Manchester Art Gallery

The Lion’s Den

Welcome to the Lion’s Den; our new space for families to be creative together

Shh, don’t wake the sleeping lion…

Our youngest Manchester residents helped design our family gallery. For several months, we researched and explored the gallery with 2- and 3-year-olds from Tiddlywinks Nursery and Martenscroft Nursery School. By following the children’s lead, we were able to discover which artworks and spaces children are most interested in.

Young children’s drive to learn is powered by their fascination and interests. When we acknowledge and build on children’s interests, we help them to feel valued and become experts in their own life experiences.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, depictions of animals were exciting to the children, especially our huge lion painting which is now displayed in the gallery alongside drawings by the children and a selection of 18th century bonbonnieres.

Bonbonniere is a French word meaning container for ‘bonbons’ or sweets. These tiny boxes would once have held small, breath-freshening mints. At the time, sugar was still a highly valuable commodity and could only be afforded by the wealthy. The sweets were almost certainly made from sugar cane that was cut and processed by enslaved Africans on British-owned plantations in the Caribbean.

To find out more about our work around decolonisation, the bonbonnieres, and how they are represented in Gallery 1: In the Lion’s Den, see the recent iJade paper, Bonbonnieres in the gallery: (re)presenting sugar in a family gallery space.

What can you do in the space?

  • Explore the art
  • Watch a film, ‘The distance I can be from my son’ by Lenka Clayton, 2013
  • Drawing and making table
  • Building with soft blocks

Working with families across Manchester

As 1 in every 4 children in Greater Manchester is living in poverty we want to ensure our family programme is accessible, relevant and supportive of other agencies working across the city to fight inequality. Did you know we run a health visitor clinic for new parents at the gallery? Working in partnership with the Manchester Health Visiting Team and Sure Start, we deliver creative health and education services for families of 0 to 5 year olds. We’re also working with members of the Education and Social Research Institute at Manchester Metropolitan University to examine how access to art and culture can help us understand child development.