Conrad Shawcross is sending kids loopy in Dulwich Park

Just yards from South London’s popular Dulwich Picture Gallery, Dulwich Park has built a reputation for extending resident exhibitions and providing a platform for public art.

Three years ago the park’s bowling club house became adorned with a brand new mural, a result of a collaboration between the gallery’s Ingrid Beazley and street artist Stik, recreating old masters on the streets of the area. This popular piece is still highly visible close to the children’s playground (currently undergoing a refit). Over the years the park has also been home to a unique Barbara Helpworth sculpture, Two Forms, designed in 1969 and installed in 1970, that is until it was stolen by metal thieves in December 2011, leaving a dearth of public art in this popular family space.

Conrad Shawcross’s work Three Perpetual Chords, commissioned by Southwark Council, hopes to address this with a brand new collection of cast iron sculptures, forming a permanent installation in the park and promising to be theft proof. The sculpture work was unveiled last weekend, and was launched to coincide with his exhibition Counterpoint, currently on display in the Gallery’s Permanent Collection.

As fairly local residents, we were lucky enough to be early on the scene for giving them a test run, and I have to say, they proved popular with children of all ages. All three of the imposing knot-like sculptures are visible from a single viewpoint, creating an exciting challenge for kids, as they follow the trail to negotiate the progressively more complex frames.

Interestingly, on our visit, there seemed to be a trend towards navigating the structures barefoot to try and gain some traction, something that I am sure will have the health and safety teams at Southwark Council holding their breath. But, like a breath of fresh air against a newly ‘gentrified’ playground of tree houses and exposed wood, these felt like a nod to the old-school climbing frames of the 1980’s, the ones that were almost impossible to negotiate, no matter how old you were.

Shawcross’s exhibition is only on until 14th June, but thankfully these interactive wonders are here to stay. And for once, it’s the adults standing on the sidelines looking confused, whilst the children, like some kind of second nature, seem to understand exactly what to make of them.

Conrad Shawcross: Counterpoint is showing at Dulwich Picture Gallery until 14th June 2015 (Tues-Fri 10am-5pm, Sat-Sun 11am-5pm, Admission £6, Children under 18 go free).

Three Perpetual Chords are closest to the Court Lane Gate, Dulwich Park.

5 Arts Aloud Easter Treats

This Easter, Arts Aloud is going Stateside, hoping to bring you the best of the US family-friendly arts scene. Whilst I am away, here are 5 Easter treats that I don’t want you to miss.

My First Ballet: Swan Lake, Sadlers Wells
The icing on the cake of Sadlers Wells’ Spring season, My First Ballet is an exciting collaboration with English National Ballet inviting children as young as three to experience an adaptation of a classic ballet production for the first time ever. Narrators and shortened musical scores help little ones to follow proceedings in the relaxed space of the Peacock Theatre (2-12 April, Tickets £10-£20, Advance booking essential).

The Idol by Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, New Abbey Leisure Centre
Commissioned by Create, this world-beating 3-storey soft play area devised by Turner Prize nominee Chetwynd, centres around a fantastical creature called The Idol and invites children to explore his monochrome world through a series of walkways, chambers and ramps (Year-round, Centre Opening Times: Mon-Fri 6.30am-10pm, Sat & Sun 8am-9pm, check website for specific session times)

Magnificent Obsessions, Barbican Art Gallery
Providing unique insight into the influences and obsessions of a range of artists, this awe-inspiring exhibition brings together popular collectables, rare artefacts and one-of-a-kind curiosities and is sure to pose a challenge to any curious toddler (12 Feb-25 May, Adults £12, Under 12s free, Concessions available, Advance Booking Recommended)

The Boy Who Bit Picasso, The Albany (Deptford Lounge)
A heartwarming story of a young boy who became friends with one of the greatest artists who ever lived, this interactive theatre show is packed with music and storytelling as well as the chance to make your very own masterpiece. Dress for mess!
(9-10 April, 12.30pm & 2.30pm, Tickets £7, Family Ticket £24, Recommended age 4+)

Chorus, Southbank Centre
If you’re one week into the school holidays and already struggling, bring some harmonious melodies to the heart of your family through the Southbank Centre’s annual Chorus festival. Celebrating the power of singing together, the festival plays host to a range free events and family workshops including your chance to be one of 1000 voices filling Royal Festival Hall on Easter Sunday (Until 12 April, Free, Suitable for all ages).

Happy Easter! Looking forward to hearing about your adventures.

*Ticketed activities are subject to availability at the time of publication.