The very fact that I have had no time to review anything this month is symptomatic of how unimaginably busy this year has been.
Within months of starting out on my mission for Arts Aloud, alongside managing my day-job, I took on the irresistible opportunity of being a co-founder of the first ever Brockley Street Art Festival, as well as being invited to contribute to the leading London interest blog, Londonist.
Now looking back at 2015, I wanted to share 7 highlights and surprises, as well as putting pen to paper on some hopes and dreams for 2016.
1. Carsten Höller: Lessons in how not to disappoint disappointed children
The most at home I have ever felt with my little ones in a world-class gallery. Our disappointment at not being able to ride the giant slides or launch ourselves in the rooftop flying machines was so speedily replaced by being able to control giant flying mushrooms, take a virtual snowy forest walk and a surprise dual cinema screen complete with street party scenes that proved impossible to drag the toddler away from. A masterclass in how to do thought-provoking family-friendly art, it’s still far too long to wait until my precious Hayward returns in 2017.
2. Being rewarded for my bravery
After being an opening-day visitor to Carsten Höller with a toddler and a pre-schooler with no prior briefing, another big surprise for me this year was how enjoyable and inspirational the London Design Festival was – even with a toddler. Aside from the wow-factor of Somerset House, this visit was proof that freebie arts events are a great low-risk option for stealing back some time to explore your own specific interests.
3. World-Class art is closer than you think
Whilst I was busy working with a team to surface local talent and bring world-class street artists to my very own neighbourhood, my hubby was devising his very own tour to take our kids around the incredible street-based gallery that is Shoreditch, East London. This year has reminded me how important it is to encourage my kids to really look at the area that we live in and ensure that I point out the vast array of art out there on the street. It’s interesting, beautiful and memorable, yet it’s taken for granted by us all, every single day.
4. Inspiration is as useful as recommendation
From dreary January to wet weekends, pre-payday freebies or school holidays, we can never get too many ideas of what to do when the kids are driving us up the wall. Some of my most popular posts this year have been aimed at inspiring families to escape the big-ticket attractions and use the arts as a base for exploration during weekends and school holidays. Either through my work with Londonist, or right here, I hope to bring you more of the same in 2016.
5. Immersion is everything
Having discovered the gem that was Adventures in Wonderland, deep in The Vaults under Waterloo Station, I have learned that there just aren’t enough people reviewing children’s theatre for families – and when they do it is limited to a few mainstream powerhouses. How the hell do families find out about the incredible independent and immersive theatrical productions before the band wagon has left and everyone has jumped on board? With the brilliant All That Fall and Goosebumps Kids coming up next year, I am making it my mission to fly the flag for immersive family theatre in 2016.
6. There’s more to life than London
Back in March I wrote about how art was transforming the once down-trodden town of Margate on the south coast for families, a post that drew a response from all over the country and beyond. The summer holidays also brought a whole host of reasons to leave the city and get out . Our family love days out and wherever we go you can guarantee that somewhere along the line it will lead right back to our own interests and passions. I’ll need your help, but next year I want to give you more great reasons to brave the long road journey or the train and leave London on an arts inspired day out.
7. Bring on the Fringe
On the subject of leaving London…. Back in August 2014, myself and the hubby were given 2 nights of freedom to return to Edinburgh Fringe, a festival that was once an annual must-do for us in our pre-family calendar. Pawing through the festival programme, I couldn’t believe how much family-friendly content there was and even the grown-up stuff was handily graded for audience suitability. I even pondered its suitability right here on this blog. This year, I am taking my beloved Fringe for a long awaited test-run with the kids (3 and 5 years) and will be reporting back – before, during and after.
Happy Hogmanay to you all and here’s to making more wishes come true in 2016 xx