Hello I must be going: Making Arts Aloud a reality.

After 10 long and busy months, I hope my silence has been noted.

Shortly after enjoying the V&A’s spectacular Winnie-The-Pooh: Exploring a Classic, personal events turned my life upside down. Around about the same time I was lucky enough to step onto the other side of the fence, from visitor to host, landing myself a front of house role following the reopening of my beloved Hayward Gallery.

With both of my children now in full-time education, I mourned the loss of my most authentic mouthpiece and most treasured companions. I missed the luxury of exploring endlessly in term-time, in-advance of busy weekends and holiday hoards.

Now, as I look forward to the opening of our incredible autumn show Space Shifters, one which ironically seems to be the most family friendly to date, I feel it is time for me to complete the loop and sign off from Arts Aloud.

It seems almost fitting that I am sat here watching the curatorial team meticulously lay out Yayoi Kusama’s Narcissus Garden. Kusama’s work marked a defining moment for me, following our exploration of her Obliteration Room at Tate Modern in 2012. It wasn’t the first time I had visited a gallery in my new-found role as a mother, indeed, by 18 months old, my eldest daughter was a seasoned gallery visitor. It did, however, mark the realisation that although she had enjoyed the interaction of that ‘break-out’ space, we had missed out on the full extent of Kusama’s retrospective. This seemed ironic given much of the artist’s ‘dotty’ work celebrated the idea of being overwhelmed by a space.

Having worn herself out sticking dots all over the room, my young daughter was left with very little energy to accompany me around the rest of the show. I was hugely disappointed, but perhaps for the staff in Tate Modern, this was the master plan. Somewhere in the midst of our ‘cultured day out’, I had been forced to choose between my toddler’s entertainment and my intellectual stimulation, and so Arts Aloud was born.

In the last 4 years we’ve been to over 100 events at more than 30 different arts venues, publishing reviews of exhibitions, festivals and theatre, including a number of features and theatrical performances on behalf of Londonist.

Having braved many ‘grown up’ exhibitions with both of my children in tow, I learned that children don’t need to be patronised. Each of us usually found some element of wonder in what we saw. We might not all agree, but art is meant to be divisive, and the most important thing is that we were enjoying our visit together. In the absence of any kind of guidance in the space, half of the time, like other families, we are blundering our way around, speed reading and sussing out the rules of engagement as we went, with me trying to play mother, guide and invigilator all at the same time.

Despite some overzealous gallery hosts and misinformed age guidance, time and time again we all agreed that the best place for us to look, learn, appreciate and develop our own views on art, was in the gallery itself, not in some craft-inspired, watered-down alternative that eluded the main event, in the name of making things ‘digestible’.

This experience has left me with one of the most memorable legacies of my existence, and of my babies’ childhood. After 20 years, this journey has also inspired me to return to university to study arts education, with the hope of encouraging and inspiring even more families to enjoy the arts together. In time, who knows? I might event reinvent the role that Arts Aloud plays in their lives.

Until then, thank you for reading. Go forth, be brave and explore! In the words of Anne Tucker, ‘art requires courage’, so make like an artist, expand your horizons and step into the unknown. And if you’re lucky, it might make your children more powerful too.

More than words: The V&A’s multi-sensory celebration of Pooh

Back in October half-term, for the first time ever, we made the long but eagerly awaited journey to the Roald Dahl Museum. Outside of the obvious excitement of sitting on an Enormous Crocodile bench, and them finding out they’re as tall as Matilda and a quarter of Roald Dahl, what became apparent to us all was the sheer brilliance and inseparable relationship of illustrator and author. How Dahl’s compelling characters simply couldn’t leave the page without Quentin Blake’s spirited drawings. It is this special sentiment of partnership and collaboration, that runs throughout the V&A’s brand new exhibition on Winnie-the-Pooh. The first in almost 40 years.

Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic is a journey through the evolution and inspiration behind this charming British bear, as well as the lives of creators A.A.Milne and E.H.Shepard. Spanning more than 90 years of history, the exhibition unearths extensive archives to showcase more than 200 works from 1920 to the present day. Each and every one of Milne’s characters feature in some way, shape or form, as well some super cute recreations of their magical homes.

If you’re visiting with very young children, don’t be put off by the initial appearance of a glass cabinet full of exciting relics that they can only dream of touching. Whether it provokes awe or intimidation, the entrance is a great scene-setter. As well as an entertaining opportunity to look at obscure films of Pooh incarnations from around the world, it’s also a chance to pick up the fantastic ‘bee trail’ – a series of thought-provoking panels, placed at child-height and designed to help young visitors make sense of the vast collection of letters, photographs and intricate sketches.

The low lighting can also be a distraction, but this is only in place to protect these very special drawings. So soak up the dreamy impact it has on the room, and head into the (slightly sparse) nursery, where the kids can snuggle down in a real bed and paw through books inspired by Milne’s own childhood and his son, Christopher Robin.

There’s no denying there is a lot of content on offer, but the reoccurring themes from the well-loved books sing through; friendship, community, teamwork, problem-solving. All of these ‘place-makers’ help orientate you into your surroundings, as you dash through after eager little ones, taking in bits and pieces. And it’s definitely not all artefacts, there’s plenty of tigger-style bouncy trouncy fun, fun, fun, fun, fun! There’s secret doors, hidey-holes, dressing up and loads character-based puzzles and games. There’s steps leading to a shhhhh…secret slide and the Pooh-sticks bridge would’ve been perfect if they’d have added sensory panels to detect little feet splashing in the river!

However weary you might feel by the end, try not to miss the large section at the back of the gallery, especially if visiting with primary-aged budding-illustrators. This area provides a fantastic chance to get close to the beautiful drawings of E.H.Shepard, and appreciate how this humble work brought so much warmth to Milne’s cheeky stories and prose. Particularly fascinating were the techniques employed to draw the weather, gracing stories with varying degrees of rain, simply through the score of a knife and the stroke of a brush.

Outside the story of an enduring partnership, this multi-sensory exhibition provides the perfect retrospective. The juxtaposition of intense information with space to think and play, is a fitting tribute to a charismatic bear, and a talented playwright-turned-author, who took his young audience as seriously as his old, and never dumbed things down. The exhibition serves as a reminder to those in galleries and museums, that it is possible to create an exhibition for all. When a character, writer or artist spans so many generations, why not find a way to allow their adoring public explore and celebrate them together.

Winnie-The-Pooh: Exploring a Classic 
9 December 2017 to 8 April 2018
Gallery 38, Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Rd entrance, London SW7 2RL

Admission Adults £8, children under 12 free, concessions and family tickets available. Advance booking recommended.

The V&A is hosting a series of free talks, family and schools workshops around the exhibition. See website for full listings.

5 ways to enjoy Jasper Johns with kids

With just under a month left to show, if you’ve been dragging your feet, wondering whether to visit Jasper Johns Something Resembling Truth at the Royal Academy with the kids, here is your big moment to decide.

This landmark exhibition is the first survey of his work to be held in the UK in 40 years and boasts drawings, prints and sculpture. Even if you aren’t familiar with much of his seven decade career, there’s plenty of familiar images, icons and objects which feature among the 150 plus works on display. From target boards, to lightbulbs and numbers, each subject provides its own insight into his unique take on abstract expressionism.

Challenging how we perceive our world, the exhibition covers themes like ageing, childhood and mortality, forcing us to take a closer look at the ‘truth’, the things we take for granted. It’s the epitome of the idea that ‘everyone is an artist’, and having carved his own path, what Johns has achieved is far more fun and compelling than any of his peers at the time (in my view).

We visited just after it opened, and armed with a simple sketchbook and some tracing paper, we spotted some really fun ways to enjoy the exhibition together.

1. Test your mathematical genius against Numbers (2007)
This cast aluminium grid of numbers from zero through nine was created in response to John’s original painting Numbers (1964), his only public commission created in sculpt metal.

Can you spot casts of house keys and an imprint of choreographer Merce Cunningham’s foot near the upper right-hand corner? These aspects link it to the original 1964 work.

What number do you get from adding up a row? And what about the columns? Is this the same number?

How many sequences can you spot if you read the numbers diagonally across the piece?

2. Number drawing conundrum
In a room full of number lithographs, seek out 0 Through 9 (1960). Here, Johns cleverly sketches numbers which are scaled and superimposed over one another, making it difficult to make out their individual forms.

Make like Jasper Johns and challenge the familiarity of the everyday!

Fold a piece of A4 paper in half to create an A5 box, or draw a box in the middle of a piece of paper. Try to copy numbers 0 through to 9 into this box, one on top of the other, same size, same scale, without taking your pencil of the paper.

Looking at your completed work, how easy is it to determine each of the numbers you’ve drawn?

3. False Start (1959) Brainteaser
Painting features heavily in Jasper Johns early career, but not content with just producing paintings that were simply ‘viewed’ or ‘seen’, he wanted to provoke a greater interaction, a playful sense of irony and deeper thought.

As a result, so many of his paintings are characterised by what they are made of, or their scale, composition and colour.

Starting from the top of this piece, can you get all the way to the bottom, ignoring the colour painted, and instead naming the colour which has been written?

4. The artist within
In Room 5 In The Studio Untitled (1964) is one example of where  Jasper Johns began to add tools and materials to his work in order to give us an idea what it’s really like to be an artist.

Can you name all of the primary colours featured in this work?

How many tools or objects can you spot and what do you think they might have been used for?

This work is unsigned and untitled, but what has the artist done to leave his mark? If this was your work, how would people know it’s yours? How would you leave your mark?

5. Memory Tracings
In a room dedicated to memories and identity, with much inspiration drawn from the artist’s youngest years, it seems fitting that the art of tracing is firmly dragged away from ‘child’s play’ and used to serious effect providing a fresh perspective on the work of Freud, Picasso and Grünewald.

If you have a piece of thin or tracing paper with you, have a go at tracing a picture in this section by holding the tracing paper up in the air, in front of the piece, and trace its form as if it was on a table in front of you.

If you don’t have a piece of tracing paper, it doesn’t matter. Pick a picture in this section, step back from it, close one eye and trace around lines, figures and shapes using an index finger.

How easy is it to keep to the original, and does it matter?

What else would you add to this new tracing to make it your own?

For more ideas on how to make the most of the exhibition if you’re visiting with children, pick up an Art Detectives pack from the information desk at the Royal Academy, with more questions, challenges and things to spot in the exhibition (suitable for 4+, with assistance).

Jasper Johns Something Resembling Truth is on at the Royal Academy of Art until 10th December.
Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BD.
Admission Adults £19 full price (£17 without Gift Aid donation), concessions available, children under 16 and Friends of the RA go free. All tickets include a multimedia guide.
Open daily 10am – 6pm, until 9pm on Fridays.

Arts Aloud Review: Taking Cézanne Portraits at face value

Almost a year to the day since we braved the half term chaos to enjoy the opening days of Picasso Portraits, we found ourselves battling the crowds again at the National Portrait Gallery, keen to explore one of the most eagerly awaited exhibitions of the year.

Cézanne Portraits brings together for the first time, over fifty of the artist’s portraits from collections all over the world, celebrating some of his most iconic pieces and uncovering a number of works seen for the very first time on British soil.

I’ve long carried affection for this ‘father’ of the Post-Impressionist era, but admittedly my exposure has been limited to reoccurring images of his landscape Mont Sainte-Victoire, or his fruity still life arrangements. A somewhat underwhelming introduction for my companions perhaps, but with thousands of paintings produced throughout his life, under 200 of which were portraits, we could at least agree that what we were about to see was very special, and more importantly, new for us all.

Armed with sketchbooks and a spectrum of coloured pencils to pay homage to his bold colours, the girls were excited to be back in this magnificent gallery and couldn’t wait to start exploring. Sadly, the position of Room 1 smack bang in front of the main entrance, created an unpleasant bottleneck from the outset, rendering The Artist’s Father, Reading “L”Evénement and Self Portrait c.1862-4 almost impossible to view, and failing to provide the introduction that both the artist and these eager young viewers deserved.

By the third room, space began to level out, with the man himself replaced by evolving portraits of his Uncle Dominique, providing the perfect cue to plot down and pay closer attention. We really enjoyed the imperfections of work in this room, with so many of the pieces feeling like a test run for the larger work. His distinctive manière couillarde style, also caught us by surprise. Scared to represent his heavy-handed use of paint with their meagre art pencils, the children instead used adjectives to describe his expression, appearing to have sat so long, yet left with so many details seemingly incomplete. Impatient, bored, dull, fidgety.

Lessons in conserving canvas was another highlight for this room, where Cézanne’s sister and mother are displayed back to back, resulting in his poor mum being viewed upside down on her debut in London. We had to giggle.

As we journeyed through his life and his work, the boldness of his palette knife and the non compliance of his sitters, seemed to continue in earnest, with Madame Cézanne capturing even more of their imagination by Room 7.

Without the urgency to clamber over other visitors in order to spy the iconic set of self portraits, or the famous Man with Pipe, they instead flocked to the fabulous skirt of Madame Cézanne in a Red Armchair, hair in bun, lips pursed, hands folded and unresolved. One of twenty-nine completed portraits of his wife, Hortense Fiquet, the children surmised that she must have sat for so many pictures, she didn’t even bother to look up for Madame Cézanne Sewing. Her narrow eyes in one piece made me think they had a point.

With lengthy wall panels to digest and growing crowds, the atmosphere began to move from enjoyment to intensity, with attention starting to wane. We had just enough time for a quick mid-gallery loo stop (handy) and to marvel at the angel-like translucency that the artist had gifted his son’s skin in The Artist’s Son. It was interesting to see how his touch became more gentle and colours had become lighter, almost watercolour, as he faded into his later years.

As we escaped into the fresh air and freedom of London’s west end, heading onto St. James’ Park, we had no regrets about making the visit. We might not have had the energy or endurance to complete every room, or enjoy the additional children’s activities on the first floor, but we felt that we had made the right choice in focusing on the main show. We were grateful to the gallery attendants for batting away the few ‘old guard’ objections that came from us sitting and sketching, but what was really missing was a guide of some description to bring Cézanne’s form, friendships and focus to life, to wade us through the jargon and smooth our passage.

From unknown entity to surprise hit, it was testament to this magnificent body of work that we took away so much discussion around what we had seen. With so little to go on before, during and after we left, all we could do was take each room, each piece and each detail at face value. Surely the best way to tackle any world-class collection of portraits, don’t you think?

Cezanne Portraits is at the National Portrait Gallery until 11 February 2018
St. Martin’s Place, London WC2H 0HE
Opening hours: Sat to Weds 10am-6pm, Thurs and Fri 10am-9pm
Admission Adults £20 (including donation), Children under 12 free, concessions available

Last chance to see…Frieze Sculpture

I’ve haven’t lived in north-west London, so unless visiting London Zoo, Regent’s Park has never been on my radar. Having spent the entire summer holidays intending to head on over but never quite managing it, with the promise of an unseasonably warm Sunday, we packed a picnic ready to explore Frieze Sculpture before it ends on the 8th October.

Featuring 24 brand new works by leading artists including Alicja Kwade and Eduardo Paolozzi, this is the first time Frieze has ever curated a free summer exhibition in the park, ahead of the main London art fair.

Before we’d even found the sculpture walk, we stumbled upon the unusual Marylebone Green Playground, less than 5 minutes stroll from Regent’s Park station. Subject to its own artistic refurbishment in 2013, the space now sports 3 distinct zones, with the original play equipment forming the Traditional Zone, scattered logs and boulders forming the Natural Play Zone and brutalist geometric shapes and rendered walls forming the Art Play Zone. Apart from being surrounded by the building site of the Frieze Art Fair under construction, this hidden gem of a playground, popular with international residents and visitors, was an immediate crowd-pleaser and the perfect antidote to any long tube journey.

With the promise of a picnic, we made the short stroll through the immaculate Avenue Gardens, passing well-heeled ladies, tennis couples and cats on leads (!), to the beautiful English Gardens, a visual treat I’m sure at any time of year. Immediately struck by the scale and variety of sculpture on offer, our excited companions dashed off to explore, leaving us hot on their heels, reading the riot act about no touching or climbing.

With a showcase of work on this scale, in such a playful setting, it’s so tempting for little ones to view it as an extension of the playground, but with some smart ways to enjoy the multiplicity of sizes, shapes and subjects, you’ll soon avoid sounding like a broken record.

Our pick of the bunch which were just as fun to look at, without getting hands on were:

Ugo Rondinone’s Summer Moon (S3) With the appearance of a mysterious ghost tree, this man-made white-enamelled re-creation of a 1000 year old olive tree, creates a magical shimmer in the sunlight.

Rasheed Araeen’s Summertime (S7) The Regent’s Park – Looking somewhat like a multicoloured scaffolding, this window-like structure was fun to walk around, looking across at each other through the shapes and watching them change as we moved.

Michael Craig-Martin’s Wheelbarrow (S8) Seemingly at home in the surrounding gardens, yet completely incapable of holding anything in its reduced flat structure, hours of fun can be spent playing with perspective by taking photos from a distance.

KAWS Final Days (S10) If the weird criss-cross eyes don’t creep the kids out, fun can be had growling and stomping towards this Smurf-like toy-cum-monster, by a once prolific street artist.

Bernar Venet’s 17 Acute Unequal Angles (S17) Welded together from Corten Steel (not wooden as it appears), we found ourselves up-close to maths, walking around and under, counting all 17 angles as we went.

Hank Willis Thomas Endless Column (S15) Impossible to miss, like a beacon of play to most children in the sculpture park, this towering sculpture of footballs was by-far the most photographed sculpture in the park. Inspired by Constantin Brancusi’s Endless Column, the piece comments on the room for growth in the relationship between sport, black identity, popular culture.

Beyond the sculpture trail, the beautiful bridges and boating lake can make for a perfect addition to a day out. If the whole family on a pedalo at £28 and hour is too much to stomach, there’s children’s only pedalos in a mini lake at a more palatable £4 per child (20 minutes).

Frieze Sculpture ends on the 8th October
Regents Park English Gardens, Chester Rd, London NW1 4NR
Daily 5am to 7pm, admission free.

Download the Frieze Sculpture Audio Tour and Map for more information.

X Play, Don’t Play. Walala’s immersive maze left us puzzled

Anyone who knows me well will know that public art is one of my passions. As a director of Brockley Street Art Festival, the work of designer Camille Walala has inspired me again and again, producing brilliant examples of how enjoyable and accessible art is right there on the street. Her incredible Dream Come True mural for Splice, brightening up the Shoreditch streetscape. Her inspired Southwark crossing, bringing colour to an everyday pedestrian journey during last year’s London Design Festival. To say I’m a big fan is an understatement. So imagine how excited I was to hear that she’d been commissioned to create an immersive installation of her trademark colours and patterns, at one of my local galleries, just in time for the school holidays.

Described as a ‘temple of wonder’, Walala x Play sees the creation of a maze-like installation at Greenwich Peninsula’s lesser-known NOW Gallery, inviting visitors to fathom out the anomalies and asymmetries in the design, by exploring every nook and cranny of this compact three-dimensional space.

Due to popularity, visitors must pre-book a 15 minute slot to view. Visiting with my daughter (age 6) and our friends (with children aged 6 and 2), the glass aspect of the gallery on approach slightly spoilt the surprise. However, there was still plenty of enthusiasm as we neared the entrance, even after the steely front of house had read and re-read us the rules.

Take a wrist band.
Shoes off.
No running.
Do not touch the walls.
Do not sit on any part of the structure.
Children must be accompanied at all times.
Children aren’t allowed to view the maze from the mezzanine level.
This is an art installation and not a soft play area.

We get it. But did they need to be so heavy-handed that they forgot to welcome us in any way? Or tell us to have fun? And what about the artist and the work? Did they not warrant a mention? Looks like they forgot about that too.

Once inside, we found ourselves amongst some of the most playful ‘don’t-play’ art that we have ever experienced. It was impossible to stay together, as our young companions darted through narrow passages, only to emerge in the most unexpected of places. We gazed into mirrors, but our reflections were elsewhere. Instead of corners, we found dead-ends. Instead of space, we’d been squished. We were fooled again and again, and it was bending our small, medium and large minds. This, together with the dazzling colours and patterns, soon made us feel like we’d been sucked into a human kaleidoscope, twisted and spun around and around.  It was so much fun (sorry), and a brilliant way to experience the creative conundrum that goes on inside this incredible artist’s imagination.

Spat out of the labyrinth and back into the foyer, we marvelled at the super cute mechanical model of the neighbouring Emirates Air Line, high above our heads, before peeking our noses into the cosy cinema. Don’t be fooled by the writing on the wall though, there’s no Timelapse of Walala x Play happening in here. It’s just a hangover from the Walala opening night. There is, however, a clever Minecraft style interactive map of the Greenwich Peninsula and its surrounds, worth a play if you’re allowed and have the time to linger. Outside in Peninsula Gardens there is also more fun (not) to be had, in the form of two unique ping-pong tables adorned with Walala’s lively designs. Bats and balls are apparently available to borrow from the Now Gallery reception. That is if you’re brave enough to go back in and ask for them, or indeed, old enough to play.

Walala x Play is in at NOW Gallery, Greenwich Peninsula until 24th September. 
Opening times: Mon to Fri 10am-7pm, Sat & Sun 11am-4pm.
Admission Free.
15 minute viewing slots should be booked via the eventbrite.

Whilst you’re there: As well as nearby Emirates Air Line, take a 15 minute walk down East Parkside and get close to nature at Greenwich Ecology Centre. From here you can double back along the Olympian Way river path, spying the many flotsam and jetsam sculptures. 

Arts-lovers guide to summer family fun

However much time you have to spend with the children over the school holidays, the arts is awash with some fantastic family friendly fun, with many events and activities happening all summer long. Here’s my arts-lovers guide to a summer of family fun!

S is for Shakespeare’s Globe

Celebrating literature and the art of storytelling, from 28-30 July the globe hosts everything from talks with Michael Morpurgo to interactive Shakespeare workshops. Advance booking highly recommended. See website for tickets and times.

U is for Udderbelly

Catch the last few gems of this family spectacular, which has been occupying the South Bank since April. The Australian acrobats staging Children Are Stinky (22-27 July) wowed the crowds at Edinburgh last year with their daredevil stunts, whilst Jungle Book (1-24 August) brings Rudyard Kipling’s well-known tale bang up to date, setting it in an urban jungle and packing it with street dance and circus.

M is for Museum Trips for Kids

Remember our recent trip to David Hockney with Imagine Art Club? Bringing artists and exhibitions to life in a way that so few galleries do, the enigmatic Aga returns with a host of visits planned to fill the dying days of the holidays. The sessions, which combine an informative exhibition tour with some practical art techniques, take in Matisse at the Royal Academy (29 & 30 August) and Fahrelnissa Zeid’s abstract art at Tate Modern (3 September).

M is for Mad Hatter!

Les Petits will be occupying the atmospheric tunnels of The Vaults almost every day of the summer holidays, with their immersive interpretation of C S Lewis’ classic, Adventures in Wonderland (until 3 September). If you’re looking for something more summery, Sixteenfeet Productions are presenting their own unique retelling in some of London’s loveliest green spaces, including Brockwell Park (22 July to 31 August), Morden Hall Park (4-7 August), Streatham Rookery (10-14 August) and Osterley Park (16-20 August). There’s also a chance to attend a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

E is for Eclectic

National Theatre’s free River Stage returns to the South Bank for almost the entire summer break this year, promising an eclectic mix of live theatre, DJs, family fun, dance, cinema, workshops and live music. Don’t miss the all-female performance troupe Figs in Wigs and their creative tribute to the 80s (29 July, 15.15) and The Jukeboxes (5 August, 12.00 and 14.45) who recreate classic pop videos using props, puppets and wigs. There’s also a beat-boxing vocal workshop with UK beatboxing champion Grace Savage (12 August, 14.00).

R is for Royal Academy

A few weeks ago I reviewed the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition on behalf of Kids in Museums, and I was so impressed at the endless variety of work, from world-renowned artists such as Tracey Emin and Bob and Roberta Smith, to emerging artists and architects. We also loved the handy Art Detectives pack, free to family visitors in order for them to get the most out of the show. See website for details of tickets and opening times. Exhibition runs until 20 August. While you’re there, as part of exhibition Second Nature: The Art of Tunnicliffe, there’s also the RA’s first ever dedicated family corner with permanent activities, as well as a series of workshops and story-tellings.

O is for Outdoor Art

It should really be P is for Pavilion, as both the Serpentine and Dulwich Picture Gallery celebrate all that is great about art in the outdoors, showing off their spectacular summer pavilions. As well as a family day (22 July) Serpentine are hosting a programme of lunchtime talks, whilst every Wednesday in August, Dulwich Picture Gallery will be hosting drop-in art making sessions for families, inspired by their exhibition Sargent: The Watercolours, and the design of their first ever pavilion. If you love outdoor art, make sure you also don’t miss Frieze Sculpture 2017 (until 8 October). This first-ever summer display of sculpture in the English Gardens of Regents Park is absolutely free, and brings together 25 new works by leading 20th-century artists and contemporary artists from around the world.

F is for Festival

Nobody does festivals better than Southbank Centre and alongside the usual beach and water fountain fun, the Summertime festival extends this year’s theme of Nordic Matters with contemporary circus Cirkus Cirkör (13-16 August), the continuation of Adventures in Moominland (until 20 August) and a weekend celebrating Swedish feasting, craft and Nordic music (19-20 August).

F is for Framed Film Club

Framed Film Festival returns to Barbican later in the year but the Framed Film Club picks up again every Saturday in September with a programme specially curated by children’s films by author Jamila Gavin. Popular kids flick Ratatouille sneaks into the end of the summer holidays (2 September, 11am), but more exciting is The Adventures of Prince Achmed (9 September) with introduction from Ms Gavin herself, as well as a live musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne. See website for tickets and age restrictions.

U is for Up

Well, Pop Up. As well as your last chance to catch the immersive exhibition The Fantastic World of Dr. Seuss (ends 3 September), this summer, Discover Story Centre will be staging 2 pop-up playgrounds. Illustrators and artists Pencil & Help will be hosting a Pop-Up Poetry Playground (5-20 August) where you can make a poem out of big bendy shapes and draw a poem to take home with you, then artist Kristi Minchin unveils her interactive Geometric Playground (21 August to 3 September) with cogs to turn, levers to pull and pendulums to swing. See website for opening times and details of day passes. Entry is free from 21 July to 14 August to those living or working in Newham.

N is for National Portrait Gallery

Inspired by the BP Portrait Award 2017, the gallery has planned a programme of free family workshops and activities (24 July to 4 August) including painting, drawing and a chance to learn more about judging a portrait competition. The jewel in the crown is the  special Playdoh Portraits session (20 August, 13.00 for 3+, 15.00  for 7+) with artist Eleanor Macnair, where visitors recreate a portrait from the gallery’s collection using nothing but play doh. Tickets are free and available one hour before the event.