In See & Do

5 Million Bricks, 60 Excellent Exhibits and Incredible Interactive Kid Zones.

In a UK first, Ryan McNaught’s Brickman Experience has arrived at High Cross Leicester. Ryan is the only LEGO® Certified Professional in the Southern Hemisphere and one of only 14 in the world – and Leicester is the first city in the UK to host his awesome and interactive exhibition.

The Visit Leicester team were lucky enough to meet the man behind the bricks ahead of the awe-inspiring exhibition which kicks off today (March 13).

First and foremost, what is a LEGO® Certified Professional?

A LEGO® certified professional is someone who has turned their passion for LEGO® into a full-time or part time profession, showcasing their work across the world, while living and breathing LEGO®. Ryan makes it clear that while he doesn’t work for LEGO®, he does complete work, for LEGO®! Part of his role is creating the fantastic displays you seen in LEGO® stores up and down the country, as well as the LEGO® offices themselves.

Where does the inspiration come from?

Having taken his exhibitions all over the world, in the US, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Singapore, China, Japan, Dubai, Saudi Arabia and most recently the UK, it means that Ryan travels a lot! He’s always seeing things and thinks “wow, that would be cool to make”. His habit of jotting things down on his phone means he’s got over 1000 ideas stored up.

But sometimes inspiration just falls on his lap. Being Australian, he’s no stranger to the bushfires that sweep across the country. One day, as his kids were playing on the trampoline outside, a huge, water carrying Heli-Tanker flew over his house, almost deafening everyone. And of course, his kid’s immediate reaction was “dad, you have to build that.” So, he did.

And yes, the propellers actually spin.

But knowing what to build is just the start. As he puts it:

“Before I even pick up a LEGO® brick, I need to research what it is I’m learning about, I don’t know much about helicopters, so I had to ring up the helicopter company, and ask if I could come out and take some photos and sit in the seat”

It’s a constant learning experience for Ryan, he’s gone behind the scenes of the Sydney Opera House and visited Airbus to see how their 600-ton Jumbo Jets are made. But, as you might expect, not everyone quite understands what he does, and “sometimes people look at you like you’ve got two heads” 

I bet you’re thinking, wow! I want his job…

But of course, it comes with its ups and downs. Firstly, and the kids won’t want to hear this… “Everything I do is highly mathematical, there’s a lot of maths. Fractions, algebra, geometry and trigonometry, all the things I never paid attention to in school!”. And obviously when you’re spending hour after hour, week after week on one model, the main thing you need is patience. His Colosseum model alone took over 6 weeks to build, and all the models on show add up to several thousands of hours of work.

“That’s the one thing I have a lot of, is patience” 

Although Ryan’s the chief builder, some pieces like this large artwork of Sydney Opera House are put together by the general public. Visitors to the exhibition will each be given a small square with space for coloured bricks, each corresponding to a space on the ‘canvas’. When you put them all together, you get a fantastic piece of art. If you place one of the 160,000 bricks needed to make up the final image, you can just about call yourself an artist!

That’s just one of the many opportunities to build something yourself at this fantastic exhibition. As Ryan says; “It would be torture if you come to a LEGO® show and you don’t get to touch LEGO®.” It’s a perfect opportunity to exercise what he calls ‘Education by Stealth’ - by creating a face from LEGO®, you learn artistic talents like matching colours and working out correct distances between the eyes. By challenging kids to build ‘transport of the future’, it makes them think about why something might float, what roads will look like, how spaceships fly, and much, much more. “They’re learning the whole way, and they don’t even know it!”

So, what’s made LEGO® stand the test of time?

“A LEGO® brick one day could be a colosseum or a spaceship, the next a house, a tree, a car. As children’s taste change, a LEGO® brick can be anything, and it can change with the trends.” But Ryan says it’s more than that, it’s about letting the creativity flow - kids don’t have to build something accurate; “it could be a spaceship that transports dogs to mars on Tuesdays, there’s no right or wrong, in a video game you do something wrong, you die or lose a life, but there’s no LEGO® police that come over and say you built this together in the wrong way.”

What is Ryan most proud of?

Lucky for us, his favourite build is one you can come and see at the exhibit, the wonderful Colosseum. This spectacular model was commissioned for a Roman antiquity’s museum in Australia, and shows the ancient arena in two halves, how it would have once looked, and how it appears now. Since the model is oval shaped yet made from square bricks, Ryan says it’s the build that has taught him the most. The challenge of building it meant that at the time he hated the “damn thing”, but now he can appreciate it in all its glory.

Shortly after completing it, he even received some emails from slightly irritated Italian LEGO® fans, who were annoyed that an Australian had built it, not a native Italian. It didn’t help that he loves to hide jokes in his models - we won’t spoil it, but look out for a special visitor inside the ‘Popemobile’  

Why Leicester?

Ryan’s always wanted to bring his exhibition to the UK, and what better place to try it out! Out of 6 exhibitions that he has touring around the world – this one is the first one he ever took on the road. All of the models you’ll get to see were created especially for TV Commercials, Art Galleries and Museums – meaning you get a brilliantly diverse set of LEGO® models, artworks and sculptures!

That’s all from Ryan McNaught, who graciously gave up his time for us before jetting back to Australia. Safe travels Ryan!

Now that the exhibition is open, what are you waiting for? Tickets are available online.




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