Pee-hoo! Moomin retrospective is a very fine adventure

I have hazy but happy memories of the Moomin TV series from the seventies and eighties, yet through having my own children it’s been fantastic to relearn and relive some of these magical tales in print. Taking things a step further, from now and until April 2017, Southbank Centre is giving visitors young and old a chance to step inside the world of the Moomins, in a brand new immersive exhibition.

Part of their year-long exploration of Nordic arts and culture Nordic Matters, Adventures in Moominland is the first major UK exhibition devoted to these adorable hippo-like characters and also provides fascinating insight around their artist and creator Tove Jansson and the era in which they were devised.

So, what’s to love?
No having to digest lengthy information. This exhibition is a guided experience, which really helps simplify some of the more complex themes for younger visitors, as well as providing memorable storytelling and group camaraderie!

It’s a multi sensory experience mixing audio, visual and at times the aromatic! The variety of worlds created (in partnership with set design specialists Front Left), are complimented with lively narrative (featuring Sandi Toksvig), evocative music, brilliant animation and even tropical rainforest smells, breathing life into the humble drawings and archive materials from Tove’s studio in Helsinki.

Permission to play. You’ll be asked to interact in so many different ways, from seeking out a hidden ruby in Moominvalley Forest to jumping up and down on the raft. Together with the tactile arrangement of the Moominvalley Forest in Room 5 and the enticing picnic in Room 8, you’ll struggle to drag them out after the average 6 or 7 minutes allocated per room.

What do you need to know before you book?
The exhibition has an age restriction of 7+. This is justified, especially given the darkness of some rooms, and the themes (and sounds) of war explored in Room 4: The Cave

The experience is almost an hour long in total, with one route in and out. There are emergency exits in each section of the show just in case you need to bail, but using the toilet isn’t going to be the best reason to put these into action, so make sure they go first! This is yet another supporting reason for the age guidance.

Passages are narrow and rooms themselves are small. You will need to consider how claustrophobic you or the children might be, especially when passing through in a group of up to 13. Wheelchairs users can enjoy the exhibition but wheelchairs will need to be less than 80cm wide to pass through. Buggies are not permitted. This is a group experience but there must be a minimum of one adult for every three children.

The exhibition is already selling into March next year, but there’s no need to worry that it will all be trashed by the time you get to it, especially with the frequency of tours running. Southbank Centre has made a contingency by operating for only half the day on a Monday, giving them valuable time to reset and restore.

Outside of celebrating some core Nordic principles such as equality, diversity and play, the exhibition also highlights what a pioneering woman of her time Tove was; working, travelling and braving new relationships, in an era of immense social and political change.

Where Adventures in Moominland also triumphs is in its ability to capture all the excitement and playfulness of these beautiful stories, without losing any of their beauty or serenity. According to Artistic Director Jude Kelly, it also serves as a timely reminder of how important it is to provide fertile thinking space for families to enjoy the arts together, with every single one of us being capable of drawing on our own personal story, to bring out the artist inside.

Adventures in Moominland is on until 23rd April 2017
Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX
See website for details of admission times and charges

A pop-up Moomin shop is now on site and there are also participatory activities and workshops running as part of Imagine Children’s Festival in February half term

Other events and exhibitions have also been planned for Dulwich Picture Gallery and Kew Gardens.

Lucy Raven at Serpentine: Our favourite kind of screen time

We are absolutely loving the run of screen based installation art that is taking London by storm at the moment. First we were captivated by the cultural rollercoaster ride that is The Infinite Mix, then we found ourselves lost in the audible chaos of William Kentridge’s Thick Time at The Whitechapel Gallery. Now, and until mid February, the ever-intriguing Serpentine Gallery has transformed its central space into a cinema, embracing the shorter darker days outside and keeping us cosy with their winter exhibition.

New York based artist Lucy Raven is the star here, showcasing her experimental approach in her first UK solo exhibition, Edge of Tomorrow. Focussing on the marginal spaces at the edges of image production, the work uncovers the unseen teams converting Hollywood films to 3D in Chennai (The Deccan Trap, 2015), as well the painstaking process of breathing live into animation (As If I Had Actually Been To China, 2007).

The themes at play here might be a little complex for younger visitors, but that absolutely shouldn’t put you off. Outside of the strobe effects, there’s nothing to render this work unsuitable for them, in fact, it’s a lively assault on the senses, with the added entertainment of having to don 3D glasses to enjoy key pieces. Particularly enjoyable was the completely hypnotic and ever-so-slightly trippy repetition of RP31 (2012) and the brain-twisting Curtains (2014) which at times made uncomfortable viewing, giving you a perfect sense of monotony in relation to the task at hand.

In addition to the work that you will see in the day, by night the artist has curated a more formal Serpentine Cinema, which will play host to a range of screenings, from Hollywood features to short films and animations, all of which celebrate the progress that we have made in moving image technology.

Serpentine Gallery isn’t huge, so if you’re left wanting more, over the bridge, Serpentine Sackler Gallery is hosting rarely seen drawings, paintings and calligraphy by pioneering artist and architect Zaha Hadid (1950-2016). Although this work is perhaps less accessible, the scale is staggering and the opportunity to experience some of these topographic-style wonders through Virtual Reality is a big draw if you can be patient enough. Plus, what better excuse to spend longer in the vicinity of one of the most beautiful parks in London.

Serpentine Winter Exhibitions run until 12 February 2017
Serpentine Galleries, Kensington Gardens, London W2 3XA
Tuesday to Sunday, 10am-6pm. Closed 24, 25, 26 and 31 December and 1 January
Admission Free
Nearest tube: Marble Arch, Lancaster Gate

What’s nearby? Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain (open 10am-4pm), Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Playground (open 10am-3.45pm), Peter Pan Statue, Kensington Palace as well as a wealth of beautiful gardens and a lake full of ducks and swans!

There is also a family day planned for Saturday 11th February 2017.