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Birmingham's very own Legoland Discovery Centre is a 58,900-square-foot indoor attraction sited over two floors and right in the heart of the city centre. Housed in Arena Birmingham, Legoland invites visitors to jump inside the world’s biggest box of LEGO bricks. Specially created and designed from a child’s perspective, it provides two to three hours of interactive and educational fun for children aged three to 10 years old.
Zones include Miniland, 4D cinema, Kingdom Quest, creative workshop, Lego Duplo Farm, soft play area, Merlin's Apprentice Ride and a Racers: Build & Test area.
Legoland Discovery Centre is open everyday throughout the year (excluding Christmas Day).
Legoland Discovery Centre,
King Edwards Road,
Wed 9 Sep
Master Model Builder Michelle Thompson talks about Birmingham’s newest visitor attraction and what it brings to the city...
The nation’s favourite construction toy has found a home in Birmingham at the brand new Legoland Discovery Centre - and the venue promises to deliver plenty of fun for children and parents alike, thanks to a whole host of attractions.
Located at Arena Birmingham, near Brindleyplace, the Centre houses a city builder area, a duplo farm, a soft play area, two different rides and a 4D cinema. And the list goes on! But perhaps the most impressive attraction at the venue is the Lego Miniland. Built from over five million Lego bricks, Miniland is a replica of Birmingham and includes Lego constructions of iconic buildings such as the Bullring, the Mailbox, the Library of Birmingham and the BT Tower. There are interactive elements to Miniland, too - children can entertain themselves by racing boats along the canal or getting stuck into a game of football at the ‘mish-mash’ of Aston Villa and Birmingham City’s grounds.
“I want to make sure the children are the key factor,” explains Master Model Builder Michelle Thompson. “I want to make sure that they come in, see something and think, ‘I want to go home and build that’.”
For Michelle, an avid lover of Lego for as long as she can remember, fighting off more than 7,000 other applicants for her new post has landed her what many people are calling ‘Birmingham’s dream job’.
Having worked in HR in her previous employment, Michelle has had quite the career change. So what exactly does the role of Master Model Builder entail? “I’m going to be helping decorate the Discovery Centre with lots of Lego builds, and lots of exciting things that will interest children. I’m also going to be responsible for maintaining Miniland and all the other builds around the site, but hopefully there’s going to be a lot of building things too - maybe building things which have never even been built by Lego before, who knows?”
Michelle might not have been in the job long, but there’s no denying her passion for what she does. “I want to provide new ways for children to interact with Lego, encouraging them not necessarily just to stick to the manual - our test & build area is particularly fantastic for that.”
Michelle was among just two percent of applicants for the role of Master Model Builder who were women. Is Lego suffering a diversity problem? “I think more girls are playing with Lego as children now, and I think it’s being encouraged more. There’s now less difference between girls and boys and what they’re encouraged to play with, so I think eventually it will be more 50-50.”
And this is clearly the case in Birmingham’s new Discovery Centre. Both boys and girls can be seen building and playing - including in the Lego Friends’ Heartlake City, a play area intended to appeal primarily to girls.
Legoland Birmingham is aimed at children between the ages of three and 10, and maintains that adults are not permitted entry without a child. That being said, the attraction is just as enjoyable for parents as it is for their children. Mums and dads are encouraged to leave their phones in the lockers and get involved in play too, as creating quality family time is a priority for the Centre. But older Lego enthusiasts without any little ones in their life don’t need to worry about missing out on the fun - the venue’s ‘adult nights’ event is an opportunity for those who’re 18 and over to meet Michelle and create some of their own builds.
It’s no surprise that excitement is almost tangible in Birmingham following Legoland’s opening. Michelle promises that the venue will inject ‘extra fun’ into the city - and the 10ft-tall, 30,000-brick giraffe which has been installed outside is just a preview of what’s to come. There’s no end to the impressive designs and creations dotted around the site - perhaps most notably the fully functioning clock tower, which takes centre stage. “It’s got all sorts of mechanisms that have had to be factored in and then connected to the Lego,” Michelle explains. “I’ve met some of the people from Windsor who actually made the Lego build, and they’re such an amazing team.”
The installation of Legoland Birmingham was no mean feat. Miniland alone took nine people nine months to build - which is hardly surprising given the attention to detail. Tiny Lego figures can be seen eating inside some of the buildings, cars travel along the roads and even the boats on the canal are attached to tethers, allowing them to float along the Canal Old Line.
It’s clear that Lego is an ever-popular toy, and as Michelle points out: “It’s universal - no matter where you buy Lego, no matter what bricks you’ve got, you can connect them with any other bricks. The bricks I had as a child work with the bricks I’m buying now - it’s timeless.”
And Birmingham’s new Lego shop is the perfect place for lovers of the legendary toy to expand their collection. Located next door to the Legoland Discovery Centre, the shop boasts a number of exclusive lines. Visitors from as far afield as London now travel up to the Midlands to get their hands on the merchandise. The ‘pick a brick’ wall is particularly innovative, allowing Lego fanatics to stock up on bricks of all sizes and colours in order to complete their creations.
With so much to recommend it, it’s hardly surprising that Michelle’s enthusiasm for her new job knows no bounds... “At the moment, I just want to get in, get started and get building stuff. Imagination is going to be a key feature because in order to create anything you’ve got to have imagination. That’s the most important thing.”
To find out more about what Birmingham's Legoland Discover Centre has to offer, and to book tickets, visit birmingham.legolanddiscoverycentre.co.uk
Feature by Ellie Hutchings