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Operation Ouch! opens in Manchester: new poo exhibition at Science and Industry Museum

The Science and Industry Museum’s new exhibition is poo. That's not a critique, it's a content description.

Yes, the “absolutely disgusting” Operation Ouch! Food, Poo and You exhibition has opened at the Manchester-based museum. It’s based on the CBBC TV show Operation Ouch! and this is the first time the hit programme has been turned into an exhibition experience.

Visitors “travel like a poo on a journey to discover where food goes when we eat.” They are sent on a special mission to get up close and extremely personal with the show’s presenters Dr Chris, Dr Xand and Dr Ronx, and are promised to be “shrunk, swallowed, squeezed through and spat out of Dr Xand’s digestive system during a lively, interactive and playful adventure to better understand our brilliant bodies” according to the museum.

Dr Xand, Dr Ronx and Dr Chris lie on a giant model of an open mouth
Dr Xand, Dr Ronx and Dr Chris Super-sized mouth at Operation Ouch! Food Poo and You. Science Museum Group. Photographer: Drew Forsyth

Other highlights for visitors to 'enjoy' include:

  • The Big Flush. A once-in-a-lifetime experience of travelling like a poo and being flushed down a giant toilet. Put on a ‘poo hat’ before passing through the pan!

  • Journeying through a super-sized set of interactive teeth.

  • Taking part in the world’s only interactive “pooduction” line – “make” a poo and discover how our bodies absorb nutrients and expel waste.

  • The Dr’s elusive ‘cupboard of everything’ and interactive Lab, brought to life from the screen for the first time.

And while there’s clearly “plenty of giggle-worthy grossness to explore,” the exhibition is backed up by the expertise of the curators of the Science Museum’ Group (which the Science and Industry Museum is part of). Fascinating objects from the Group’s collection showcase how medical science is helping to find solutions to some of the trickiest gut problems we all may experience. Highlights include a penny removed from a child’s stomach almost 100 years ago, and ancient objects gifted to the gods in hope of curing digestive problems.

Alongside these historical treasures are some cutting edge technologies too. Larry the Vomiting Robot, who helped scientists understand the distribution of norovirus particles when it demonstrated how far sick splatters, is publicly displayed for the first time.

Steven Leech, Curator of Exhibitions at the Science and Industry Museum, said: “We’re smashing taboos with this exhibition, proving that it’s not only fun to talk about everything from burps to belly rumbles and projectile vomit to poo, it’s essential in understanding and maintaining a healthy relationship with our bodies.

“It’s a truly spectacular show of super-sized science and one that we hope will leave people feeling entertained, empowered, and impressed with their grossness!”

Operation Ouch! has been hosted by identical twins Dr Chris and Dr Xand van Hoogenhouck-Tulleken on CBBC since 2012. It’s been a big hit in the UK and Australia, and has won two BAFTA Children’s Awards and was nominated for an International Emmy.

Drs Chris and Xand were the first visitors to see the show before it opened to the public. They said: This exhibition is our most epic experiment yet! Find out how your food gets mashed, pulped, squeezed and absorbed, and soak up the sights, sounds and even the smells of your incredible digestive system!

“Our bodies are amazing, and one of the first questions kids often ask is the biology of how we put food in and something else comes out! If we can understand that process, we’ve learned something that’s fundamentally important to life. So, as well as being brilliantly entertaining and of course absolutely disgusting, this exhibition is full of really amazing and essential science.”

Building exterior showing an older brick building next to a new glass entrance
Manchester's Science and Industry Museum. Photo courtesy of the Trustees of the Science Museum Group

The newest presenter on the show is equally excited to be bringing the fun and the fluids to Manchester. Dr Ronx Ikharia — who joined the programme in 2019 — said: "poo is my absolute favourite subject, and to be honest the only way to teach you about the digestive system is to make you part of it!"

And for an exhibition full-to-the-brim with poo (thankfully not literally), the museum has managed to bring the most perfect sponsor on board: toilet roll brand Andrex. Matt Stone, UK and Ireland marketing director of parent company Kimberly-Clark, said: “We’re really proud to be sponsoring the Operation Ouch! exhibition...The more knowledge kids have and the more comfortable they are with the topic, the better the choices they can make when it comes to their health and hygiene.”

The exhibition has been developed by the Science and Industry Museum and produced in collaboration with BBC and 141 Productions, part of All3Media's Objective Media Group.

Internationally renowned experiential design and production company Sarner will bring the exhibition to life through innovative set design and pioneering displays.

And visitors will be able to take the fun of the exhibition home with them. The museum and the BBC have partnered to create a retail range of interactive, informative and entertaining Operation Ouch!-themed toys, games, kits and experiments. So don’t forget to exit via the gift shop.

Operation Ouch! Food, Poo and You runs at the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester until 2 June 2024.

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