Cheeky Turner Prize 2016 proves a trail of temptation for families

Promising to be the most inclusive show in its history and inviting reaction from every corner of the visiting public, Turner Prize 2016 opened today, returning to Tate Britain after two years away. This incredible tale of visual seduction might be a fantastic feast for the eyes, but be warned visitors with young children! You’ll need to beg for their very best behaviour as this trail of temptation is dangerously at risk of inviting a little more ‘feedback’ than they probably want.

Yikes, sounds tricky. So is it worth taking the little ones? With this briefing – absolutely yes.

What’s it all about? 

Established in 1984, Turner Prize is awarded annually to a young, emerging artist in recognition of them producing an outstanding exhibition or body of work within the last year. Past winners include Grayson Perry, Anish Kapoor and Gilbert and George.

Who is there to see?

The beauty of the exhibition is that it is vast and varied, encompassing a range of media, styles and stories.
This year’s shortlist features:

Helen Marten
Busy parents and carers will definitely identify with this Macclesfield-born artist whose work represents three aspects of daily life, drawing attention to its pace and encouraging us all to slow down. Using everyday objects, either handmade or found in unusual surroundings, she leaves us in a visual riddle as to what has occurred. Lunar Nibs 2015 in particular appeared like most jobs in my life – unfinished and interrupted.

⭐ Family highlight: Helen’s installations contain loads of curious playful items that I would liken to a beach combing walk along the Thames Path. This work is great for a game of ‘I Spy’ or for picking and ticking off items that you see.

Anthea Hamilton
This Londoner’s ‘pop art’ style is all about giving an ‘experience’ to the visitor, resulting in an amusing, bold and hugely accessible collection of murals, sculptures and installations, all of which are anchored in real life.

⭐ Family highlight: The ‘butt’ or Project for a Door (After Gaetano Pesce) is a guaranteed giggle but surely is now more photographed than Kim Kardashian’s? Of course don’t miss it (you can’t) but something really wow is her hanging ‘pants’ or Chastity Belt installation, based on medieval locks of the same style and set in ‘the London sky at 3pm on a sunny day in June’.

Josephine Pryde
Questions, questions, questions. Sound familiar? Pryde is famed for posing a range of questions about her own interactions with the art world. Favouring photography and sculpture, her New Media Express train might have drawn the most attention when she was originally shortlisted, but her cameraless photographic technique as featured here alongside it are particularly fascinating.

⭐ Family highlight: Although ‘Baby Wants To Ride’ is a shadow of its former moving self, it is still lovely to look at. It might, however, prove too tempting (or disappointing) for some younger viewers.

Michael Dean
Exhibiting a strong social and moral compass, Dean deliberately utilises recognisable and ‘democratic’ materials from the urban landscape and sculpts them into words, or into forms that often resemble human bodies. Although quite often the words can’t be read, the sculptures force us to think about our own interaction with the world.

⭐ Family highlight: Dean has extended the temptation further with £20,436 arranged on the floor in a giant collection of gleaming (and grubby) 1p pieces. It’s a powerful way to represent the poverty line for two adults and two children. Tip: from the viewing point at this dead-end, hold hands and carefully navigate your way back around the ‘fenced’ entrance through the recurring ‘family of four’ sculptures that represent your solemn peers. Easy to get in huh? Impossible to get out – perhaps what the artist intended? These pennies, however, are not for pinching (you’ve been told).

Other highlights

⭐ Tuesdays! Putting its money where its mouth is in a desire to cast the Turner Prize net wider, for the first time ever, Tate has made every Tuesday ‘Pay What You Can’. Perfect for those put off by high ticket prices, which can be money down the drain if you’re visiting with children and you have to bail.

⭐ Comments wall: No visit to the Turner Prize would be complete without a read of the comments wall at the end, before adding your very own.

What’s also great about this year’s show is that (if the kids behave) you can enjoy every last drop. Whereas in past shows you might have had to race past any dark, violent or sexually explicit material, this year’s exhibition contains no such content. Outside of Michael Dean’s very moving presentation, the remainder of the show is surprising, colourful and even a bit of a giggle. So, with filming, photography and even Facebook Live being welcome to gauge reactions inside, the message to go forth and explore this year’s shortlist is coming through loud and noisy. Hooray.


Turner Prize is on at Tate Britain, Millbank, London, SW1P 4RG until 2nd January 2017
Daily 10am-6pm, Admission £12 Adults, Children 12-18 £9.50, concessions available
The winner will be announced on 5th December
Visit website for more information

Arts Aloud Review: The Infinite Mix

It’s feels like a lifetime since our beloved Hayward Gallery closed its doors for two years of repairs and maintenance. Until it reopens in January 2018, the gallery’s mission is to focus on its extensive touring programme, collaborating with artists, independent curators, writers and partner institutions, to develop more imaginative exhibitions.

Continuing to fly the brutalist flag by setting up home within trendy creative space The Store, The Infinite Mix (presented in association with The Vinyl Factory) is one such collaboration. Promising a host of thought-provoking stories through large-scale audio-visual artworks, it sounded very much like our cup of tea. If it was anything like the free-to-bail-at-any-time yet all-encompassing-installation work of The Tanks at new Tate Modern, we knew we’d be in for a treat.

Friendly, forthcoming with a map and happy for us to abandon our buggy in the foyer; we were off to a positive start. There were a total of 10 rooms for us to get around, the first of which was presented by Hayward Gallery favourite, Martin Creed.

The entrance to this, the first work was so unbelievably dark, that alongside the other patrons, we found ourselves (unknowingly) hanging around in the walkway for a while. It was a very exciting introduction for all – believing we were already ‘in’ the work, but a few dark twists and turns later and we were greeted by bright yellow taxis and a corner of New York which formed the canvas for Work No 1701, 2013. Accompanied by a song penned by the artist himself, the work documents the unique body movement and gestures employed by a range of individuals crossing the same stretch of a New York street. It certainly was compelling viewing, wondering who might be along next and how – a guessing game of sorts and a perfect opener to win over younger viewers.

Having extracted my companion, we caught a brief glimpse of Luanda-Kinshasa, 2013; Stan Douglas’ endless jazz-funk jam. Brilliantly filmed as if you’re watching a live performance, this lively account was absolutely impossible to stand (or sit) still to.

The surprise hit of the day was Room 3, Ugo Rondinone’s THANX 4 NOTHING, featuring beat poet John Giorno. The rise and fall in the verses in this retrospective (and somewhat whimsical) ‘thank you’ poem, reminded me very much of everything I love about the lyrical delivery of a Cassette Boy creation. For my little one it was mesmerising. “He’s everywhere” she said, gasping at the giant installation screens and endless TVs. “And he’s got no shoes on” she continued, rolling around on the floor, moving consistently in whichever direction the surround sound seem to talk to her. We were well into the second run before I could persuade her to leave.

Thanks to a wonderfully astute gallery assistant, we bypassed Room 4 Kahlil Joseph’s m.A.A.d, 2014 and Room 7 Cameron Jamie’s Massage the History, 2007-9. If visiting with the family, you might want to do the same. The external signage might be a little recessive but these rooms contain visual content which is both violent and sexually explicit, and definitely don’t count as artistic immersion. Yes, you’ll miss some of the hard-hitting stuff, but with an abundance of family friendly content that can also feel pretty intense, you’ll do well to skip past and avoid the nightmares.

Some alternative views for family visitors are Room 5: the ever-so-slightly hallucinogenic Bom Bom’s Dream – if you lap-up the incredible music, graphics and bizarre chameleon, and ignore the (sometimes) inappropriate bumping and grinding, and the eerily holographic illusion OPERA (QM.15), 2016. Also awe-inspiring is Cyprien Gaillard’s Nightlife, 2015 which is housed in the final gallery of the exhibition, Room 10. Don the 3D glasses and sway with the windblown trees, before you exit to a well-deserved pat on the back for reaching the end of something truly outstanding, all with the kids in tow.

Billed as “a contender for show of the year” by the Evening Standard, The Infinite Mix certainly deserves the plethora of accolades that have been bestowed upon it. As an exhibition, it is a vibrant melting pot of all that is great and good when you bring together so many different artistic genres and stories, and tell them from the perspective of cultures far and wide. Plonk it in an incredible space, where even the wall-art in the stairwells has an impact on the visitor as they move around, and you’ve got world-beating art that anyone can enjoy.

We might have to wait for a year to enjoy the magic of the Hayward back in its South Bank home, but this assault on the senses has been a timely reminder of what we’re all currently missing.

The Infinite Mix is at The Store, 180 The Strand until 4th December 2016. 
Tuesday to Saturday 12 – 8pm, Sunday 12 – 7pm
Admission Free


Free fringe arts festivals for families this September

Totally Thames, Open House, Tall Ships – London is awash with festivals this September. Dig deeper and you’ll find there are a host of lesser-known arts festivals also vying for your attention, by opening their arms to welcome family visitors…

Deptford X

What is it? Contemporary art festival now in its 18th year. Platform 2016 showcases the work of 5 specially selected emerging artists, as well as Deptford X Fringe which invites a wider community of independent artists and projects to participate
Where is it? Various venues across Deptford (Nearest stations New Cross, Deptford and Deptford Bridge DLR)
When is it? 23 September – 2 October, Daily 12-6pm (plus special events and late openings)
What’s in it for families? Platform 2016 features a host of installation and sculpture which should be interesting to viewers of all ages. Seek out Joey Holder’s work in the atmospheric Crypt at St Nicholas Church or head to the Deptford X gallery to enjoy Manual Mathieu’s large-scale installation of white sheets (previously planned for Giffin Square). Deptford Fringe, however, is where things really hot up (if you can navigate the clunky and impenetrable website). Local street art collective Artmongers are inviting the public to help them replace their Deptford Marbles mural with Deptford Maze, whilst artist Hannah Clayden is hosting an architectural-inspired children’s workshop  which reimagines how buildings work – taking inspiration from the Anthology Deptford Foundry. There’s also visual, sound and performance art almost every day (and night) at Vinyl Deptford X.

Merge Festival

What is it? Known for presenting contemporary art in more unusual settings, Illuminate Production’s Merge Festival celebrates the rich history and culture of Bankside, through a range of art forms including interactive installations, experimental theatre and live music.
Where is it? Various venues between London Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge (Nearest stations London Bridge, Southwark, Blackfriars, Mansion House, Cannon Street)
When is it? 24 September – 7 October, various times see programme and map for details
What’s in it for families? Almost everything on the programme is family-friendly. On Your Wavelength (Wednesday to Sunday, 12-7pm, Railway Arch, 37 America Street SE1 0NJ) invites you to use your collective mind-power to influence a unique laser and sound installation. Experience the epic light and sound show from the sidelines for free or for a small fee you can don a headset and contribute your brain’s activity to a large-scale digital artwork. Also fun for those looking for some spooky pre-Halloween fun, Chain Reaction (Thursday to Sunday, 1-7pm, Kirkaldy Testing Museum, Southwark Street, SE1 0JF) is a journey through a series of playful, interactive and mechanical artworks. Set in the basement and animated, this installation creates a very ghostly ballet.

Design Carousel

What is it? If as a parent you’ve always felt frozen out of Frieze, Design Carousel (part of London Design Festival) is London’s first children’s design fair. Featuring design for children (as well as by children), the aim is to entice and immerse children and families in the world of design and creativity.
Where is it? Coram’s Fields, 93 Guilford Street, London WC1N 1DN (Nearest Tube Russell Square or Kings Cross)
When is it? 24 September 2016, 11am-5pm
What’s in it for families? Coram Fields alone is a hidden gem of a central London playground, but the one-day takeover boasts over 15 children activities and workshops from 3D printing to modelling with clay, costume making and live music. There’s also a chance to contribute to the Futures Wall which aims to capture ‘live’ how children perceive the future, and create an evolving piece of art to be donated to Coram’s Fields.

Art Licks Weekend

What is it? An arts festival which celebrates the work of emerging artists and grassroots arts projects
Where is it? Various venues across East and South East London. Search their map for what’s close to you
When is it? 30 September – 2 October 2016, Daily 12-6pm although some specific event times apply
What’s in it for families? Bespoke led artist led tours for schools and other school groups as well as a smorgasbord of events, performance art and open studios to inspire even the very young. Highlights include AltMFA’s States of Flux (Saturday, 3-5pm) a live art tour along the Thames coast responding to the states of flux associated with the movement of rivers and along waterways, and Virtual Choreography (Thursday 6-9pm, Friday & Saturday 12-6pm) where visitors can contribute their own moves and gestures to those collected from a range of Hackney Wick locals.

Tribe Festival

What is it? On a mission to change the world through though-provoking art, #TRIBE16 features over 120 UK and international artists in a ‘living exhibition’ of contemporary art, music and performance.
Where is it? 47-49 Tanner Street, London SE1 3PL (Nearest Tube London Bridge or Bermondsey)
When is it? 30 September – 2 October 2016, 9am-5pm
What’s in it for families? The whole event is family friendly but the Creative Kids Loft promises group mural painting with artist Marc Craig, poetry workshops and sketch sessions, plus it’s a stones throw from More London Riverside whose summer festival is on until 31st October and White Cube which will be hosting a brand new interactive exhibition by Anthony Gormley

5 family-friendly picks for an arty autumn

As the holidays draw to a close, we’ve loved our busy summer of pavilions, summer houses and South American art, but we can’t believe how many things are still sitting on our list, unseen! Where did the weeks go? With just a few days before we all get back on the hamster wheel, let’s get the calendar out and show some commitment!

Here’s 5 good reasons to love the onset of the autumn in the arts…

Neon: The Charged Line at The Grundy Art Gallery
Included as a statement of intent – not just to ensure that at least one of my highlights lie beyond the M25, but also to give myself (and any other Blackpool virgins) a very good reason to visit. Autumn is illumination time in Blackpool and if you loved last winter’s Luminere, combine the lights with this fabulous free exhibition which explores how artists have used neon and celebrates Blackpool’s pioneering role in the history of neon in the UK.
Neon: The Charged Line runs until Saturday 7th January 2017, admission free.
Illuminations scheduled daily until Sunday 6th November 2016. 

London Design Festival 
Last year we were surprised and delighted at how family-friendly the London Design Festival turned out to be and this year’s line up promises to be bigger and better. Showcasing the best efforts of London’s design world, there are over 400 events and installations taking place at venues across the capital including the Barbican, the V&A and various London neighbourhoods. The Green Room, an interactive installation by Glithert (supported by luxury watch maker Panerai) is set to be one of the big-hitters, inviting visitors to pass through the veil of colourful strings, suspended within a busy V&A stairwell. Running concurrently at Somerset House is the London Design Biennale 2016, which will be bringing 40 countries from around the world to London to present installations around the theme of ‘Utopia by Design’.
London Design Festival runs from 17th to 25th September 2016. See website for venue details and to plan your visit

Fun Palaces weekend
Originally the brainchild of theatre director Joan Littlewood and Architect Cedric Price, Fun Palaces were devised to inspire local communities to get together and celebrate art and science in ways that are both locally relevant and promote civic pride. This year’s programme features over 150 Fun Palaces up and down the country – from Wigan to Witham and beyond, and include a host of drop-in workshops, exhibitions, experiments, games and collaborations.
Fun Palaces runs 1st and 2nd October. See website to find participating venues in your local area. 

London Literature Festival 
In my recent interview with Southbank Centre’s Head of Festival Programme, Tamsin Ace we discussed their vision of making more superheroes of authors – enter the London Literature Festival. Taking on the mammoth task of exploring what role writers can play in making sense of the world that we live in, as well as exploring what lies beyond and in the future. There are quite a few family-friendly highlights (depending on the age of your children) but one of the few for a younger audience is the first ever Tongue Fu For Kids.  Set to improvised musical backing, this hour-long show sees leading storytellers and spoken word artists take their turn to use the power of live literature in order to reflect on the future. Past guests include Kate Tempest, Robin Ince and Beardyman.
Tongue Fu For Kids is at the Royal Festival Hall (Spirit Level) on Saturday 8th October at 2pm, admission £8
Suitable for 7 – 10 year olds, Booking advised. 

Picasso Portraits
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Never has this beautiful quote by the man himself rang truer than when my eldest daughter did a portrait of herself about a year ago. Not only did it look a lot like her, but it bore a striking resemblance to the style of Picasso! I’m sure most families containing enthusiastic scribblers can boast a Jackson Pollock or two, but a Picasso? She of course had no idea who Picasso was at the time, but she does now, I’m pretty confident that the accessibility of Picasso’s cubist era in particular, is sure to strike a chord with other young visitors through jagged edges, wonky eyes, strange shapes and imperfections. Promising over 80 works, including some of his earlier realist pieces drawn from life, this is a rare opportunity to bring kids face to face with one of the world’s most influential artists, and more importantly to let them feel at home in the company of art produced with honesty, expression and emotion.
Picasso Portraits is at the National Portrait Gallery from 6th October 2016 to 5th February 2017. Admission £17 Adults (without donation). Children under 12 are free. See website for opening times and to book tickets