Things to do, Quirky events
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Barry Macdonald


No sex in the galleries is the main rule that the Science Museum wants to make clear. Seems reasonable. At the museum's Astronights sleepovers, everyone spreads their sleeping bags across the floor of the 'Who Am I?' gallery, a space designed to teach children about the science of being human. Hardly conducive to romance. But apparently an almost empty museum with a ground-floor bar can be a seductive environment. 'Resist. Please', implore the staff at the induction chat, in a tone that implies past Astronighters have taken their investigations in biology a little too far.

Thankfully, there are plenty of distractions to busy ourselves with. The cafe serves a tasty spread as a string trio performs, and after dinner, it's time to explore. Without the usual hordes of children and tourists, the museum is as quiet as a church. I wander through The Clockmakers' Museum, admiring its sundials and engraved timepieces, and the Flight gallery, gazing up at the Gipsy Moth and other historic aircraft.

The organised activities are arguably educational and certainly fun. In the Information Age gallery, an actress in a '50s frock sits in front of a manual switchboard, telling stories of the women who connected calls by hand, sometimes staying on the line to eavesdrop. On another floor, we make basic torches from batteries and tiny bulbs. We use our creations to paint glowing shapes in a darkened room, a camera capturing the images in long-exposure photographs. After a midnight movie screening, we stumble downstairs to the thin, worn yoga mats that serve as bedding. Theyíre as uncomfortable as they sound, but maybe itís for the best.

After a midnight movie screening, we stumble downstairs to the thin, worn yoga mats that serve as bedding. They're as uncomfortable as they sound, but maybe it's for the best. It's been an exciting evening. We wouldn't want anyone getting ideas. Louise Schwartzkoff

Tickets are limited and advance booking is essential.



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Let's just say I came out crying 'AGAIN! AGAIN! AGAIN!' the morning after. So kind of like the best one-night stand of your life I guess. If you like science, cool stuff, free museum visits, sleeping rough and a nice helping of pure excitement (so not like your average one-night stand), then book Astronights! 

We received a hearty dinner, then attended several exciting demos like bubble magic and ghost photo taking. Got to learn about computer history - in the dark, with headlamps. Got to touch, feel, smell and taste everything, including fresh ice cream made from liquid nitrogen, and free popcorn for the midnight screening of Rogue One - which we attended in pjs. We won cool stuff, learnt all the things and slept under a soothing video about reducing carbon emmission. The staff are superb, always on hand with tips and directions, and the museum is so big it really feels like you're completely alone in it. And with a hearty breakfast, it's all rounded nicely. 

Except I want to go again. Astronights was probably the most fun I've had on a one-night stand in a very long time. Joke aside, one of the best nights of my life for sure.