Here be Dragons: Barnet (part 2)

By NikitaNemygin, May 28, 2015

Artsdepot is a local theatre and arts space. It is relatively new, opening in 2004 as an answer to the demand of professional art facilities in Northern London. It is a stage for a wide range of touring productions from around the country but also a cultural centre with courses for kids and adults.

During my Outer London escapades I often see the choice of local theatres to specialise in kid’s shows. It seems to be obvious one for many peripheral theatres: as a parent you do not want to go through a hassle of travelling to central London if just want to take your kids to see some cartoon-based show and you certainly do not want to pay central London price. As a producer you do not want to invest too much in a central venue. Holding kid’s shows in the outskirts makes producers, parents and kids happy – everyone’s a winner.

The interior looks very modern and beautiful. It definitely feels like a welcoming community place, with studios and spaces for socialising around every corner.

Inside Artsdepot

Inside Artsdepot

The adult-oriented show I attended was good, the company seemed to enjoy themselves a lot and some of their ideas were quite interesting. However, as Artsdepot does not have a company of their own, the quality of the show you will see directly depends on who is coming to perform, so choose wisely.
Artsdepot main stage

Artsdepot main stage

Unfortunately I did not get a chance to evaluate a kid’s since really I don’t have a kid (otherwise I would not be writing this nonsense right now), but the advertising looks interesting and promising. I would be happy to go if I had a little spectator of my own and I advise you to try as well.

RAF Museum
This museum is extremely popular, inundated with families and school groups. And there is no reason why it should not be at least as popular as the Imperial War Museum, for example.
The place really delivers what it promises! Want war planes? – caboom, here they are. The museum has several huge hangars that are full, literally full, of various war planes, stacked intensely to convey the message of how mighty the RAF truly is. It explores the technical and tactical features of the aircraft, their individual history and victories going as far back as to the very dawn of the winged massacre.

And yeah, just as you would expect, it is indeed a huge full-scale museum, entirely dedicated to slaughtering our brothers and sisters. What a joy! The exposition even has such interesting feature as the physics of dropping a bomb where they show the patterns of how it would fall depending on the size and weight. It is very useful!

Being a staunch pacifist as I am, I have had a tiny bit of a problem with the direction this all was going. Indeed, I have not found any decent section in the museum, which would convey the horrors of the aftermath, the permanent damage that war makes on communities and the meaningless of violence.

As I was making my way through badge-wearing, top-of-the-lungs-shouting scouts I kept asking myself: is glorying warfare really is the idea that we want kids to soak in? Can the war still be an option? I though I was sure of the answer, but the steel beasts ingeminated to look up to the glorious warriors who reaped death in the endless skies and I knew not, how to respond to it.

But then again, what was I expecting coming to a military museum?
Anyway, I seemed to be the only one concerned with the message this place was trying to put across.
Stupid pacifism, always ruining the fun.

Kids love RAF Museum. For a child that had not yet hit puberty – it is definitely a place to be. By all means, do not miss it! It will dominate their imagination weeks and there is a lot of space to run around and get fascinated. They care not for the victims and at that stage and I guess it’s ok. With more grown-up kids – the decision to visit would be dependent on your views on War as a whole.

Museums beyond RAF
In the Council Budget Austerity Olympics Barnet certainly occupies some place amongst the winners of “The Most Museums Unavailable” competition.

There is Old Church Farm Museum which is shut down, Jewish Military Museum which has merged with the Jewish Museum in Camden, Stephens Museum which is only open Tuesday to Thursday from two to half past four, and finally Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture which is only available online. I really struggled with this latter one, I could not believe there is a museum only available on-line, why is it even called museum, shouldn’t it be called “archives”?

There is a local museum in Barnet town, worth a quick look if you are around. However it is more concentrated on the village of Barnet rather than the borough as a whole. I felt the exposition lacked focus, but the room dedicated to the Battle of Barnet looked very friendly.

Battle of Barnet exposition

Battle of Barnet exposition

The old lady volunteers inside will chat to you in all the glorious detail about which noble Londoners bought which mansions in the area, when did they come over with how much possessions and what exactly did the great minds of the time have to say on such an exciting occasion.

Inside the Barnet  Museum

Inside the Barnet Museum

As you can clearly see, it is absolutely mind-blowing, thought-provoking venue. You can pop in after visiting local Shopping Center which has open areas that weirdly resemble church cloisters. Perhaps, because it is built on the place previously occupied my Methodist Church. Or before setting off on a London Orbital Footpath that goes nearby.
Local shopping centre looks like church cloisters inside.

Local shopping centre looks like church cloisters inside.

Options for walks
Of course there is Barnet Millennium Walk because every borough should have something called “Millennium” within their borders to validate own existence.

Barnet has both LOOP (16th section) and Capital Ring (11th section) and also Dollis Valley Greenwalk (a link between the two).

Plus there is another parallel link – via Hendon Park, Sunny Hill park and Mill Hill. You can enjoy the great views, which was exactly what I did.
As I was making my way to the top of Sunny Hill I have noticed a cute girl sitting alone, looking over London. I sat down not too far, quietly as to not invade her personal space and offered her some tea. She refused.
– Have you moved from Poland long ago? – I recognised her accent.
– Half a year or so, – she replied a bit awkwardly, – came with my boyfriend, he works here full-time and I took up some hairdressing.
There was silence. We were staring down at London.
– It is lonely, eh? – I asked.
– Yeah, I miss my family a lot, but last time I went there, the environment is just suffocating, so I do not feel at home anywhere anymore.
– Yeah, tell me about it… – I could write a book about that shit.
It is so cosy to talk to someone in such surroundings! This way feel the human camaraderie in the simplest things. She politely denied my offer to come along and walk with me, but I was not sad: I have already sneaked this picture of her.

Is it possible to spend a weekend in this borough? Oh, yes, indeed! There are plenty of walks and RAF museum for the day, there is good local theatre with shows, talks and workshops, some markets, which are not grand but appealing and friendly.
Live here if: you enjoy the leafy North London attire but do not quite have £500,000 for that Hampstead shed.