The History of The MAD Museum
MAD History: 2012- Present
The MAD Museum was brought to life in early 2012 when a location presented itself in the popular tourist town of Stratford upon Avon.
Richard quickly enlisted the help of his son Iain and nephew Mike Abbotts to head up management and operations and they in turn built a team which is dedicated to making this lifelong dream a reality.
On Thursday 22nd March 2012 The MAD Museum unbolted its doors for the first time to an exciting launch party. Over 200 people attended including the Mayor of Stratford upon Avon, local business owners, the Deputy Mayor of Leamington Spa, the Chairman of Warwick District council and many of Richard’s friends and family.
In the first eighteen months of opening, the MAD team had welcomed in over 34,000 visitors, partnered up with the RSC for their production of ‘The Mouse and his Child’ and Richard was interviews on the BBC Art Show with Claudia Winkleman, MAD had several VIP visits from celebrated names such as Gavin Hewitt (Chief correspondent at the BBC) Sue Townsend (award-winning novelist) and Lloyd Langford (British comedian).
The museum spent the first year in business working hard to build good relationships within the local community and develop a sound reputation.
In the Summer of 2013 the team made the decision to increase its venue size and move to a more central location.
So only eighteen months after launching, the museum upgraded its premises to a 3,000sq ft building located a few doors down from Shakespeare’s Birthplace in the heart of Stratford upon Avon’s tourist trail, a matter of steps from the town’s main coach park and high street.
“The success of the museum since 2012 has been phenomenal and as a result we felt that we had already outgrown the current location. We are always coming up with new ideas and looking for new pieces to exhibit and now we have a bigger space we aim to cram it full to bursting with the best that kinetic art and automata can offer!”
On Monday 30th October 2013 the museum closed its doors to the public and the move began. Right from the get-go it was all hands on deck. We cleared the Sheep Street location, moved to Henley Street and got everyone up and running in 3 weeks.
On Saturday 26th October this new MAD-house got off to a triumphant start with people queuing outside the front door on its opening day.
Spring saw the arrival of The MAD Museum’s 1939 chevy, our online gift shop and the amazing Superplexus by Michael McGinnis. We also teamed up the RSC and MAD Science.
In April Richard Simmons was interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live which was great to hear and in July with the help from Stratford College we produced our first MAD promotional video.
One of our resident artists, David Williams was commissioned to produce a mechanical bike which arrived in August.
After the big move from Sheep Street to Henley Street in October, the team at MAD spent the rest of the year tweaking the museum and the exhibits.
This was the first year at our new location, we saw an influx of visitors and group bookings which was brilliant to see.
The MAD Museum’s Founder, Richard Simmons produced his own piece of kinetic art to exhibit at the museum. ‘The Kitchenator’ went on display in the spring and after a couple of hiccups, now runs very smoothly.
In the Autumn we started selling marble kits. This construction kits proved to be very popular but it wasn’t until the end of 2015 until when we started producing our own kits.
Richard Simmons won Entrepreneurs of the Year at the Touch Fm Pride of Stratford upon Avon Award.
In early 2015 we built MAD Marbles in the museum, this is an essential a giant interactive wall where visitors can build their own marble runs.
In May we launched MAD Workshops; a new activity for school groups. Pupils were invited into the museum’s workshop to build their own piece of automata.
During the Summer months we started making bespoke marble walls and track pieces for customers.
From September to November we ran our first temporary exhibition titled “The Inventions of Heath Robinson”. This special event featured over 20 original illustrations for the world-famous British cartoonist.
Having purchased 2 laser machines, the technical team at MAD begun making new pieces to sell in our gift shop and commissioned pieces for customers. We started offering live laser cut signs for visitors at the museum, while they watch and wait.
In June we came across an automata collector and maker called Alwyn Turner and we were lucky enough to purchase 35 pieces of automata from him. All of these pieces have been made by well–known, respected automata artists.
As well as this automata, we have also started exhibiting some new, exciting pieces of kinetic art, with much more due, including the brand new “MAD Zone”!