Family-Friendly Highlights for Deptford X

It’s that time again! So quickly in fact, it caught me on the hop for my write up!

Celebrating its 18th birthday this year, contemporary arts festival Deptford X returns to the galleries, studios, pubs, churches, shops, cafes, libraries and even ex-police cells of SE8.  This year’s theme is Deptford Conversations, showcasing locally relevant work by over 360 established or emerging artists.

Kicking off with the fantastic APT Open Studios this weekend, over the next week we’ll see a feast of free workshops, performances, installations and group exhibitions, many of which are suitable for visiting families.

Here’s my pick of the best:

For Families to see:

Until 4th October, 144 Deptford High Street, London, SE8 3PQ
Running day and night this computer-generated parade of video game characters creates a unique visual showcase through multiple screens, live in the window of the local Salvation Army shop.

Until 4th October, Deptford Lounge, 9 Giffin Square, London, SE8 4RJ (Mon-Fr 8am-10pm, Sat 9am-5pm, Sun 10am-5pm)
Building on her comic book work from last year’s Deptford X, this year’s lead artist Janette Parris uses her conversations with locals and stallholders to present a brand new animation about Deptford. Screenings will take place daily during the festival. The space is also home to a superb Children’s library collection.

For Families to participate:

Until 4th October, Various locations including Deptford Lounge, 9 Giffin Square, London, SE8 4RJ (Mon-Fr 8am-10pm, Sat 9am-5pm, Sun 10am-5pm)
Now widely known for their pop-up ping pong, Ping are raising the stakes for Deptford X by contributing ping pong inspired artworks in public places throughout Deptford. Promising 5 tables, 15 artists and 150 bats, all you have to do is find a table and play.

Thurs 1st October 6.30pm & Sat 3rd October 3.30pm, New Cross Learning Library, 283-285 New Cross Rd, London SE14 6AS
As well as repeating last year’s popular The Orchestrated Waste Procession, artist Margaret Jennings, acclaimed for her artistic reuse and recycle of everyday waste, is inviting young and old to share their thoughts on the environment in 10 words of fewer. Contributions to the participatory performance will be filmed for future use.

For children to be inspired by other children’s work:

GUIDE Jack Brown and pupils from Tidemill School
Exhibition of persona costumes daily until 4th October & Open workshop Thurs 1st Oct, 4pm – 6pm
The Albany, Douglas Way, London, SE8 4AG (Mon-Fri 9am-9pm, Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 11am-5pm)

Exploring the idea of public tours of Deptford, and suggesting that everyone has a unique bank of knowledge and experiences that can make them a memorable guide, pupils from Tidemill Academy work with artist Jack Brown to create their own guide personas and help you find yours. Places for the workshop need to be booked via email

7 DAYS Margaret Jennings
Exhibition Tues 29th Sept to Thurs 1st October 10am-5pm & Sat 3rd October 10am-5pm
New Cross Learning Library, 283-285 New Cross Rd, London SE14 6AS

Linked to Voice Out and The Orchestrated Waste Procession, this group artwork is the result of a workshop whereby children re-appropriated waste materials in order to reflect their experiences and spontaneous memories from fun and educational summer days out.

Deptford X runs at various venues across Deptford until 4th October 2015.
See website for the full programme.

London Design Festival: 6 Amazing Family-Friendly Installations

The London Design Festival started last weekend, with a view to promoting everything that is great and good about the city’s creativity. The event is running at various venues across the capital, and as well as a host of dedicated family events, including an 80’s Pop-Up Dress Up & Dance performance and Alice in Wonderland inspired workshops, there is also an immense collection of family-friendly installation work.

Here’s 6 of the best on display until the festival closes this Sunday.

1. The Drawing Room, Faye Toogood
Literal depiction of a drawing room, where visitors can relax in an environment that evokes a derelict country house, where surroundings have literally been drawn in.
West Wing Galleries Somerset House, 21-27 Sept Mon-Wed & Sun 10am-6pm, Thu-Sat 10am-9pm, Free

2. My Grandfather’s Tree, Max Lamb
When an old ash tree on his grandfather’s farm started to rot, Max was keen for it to take on a new life beyond its original roots. The result is 130 logs all created from sections of the tree and laid out in order of diameter, with the 187 annual growth rings clearly visible.
The Embankment Galleries – Mezzanine & Studio, Somerset House, 21-27 Sept Mon-Wed & Sun 10am-6pm, Thu-Sat 10am-9pm, Free

3. The Wave, Alex Rasmussen with Neal Feay
The West Wing Galleries will be awash with 700+ anodized aluminum panels, invisibly fastened to form a structural swell, reflecting crystalline shades of Pacific blue.
West Wing Galleries Somerset House, 21-27 Sept Mon-Wed & Sun 10am-6pm, Thu-Sat 10am-9pm, Free

4. Tower of Babel
A monument to the great British pastime of shopping, the tower stands 6m high and comprises of 3000 bone china shops, each depicting a real London shop as photographed by the artist.
Brompton Design District, Medieval & Renaissance 1350-1600 The Paul and Jill Ruddock Gallery, Room 50a, Level 1, Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, 19-27 Sept, Mon-Sun 10am-5.45pm, Free

5. The Cloakroom
Don one of the 150 navigational Toogood coats from Room 55 and be guided to 10 places in the Museum galleries where unique sculptural garments offer a response to items in the Museum’s collection.
V&A Museum, Britain 1500-1760, The Clore Study Area, Room 55, Level 2, Cromwell Road, 19-27 Sept, Mon-Sun 10am-5.45pm, Free

6. Curiosity Cloud
Supported by Perrier-Jouet, enter this playful installation exploring the interaction of humans and nature, comprising of 250 mouth-blown glass globes set in a darkened room, 25 of the which contain insect species either extinct, common or newly discovered.
V&A Norfolk House Music Room, Brompton Design District, Gallery 52b, British Galleries, Level 2, Cromwell Road, SW7 2RL, 19-27 Sept, Mon-Sun 10am-5.45pm, Free

The World Goes Pop: The Tate Bubble Finally Bursts

I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that when it comes to introducing children of any age to art in a family-friendly environment, Tate Modern embodies exactly what parents are looking for. Together with its awe-inspiring setting, the former Bankside Power station, it’s ability to present world-class art in an accessible, relaxed and inspiring space, make it a firm favourite. Yet it’s this consistent and effortless engagement of the family visitor, time after time, that makes their new opening The EY Exhibition: The World Goes Pop even more of a disappointment.

Going beyond the traditional British and American boundaries of pop art, this exhibition draws work from a wider geographical context, surfacing the lesser-known contributors during the 1960’s and 1970’s, from countries and cultures that could have had little or no influence from the movement at large. As a result, theme’s stretch beyond consumerism and into a  wider set of socio-political commentary, taking on social imbalances, role of women and war. It wasn’t, however,  the absence of pop art’s big-hitters that proved a let-down on my visit, it was the uninspiring layout and the feeling of anti climax which might fail to hold the attention of some visitors young or old.

Don’t get me wrong, things started very well. I was excited to enter to the glare of little-known Ushio Shinohara’s giant fluorescent collage Doll Festival, a comment of impact of Americanisation on Japanese culture and a leading piece from the marketing of the exhibition. There was endless detail to spot in Equipo Cronica’s Socialist Realism and Pop Art in the Battle Field, borrowing popular icons from Warhol and Lichtenstein as well as other treasures hidden in the jungle leaves. Jerzy Ryszard “Jurry” Zielinski’s Without Rebellion also proved unmissable, as a giant-tongued send up of censorship in Poland. You’ll also need to work hard to keep them away from fighter plane cum space rocket Machine No. 7, but will soon realise this was a happy problem to have as you move further through the galleries. 

Rather than thought provoking, the imposing collection of ethnographies by Eulalia Grau, sat alongside the monochrome prints of Joe Tilson, felt repetitive and drab so soon in the exhibition, and I questioned whether they deserved a whole room at this point in the journey. The Pop Politics section managed to provide more interesting comment on a serious topic, especially through the clever arrangement of Nitsche’s giant dictatorship fly swatter and Rafael’s Canogar’s cowering figure in The Punishment

As an art-loving women, wife and mother, I was expecting to feel much more grateful for the role of so many female pop artists included in the exhibition, but the arrangement of the work seemed to jar with me somehow. Erro’s intricate interiors showing the demise of the American dream didn’t feel right in the same room as so many family pieces, and the unusual Woman Sofa by Nicola L was indeed eye catching, but didn’t really feel like pop art at all.

The Beauty of pop art for younger viewers is its ability to reflect the every day, every objects and everyday life, yet this felt woefully under represented in the room dedicated to the Domestic Revolution. I had to wait until the closing stages of this gallery before being offered any really engaging perspective, such as Kiki Kogelnik’s latex representation of the body in a commoditised state and the brain-puzzling roles of women represented by Teresa Burgas clever installation; Cubes.

I soon came to realise, that it wasn’t highlights that were missing from this celebration of ‘Pop’ from a different world, but rather the order and structure by which it was presented made it feel more like ‘noise’ and less like something important to say. 

Things failed to improve with Zelibska’s entire gallery dedicated to her tantric Hindu interpretation of the lady garden, providing far too many uncomfortable opportunities for younger visitors to peer into awkwardly placed mirrors, changing the meaning of the piece altogether. Movement into the final galleries and large scale pieces such as Claudio Tozzi’s Multitude and Nicola L’s magnificent Red Coat, should have provided that ‘wow’ moment I was desperately after, but the clumsy construction prevented me from ever really feeling involved.

It is in fact this story of ebb and flow which, for me, meant that The World Goes Pop failed to provide a memorable journey through this era, and by the final room, instead of feeling exhilarated from having seen the unseen, I felt slightly indifferent and had completely lost interest. I wasn’t even sure how many visitors had even noticed the 3D glasses on offer to view the Shell piece by Glauco Rodrigues, glasses which also brought to life some of the wonders of the Post Art apocalyptic series and the Laughing Cow wallpaper.

To be clear, I am of the opinion that exhibitions don’t have to be interactive to hold any attention amongst younger visitors. In fact, only at the end of last year, myself and the girls nervously made our first visit to the Saatchi Gallery, a heavyweight art institution, with a serious and unwavering approach to presenting contemporary art. We were pleasantly surprised by Post Pop: East meets West, and its celebration of the pop art legacy. This visual feast didn’t need any kind of contrived interactivity and instead stuck to exactly what you want from a major exhibition; structure, storytelling, surprise and scale. In fact, it’s marathon exhibitions such as these which have spoiled us into always expecting to end on a high, rather than trudging to this ever so slightly limp finish. 

So if the unwavering popularity of Tate Modern proves too much and you find yourself drawn in by the rich colour of Shinohara’s headline piece, give yourself a moment to teach your kids some valuable lessons in life. Never rest on your laurels no matter how good you are at something, and you can’t be perfect all the time. Even if your name is Tate Modern.

The EY Exhibition: The World Goes Pop is on at Tate Modern until 24th January 2016
The Eyal Ofer Galleries, Level 3, Admission: Adults £16 (concessions £14), Children under 12 Free
10am-6pm Sun-Thur, 10am-10pm Fri & Sat