Putting the community first at the London Museum of Water & Steam, Nov 2020

Beyond Autism

At the London Museum of Water & Steam we have four values which we try to live out in everything we do. Helpful, Knowledgeable, Inclusive and Fun.

But how do you live those values in the middle of a global pandemic which has closed your Museum? For us it started with asking the question “who needs our help?” and the reply came from our local community and our local community groups.

For years, the Museum has been building relationships with community groups who work with children, young people, and adults with learning difficulties, in particular Autism. But during 2020 those relationship have grown and created new opportunities. Our Museum is a large, well ventilated space, making it the perfect place to meet for groups who need consistency, being able to get together whatever the weather.

All Aboard Club

With funding to open the building for community groups from the local authority, we were able to welcome back All Aboard Club, who support families with Autism. This wonderful group meet in spaces across London, but the Museum holds a special place for them, what could be better than building a train set, surrounded by our massive static steam engines!

Speak Out in Hounslow

Speak Out in Hounslow took advantage of the outdoor spaces for their adults, with volunteering in the gardening, crafts and even line dancing classes taking place every week. Through these groups contact was made with others, and soon Beyond Autism, who support families with early years children were also using both the inside spaces and outdoor spaces.

Our Barn Cafe

The ending of our café contract also gave us an opportunity to think about doing things differently. Instead of giving the space to another for profit company we have instead formed a partnership with Our Barn, a local charity who work with young people with learning difficulties, who will be delivering our café offer, using the café as a supported work placement for their young people.

As we head into 2021 we want to do more, with funding bids in for supported volunteering and more community work. We are working with the groups to still be able to host them now that we will be open.

So why have we developed such an interest in working with groups who support people with Autism? It’s partly our subject, which pulls visitors with Autism and special interests in trains and engines to the Museum, it’s the enthusiasm of us as a team being helpful where we can, and it’s our willingness to listen, learn, and share the Museum with those that need it and love it as much as we do.

Liz Power, Director, London Museum of Water & Steam


You can find out more about the London Museum of Water & Steam here – https://waterandsteam.org.uk/

You can find out more about the All Aboard Club here – https://www.allaboardclub.com/

You can find out more about Speak Out in Hounslow here – https://www.speakoutinhounslow.org/

You can find out more about Beyond Autism here – https://www.beyondautism.org.uk/

You can find out more about Our Barn here – https://www.ourbarn.org.uk/

Due to the Government announcement of 31st October 2020, the London Museum of Water & Steam are now required to close until 5th December at the earliest. Please check their website for updates.

Comments 2

  1. Thanks so much for the mention.

    All Aboard Club had been running our play sessions at the museum before lock-down #1. But the enthusiasm and support from Liz and Gemma (the museum’s Learning Coordinator) was incredible. They really wanted to get things going again and bring our community back to the museum. Yes, there were risk assessments and operating procedures to develop, but the museum had such a pragmatic and positive approach to making it happen. They wanted their outdoor and indoor spaces to be used as soon as feasibly possible, and by as many as possible – but always safely and within the guidelines.

    All Aboard Club’s “community” comes from across London and beyond, as there are so few facilities for autistic and ADHD children to just be themselves. We had families from Guildford, East London and Hertfordshire who now see the museum as one of their “happy places”. Many of our families had never visited the museum – or in fact had never heard of it. They were keen to return on another day to see everything. The children love the space too – one simply said “this is the best All Aboard Club ever!” It is certainly different from our other community venues. A couple of our trains disappeared under the big engines, but it was small price to pay.

    We are so looking forward to getting back there. Thanks again to Liz, Gemma and the museum team.

    1. Post

      Hello Richard, Thanks for your comments it is great to hear how well received the club has been. Claire – Autism in Museums

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