There’s a number of temporary free exhibitions at the moment within the V&A museum, which are worth a trip to the museum in their own right. They’re also a bit easy to miss on a visit to one of the paid exhibitions unless you seek them out.
Entry to the museum is free, and although you need to book timed entry tickets, there’s no need to book specific tickets to the free exhibitions. Just wander around the museum and see them in any order you like.
Or add them to the day trip after visiting one of the paid entry exhibitions.
On Point: Royal Academy of Dance at 100
This costume rich display explores the 100-year history of the Royal Academy of Dance. It’s mainly a mix of costumes worn by famous dancers and a lot of photographs from the training school at work.
Some of the display shows off the link between ballet and athletics, both benefitting from each other as it happens, while most of the rest looks at the various people who have trained there and the shows they have performed in.
As a display, it’s a mix of history and costume design.
One case has the shoes worn by Darcy Bussell at her farewell performance, showing the wear they get in the dance.
But for some, the main attraction might be the replica dance studio, complete with a mirror and horizontal bar to hold on while practising those poses.
It’s open until 1st May 2022.
Two rooms filled with paintings not often associated with the Renaissance period, that of watercolours. It’s a very wide-ranging display without any overarching theme other than all being watercolours from a set period in time.
So, there are landscapes, close up portraits, architectural paintings, and even some schematics of how medieval armour should be made, looking not at all unlike the cut-out and play costumes of childhood. The display is in zones though, starting with techniques, paintings of natural history, landscapes, and ending with people.
Due to their light sensitivity, the watercolours are seldom put on permanent display, so this is a rare opportunity to see many of these paintings.
It’s open until 8th August 2021.
Laughing Matters: The State of a Nation 2021
This is a small but joyful looking exhibition filling a corner room of the museum with four key displays about the British sense of humour – both mocking and ribald and yet often capable of remarkable moments of sensitivity.
Persons of a certain age will delight to see displays about Yes Minister and ‘Allo ‘Allo here. Politics has Margaret Thatcher’s Spitting Image puppet looking at a Brexit dress from a pantomime show.
Satire is sometimes misunderstood, and there’s a display of Noel Coward’s “Don’t let’s be beastly to the Germans”, which mocked humanitarians who were seeking to support the Germans. The song was banned by the BBC following complaints from people who didn’t realise it was satire and thought it was pro-Nazi.
There’s also a bit of a debate about the language used in old comedies and whether comedy is a valid outlet for satire in a more sensitive time about the use of language and stereotypes.
It’s open until 29th March 2022
This exhibition was a right pain to find as it’s indicated as being in Room 116 and I wandered around where Room 116 is supposed to be for ages until I realised the corridor is the room.
And the exhibition is a single glass case.
That said, the display is topical at the moment as some of the items were taken by British troops when they raided the Asante capital, Kumasi, in 1874, and whether such objects should be returned, or do they do more good in drawing awareness to their culture by being in a western museum.
It’s open until 31st October 2021