a central room (The Core) with lots of rooms leading off to different musical eras from 1945. It's not organized into decades as musical tastes didn't change every ten years, but instead features seven defining times in musical history.
It's all very interactive as I discovered when I arrived and was told my ticket was a 'smart ticket'. Your ticket is a huge feature of your visit as you touch it on sensor points to access information about the exhibits and you can choose to download the information to view later via your personal space on the BME website. You can also use your ticket to record your attempts at learning to play a new instrument, singing or showing your dance moves.
The exhibition is very interactive which is fun if maybe not always necessary. Each display cabinet has a couple of pairs of headphones and in the 'Edge Zone' rooms you can also get more info by sliding your hand along a fretboard or keyboard. When I visited it wasn't too busy (I went early) but I can imagine this might be frustrating if the room was busy and you were waiting to hear the information. I think the same info is also on the exhibit labels so you could be 'old-fashioned' and read the labels then you could actually hear the music played in each room that are classics from each musical time. I did decide to stop putting headphones on quite quickly as I wanted to enjoy the music more.
British Music Experience is predominantly an interactive exhibition but I really enjoyed seeing the well chosen items of music memorabilia such as David Bowie's Ashes to Ashes clown suit and Ziggy Stardust costume, Noel Gallagher's Union Jack guitar, Roger Daltrey's Woodstock outfit, a Jimi Hendrix outfit and a piece of the Hacienda nightclub dance floor!
As well as the musical era rooms you'll definitely want to try out 'Dance The Decades' and the 'Gibson Interactive Studio'.
Dance the Decades
Leave your inhibitions at home as 'Dance the Decades' means a quick dance lesson from a video instructor and then you're recorded doing your best effort which you can watch back instantly. It's also saved in your 'My BME' section of their website. I tried Ska Dancing and Disco Dancing with my partner and daughter and we and found our efforts pure comedy when we watched them. A whole school class went in after us so we must have made it look fun!
Gibson Interactive Studio
'Gibson Interactive Studio' is where you can play drums, guitars and keyboards, while wearing headphones so it's only you who can hear your efforts. There are video tutorials so you can join in with some tracks, although I found the tutorial a bit too long and I got bored before the song started. There is a 'vocal booth' where you can be recorded singing along to a track but, of course, while you belt out your best effort while wearing headphones, the whole room can hear you! As you need your smart ticket to activate all of this equipment your musical masterpieces can also be recorded to hear again at home. My 3 year old daughter singing along to The Bee Gees - Stayin' Alive will amuse me for a long time.
A souvenir 'Access All Areas' guide is available but I was disappointed as I really bought it for the map which wasn't necessary as it's such a simple layout to the exhibition space I could have managed without it. It also fell apart before we'd seen everything so I recommend saving your money to spend in the exhibition shop. The shop is only available to visitors to the exhibition which is a bit of a shame so maybe have a bit of a look when you arrive and then buy all your goodies as you leave.
Pros: For me, seeing the music memorabilia was a real treat and I loved the 'Dance a Decade' booth and the 'Gibson Interactive Studio'. Time went really quickly at the British Music Experience and we left happy and felt the ticket price was justified.
Cons: Some of the exhibits in The Core didn't seem necessary and the interactive aspect seemed a bit strained at times and unnecessary. I was concerned that it would be hard to enjoy everything if technology malfunctioned. Also the information with the exhibits was limited so not suited to the real 'geek' but fine for most of us.
I don't think you'll come away an expert on British music but you should know a bit more about the defining musical eras and will certainly have had fun. Leave those inhibitions at the door and enjoy yourself!