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Secretly brilliant bits of London: Novelty Automation

By Ellie Broughton

What the heck is Novelty Automation?

It’s a little arcade of 18 games which are made with everything from old photobooths to rubber gloves. Most were built by Tim Hunkin, an illustrator-slash-engineer best known for making Pink Floyd’s floating pigs and sheep. Games range from the tongue-in-cheek to the truly surreal; think of it as a little piece of the eccentric English seaside slap-bang in the middle of London’s traditionally po-faced legal and accounting district.


Games, you say?

That’s the closest definition we can find, yes. Most are very silly. Take Micro Break, for instance, which involves a ‘video simulation’ of a package holiday complete with Hellenic-sounding swears, a road accident with a goat and a minute under the warmth of a heat lamp. A few games have a satirical side (Kim Jong-un would be a whiz at My Nuke) but there are also games of skill (how well can you fly a paparazzi helicopter?) and guile (how long can you piss off a guard dog before you bottle it?).

Sounds a bit new-fangled...

There’s definitely a DIY aesthetic going on, but everything is made with love for old-fashioned spectacle. If you don’t fancy putting yourself on the spot by calling Barry’s Love Line in public, look for the wooden mechanical display, ‘The Dream’, a beautiful slow clockwork featuring nightmarish wardrobe-busting worms and a tiny hand-painted replica of a Kleenex box.


When can I play?

It’s open every day from 11am to 6pm. It’s free to look around and watch other people play; tokens are four for £4.50. It’s the perfect size for a lunch hour but if you don’t work near Red Lion Square try their First Thursdays, when you can drink beer and explore until 9.30pm.

Find Novelty Automation on 1 Princeton Street, WC1R 4AX, the nearest tube station is Holborn. Entry is free.

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