If you’ve missed the niche but vocal social media buzz about the Science Museum’s latest attraction, here’s how Astronights works.
It’s the Science Museum’s first pitch at the world of adult sleepovers. They already have sleepovers for children, and the Natural History Museum already has Dinosnores for grown-ups, just here they’ve thrown in bells, whistles and 70mm IMAX tech. Guests arrive in the evening with sleeping bags, pillows, pyjamas, and embed at the Science Museum for the night.
Costumes are welcomed, the FAQ email says. Masks might have to be removed for security checks at the entrance. Replica guns are not permitted but ‘lightsabers are fine’ though. There are some activities lined up earlier in the evening, and a bar, three-course dinner and the chance to wander around the exhibitions by night. Then, and this is the USP for the Science Museum over the other museum late-nights, is a midnight screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The 15/70mm format means you get 40% more Force at this IMAX 2D showing than any other cinema in Europe. After the film, you’re assigned a gallery and sleep wherever there’s space for you. And the next day, a hot breakfast and you’re released back onto the streets by 10.30am.
I’m not their target demographic, I know that. The true fans here tonight love Star Wars with a righteous passion and I’m out of my depth, big time. I don’t even have a lightsaber. But even from my pretty muted attachment to the franchise – I like Star Wars, in the sense that I’ve seen a few of them and that was alright – I can appreciate the beauty of an event where the organisers feel the issue of lightsabers is going to be so important as to consider that it’s worth covering in the FAQs.
Here are the FAQs that aren’t covered in the Science Museum email, but that were frequently asked by my friends in the run-up to the event and then via a lot of messages all night…
Q. How many people are actually wearing a costume of some kind?
A. About 50%.
Q. Is everybody there going to hate and judge you for not being a Star Wars savant?
A. Nope. No hatred as far as I know, although when I reveal I haven’t seen the full Star Wars canon at all a few people are intrigued by me in a ‘I’ve heard of your kind but I have believed them ever to be a myth’ kind of way.
Q. Hot museum lovemaking. Will there be much?
A. 100% of the people I tell about my plans for this Saturday want to know that. My flatmate’s convinced, possibly by the mention of masks and ‘sleep where you find a space’ policy, that this is going to be a long, debauched Eyes Wide Shut-esque baccanal, with a quick break for a film while people get their energy back. And it’s not just my friends being of impure mind and heart, though they’re both of those things. The question of hot museum loving might not be addressed in the official FAQs but there’s a welcome speech at the start of the night that touches briefly but emphatically on how likely it is you’d either be caught by a foot patrol, or set off an alarm and cause an evacuation, and maybe get prosecuted. So ultimately: anybody who thinks of the Science Museum by day as the right place for wild carnal pleasure will probably feel the same way about the Science Museum by night. Everybody else is probably just there for the film and snacks.
Q. Best bit?
A. For me, treacherously, it’s not the Force Awakens. Though that’s pretty good – you don’t have to be a dedicated scifi lover to get on board with a film where the good guys fight the bad guys, flamboyantly, with explosions, but only because the bad guys started it. That’s describes about 75% of the best films ever, at a conservative estimate. So a midnight enormous-format screening, flanked by people who are overwhelmingly excited to be there is a great thing.
But earlier that evening, we’d been set free to explore the museum by night. And trying to find our way to the Deep Blue bar for our dinner booking we kept catching distant slices of music floating to us, much easier to follow than any of the museum signs in the semi-darkness. For a best moment it’s hard to beat tracing your way through empty exhibitions and a museum in shadows, with the sound of a string quartet playing Life on Mars to guide you back to the light.
Forthcoming Astronights events will be held on Friday 4th March and Saturday 18th June at the Science Museum, Exhibition Road, SW7 2DD. Tickets are priced at £180 including a three-course dinner, breakfast and a midnight screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in IMAX 2D format. For more information and to reserve visit the website.