Novelty Automation is an experience to delight, bewilder and surprise. It is a cross between a penny arcade, art installation and Heath Robinson sketchbook.
Set in a small gallery near to Holborn is this splendid collection of coin operated machines. I arrived after work on a Thursday evening and purchased some of the special coins needed to activate their mechanics. You can also buy a gift set of these as a memento.
After a quick inspection of the machines I started with MyNuke the Personal Nuclear Reactor. Following the safety video, I set about loading the training pellets and then the glowing live ones. Unfortunately I failed in my task and after loading 3 pellets successfully, managed to blow up the reactor. As a reward for my work I was given a small piece of nuclear waste to take home. This machine is an excellent example of maker Tim Hunkin’s work, it is fun to play, full of detail and robustly engineered.
After watching one of the guest automata, being declared suspect by the “Auto Frisker” and deciding the fate of a small lamb on the “pet or meat” machine, I tried my hand at money laundering. This is a massive machine consisting of two tower blocks and a crane. The idea is to fill the plate with coins without getting caught. I managed to get two loads up to the top before getting spotted by a regulator so failed to fill the coffers in time.
I also tested my nerve by placing my hand in a cage with a rabid dog which scared one of the other visitors. Finally, I took a mini break and watched a stop motion holiday from an armchair safely strapped to a Space Harrier chassis. As always with Tim’s machines, there was something to surprise me.
I think the exhibition is really aimed at adults but I suspect children will be as captivated as I was. If I have time I may revisit to have a look at some of the other machines I missed. Tim’s voice overs in the instructions and videos are spot on and sets the tone perfectly.
1a Princeton St
If you can’t get to see Novelty Automation then Tim’s creations are also at The Under The Pier Show, Southwold Pier or you can catch him on DVD.