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