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.

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.

5 Family Friendly Highlights from the London Design Festival

Every year I’m astounded by how accessible the London Design Festival is for families. I visited with my daughter for the first time in 2015, since then I’ve made it my mission to get more families to support this inspirational event, which celebrates London as the design capital of the world. From light installations to typographic self portraits, here’s my top tips for families to enjoy at this year’s festival.

1. Enhance your mood at Villa Walala

Fresh from her immersive installation at Now Gallery this summer, graphic artist and textile designer Camille Walala is back, this time bringing her signature bright colours and bold stripes to an inflatable break-out space in the heart of Liverpool Street. Created with the help of Go Visual, this giant playful palace will liven up lunchtime for even the stuffiest of suited city workers.

Villa Walala, Exchange Square, Broadgate, 16-24 September, 7am-9pm, Admission Free.

2. Immerse yourself in Flynn Talbot’s Reflection Room

Originally home to over 30,000 textile samples, this is the first time the V&A Prince Consort Gallery has been transformed as part of the festival. Illuminating the space from floor to ceiling in orange and blue hues, this dramatic light installation takes up the entire length of the 35m gallery, creating a colourful walkway, reflected by 56 Barrisol panels.

Reflection Room by Flynn Talbot, Prince Consort Gallery Room 110, Victoria & Albert Museum, 16-24 September, 10am-5.45pm, Admission Free

3. Retreat inside Mini Living’s Urban Cabin

With a shiny mirrored outside to reflect London’s rich and ever-evolving cityscape, this urban retreat is designed to bring city dwellers together with aspects that they may be lacking in their daily lives. Complete with its own shared kitchen and micro library, visitors are invited into the space to explore the very best of London through historic literature, and to share their own stories and experiences of life in London town.

Mini Living – Urban Cabin, Oxo Tower Wharf Courtyard, 16-24 September, 11am-9pm, Admission Free.

4. Create your own typographic selfie

Nobody wants to be a Comic Sans right? This free workshop hosted by Type Tasting Director, Sarah Hyndman, provides visitors with an opportunity to escape the Arial Narrow choice of fonts we use in our day-to-day lives, and instead customise a font which they feel reflects their Superclarendon personality! Each of the fonts are then added to a public display, which over the weekend will create a Courier New and exciting collection of typographic self portraits.

Font Selfie Workshop: What’s your font? Design Studio, Sackler Centre for arts education, Victoria and Albert Museum, 16-17 September, 11am-5pm, Admission Free.

5. Marvel at the opulence of Transmission

Designer Ross Lovegrove’s brings the V&A’s Tapestries Gallery to life, through creating a spectacular 21 meter long free-standing piece, inspired by the folds in the red gown worn by a lady featured in one of the hunting scenes. As well as providing a different perspective with which to view the surrounding wall hangings, the work, produced by colouring and digital embroidery, has been created using a tactile sound absorbant material called Alcantara, complete with gold and silver threads which emulate the richness of the surrounding scenes and celebrating the opulence of the era.

Transmission, Tapestries, Room 94, Victoria and Albert Museum, Daily 10am-5.45pm (except Friday 10am-10pm). Admission Free.

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.

7 Step Guide to First-Time Edinburgh Fringe for Families

Last year’s Edinburgh Fringe was momentous for me. Alongside putting together my definitive Best of Free Edinburgh Fringe for Families, for the first time ever since being footloose and child-free, I decided to let my children (aged 5 and 3) in on the fun, organising a week-long break to take in Edinburgh Fringe. I entered into this decision completely accepting that our experience might be unrecognisable from what we’d enjoyed in the past, yet contrary to my assumptions, it was one of the most memorable family holidays we have ever had. It wasn’t, however, without its challenges. What I learned forms an invaluable guide for those visiting this year with children.

1. Book early to avoid bankruptcy

If you’re reading this planning to visit this year, and you haven’t yet booked flights or accommodation, it’s likely you’ve already missed the boat. The cheapest flights are on sale up to a year in advance, but booking in the sale at the end of the year prior, can usually yield good results. We paid approx £400 return for 2 adults and 2 children (including seat selection) from London City to Edinburgh with Flybe. Easyjet and Ryanair also provide affordable alternatives from a range of UK airports, and occasionally British Airways muster up a bargain. Alongside travel, the price of accommodation in Edinburgh can swell by more than 30% during the fringe, with family options limited, depending on how comfy you want to be. Airbnb is obviously a great option, but ensure you’re centrally located or the daily commute could really take its toll. We stayed in Holyrood Aparthotel, just a stone’s throw from The Pleasance, offering all the comfort and services of a hotel (daily cleaning, concierge, safe, free wi-fi, family friendly) but with the flexibility of self catering, saving us on lunches out and evening meals. Our 2 bed apartment with fully equipped kitchen cost approximately £1100 for 5 nights, but there are less glam options from around £850. It was great to have a base to escape when we needed to, and the kids settled in a treat. It was our home from home.

2. Never underestimate the power of planning

If you think you can just rock up, pick up a programme and point and shoot, you’re wrong. Edinburgh’s Fringe programme is immense and unless you take the time and effort to familiarise yourself with what’s on offer for you, you’ll be well and truly bamboozled. Far from sapping the life out of spontaneity, creating an activity wish list by day and time was a brilliant way of wading through the haze. We still embraced so many of the flyers waved in our faces, but it enabled us to be much more nimble. By having plenty of back-up, we never missed anything that we really wanted to see, and there was no confused panic if events were cancelled or didn’t live up to expectations. For planning, the Fringe website has come a long way in terms of usability, with the range of performances well categorised, easy to find and book. There is, however, definitely still some value in rooting through the many pages of the pre-ordered printed programme with a highlighter pen to choose your goals. Similar planning principles should also be applied to any eateries that you are keen to try. Historic Edinburgh’s restaurants and cafés generally lack space, especially during the busy festival season, so always carry a picnic in the day and book ahead for popular dinner venues, such as yummy pizza pick Amarone, beautifully housed in an old banking hall.

3. It’s not all child’s play

When it comes to choosing what to see and do, there’s no right or wrong. Edinburgh has everything from Shakespeare for Kids and science shows, to mad cap magic. There’s even a kids pub quiz! My husband and I did our own shortlist based on what we liked, what the kids might like and what was new and unusual, then we merged it all together. Visiting with children also doesn’t have to mean you’re limited to the children’s shows. There are almost 800 performances classified as ‘U’ or ‘Universally Suitable For All’ with only 131 of these listed as children’s shows. Providing they aren’t in an unsuitable venue (e.g. age restricted pub), don’t stipulate age, are at a time that works for you and aren’t too lengthy for fidgety bottoms, you can seek out something for you all to enjoy. Perhaps (if you need to) pre-book one or two things that you know the kids will love, so that you have some guaranteed big-hitters. For example Les Petits’ First Hippo On The Moon by David Walliams is running for the majority of the festival at The Pleasance, and can be booked in advance through the Edinburgh Fringe website. Bagging a dead-cert might leave the door open for you all to experiment elsewhere.

4. Free, can be stress free

The beauty of ‘free’ is the right to bail at any time, without loss of money or more importantly, loss of face! This year’s programme has well over 100 free performances, activities and events under the ‘U’ classification, 17 of which are children’s shows. The PBH Free Fringe is a great place to start, as is the Free Festival, yielding everything from children’s theatre such as Blue Bird, Ceilidh Kids dance lessons for children and adults and the (almost) educational Science Magic. There’s also free fringe music every day in the glass-roofed hall of the National Museum of Scotland, plus don’t miss its stunning views from the recently refurbished roof terrace. Virgin Money’s Fringe on the Royal Mile is also a brilliant place to watch free previews of hundreds of Fringe shows, making it a great place to discover gems beyond the children’s programme.

5. Be realistic about what you can achieve in a day

You might be on holiday and you might be at Edinburgh, but avoid the temptation to pack out your agenda more than you’d ever dream of at home. Try to cluster your activities into one or two neighbourhoods, to avoid trawling back and forth across the city (as we did when we were child-free). This is where your wish list from Step 2 will serve you well, giving you a chance to stroll and take impromptu stops, exploring the many hidden gems of this beautiful city. There are also some great hubs that you can head to if you’re at a loose end, such as The Pleasance Courtyard, where there’s always craft activities on offer for visiting children.

6. Be prepared to ditch the buggy

Although the Georgian New Town is more accessible, the Medieval Old Town causes havoc with any stroller, with parents having to endure the stress of busy, narrow pavements, whilst little ones experience bone-shaker sensations generated by the prevalence of historic cobbles. Laden with an almost unusable buggy board and having not brought along a toddler-carrier, we had to resort to carrying our youngest quite a bit. Yet another great reason to be realistic with your daily quest.

7. Take a Break

If you’ve made it here to Step no. 7, you should have done everything you need to sit back and relax, as much as you can when on holiday with children.  As with any city break (especially this one during festival time) it’s busy and it’s hectic, and it can take its toll, especially on very young family members. The good news is that Edinburgh’s parks are plentiful. Whether the wilds of Holyrood Park (the gateway to King Arthur’s Seat) or the brilliant children’s playground at The Meadows, there’s plenty of break-out space for children of all ages to let loose. Less than an hour from the city by bus, beautiful beaches are also abound, such as the swathes of beach-combing sand at Portobello. This Victorian seaside suburb has bags of character, pretty beachfront cafés and more recently, a few chichi shops, making it a great option for an escape. Once at the beach, all that remains is to give yourself a huge pat on the back for clawing back your old life, whilst introducing your children to one of the everlasting giants of the arts scene.

Edinburgh Fringe runs from the 4th to 28th August. 

Share your Edinburgh highs and lows this summer by tagging me on Instagram or Twitter and as they say in Scotland; Whit’s fur ye’ll no go past ye, or whatever is meant to happen to you, will happen to you! Good luck and happy hols!

Review: Imagine Art Club, David Hockney for Kids

A focussed way to tackle big exhibitions with kids, with no time for boredom to set in.

When Imagine Art Club founder, museum educator and visual artist Agnieszka Arabska created her David Hockney for Kids event, it was met with an unprecedented response. I was one of over 17,000 people who spotted the event on Facebook, which saw almost 7000 people express an interest in attending and over 600 people confirm their place. Whether it was the draw of one of Britain’s greatest contemporary artists, or Tate’s unwavering popularity at attracting families, it reinforced our shared opinion that children just aren’t suitably catered for when galleries stage major exhibitions.

Established in 2012 in Hanwell, West London, Aga’s successful Saturday School and After School Club combines practical art activities across a range of materials, with interesting ways to learn about artists and art movements. This includes devising child-friendly visits to important museums and galleries in London.

When I first visited David Hockney back in February, I commented on Tate’s lack of family provision for this exhibition. Now, in its closing weeks, I found myself back at Tate Britain with my eldest daughter (aged 6), to road-test one of Imagine Art Club’s trips, feeling lucky to have bagged myself a place on their sell-out run.

Communication before the event was very good, with clear meeting points and start times, and permission forms to sign. When we arrived, we found the group, with Agnieszka impossible to miss, checking off our names whilst showcasing her colourful Hockney socks.

The group size was small and intimate (around 10) which was ample for such a crowded space. Most children were aged 6 to 10 years and left their parents at the door, but accompanying (paying) adults were welcome for those not quite yet at that stage.

Before we entered, we gathered into the corner for a short ‘story’, the tale of sugar magnate, art collector and founder, Sir Henry Tate, and a simple introduction to David Hockney as well. Pitched perfectly, the ‘briefing’ was gentle and slow, with questions to get them thinking and an invitation to chip in. A frisson of excitement ran through the group, as each child received their sketchbook and some freshly sharpened pencils.

Dividing into two smaller groups, we headed in and straight to Hockney’s photo collages housed in Room 7. It was great to enter with purpose, but I did have to hurry my young companion, who seemed keen to take in much of what we’d passed.

Huddled in the corner again, we talked about Polaroid and the art of photo collage, before moving slowly from piece to piece, observing the technique in action. Everyone enjoyed counting the vast numbers of photos used and spotting signs of Hockney with his cheeky tip-toe presence. We even created our own collages, using colourful sheets of cleverly prepared stickers.

Next stop was Room 4, home to Hockney’s infamous A Bigger Splash. We sat down right in front and talked about the painting. What did it remind us of? How do we know he is somewhere hot? How do we find Hockney in the picture? The process was the same, with the children challenged to question, think and look, before recreating for themselves.

Further fun activities included searching for life-like textures amongst Hockney’s double portraits and adding our own rich colour to Hockney’s Hawthorne Blossom Near Rudston (2008) in a room full of his Yorkshire paintings. Our time spent with Hockney’s digital and screen time work was all too brief, before we had to exit via the gift shop. The remainder of our time as a group was then spent making cards and writing messages for David Hockney, who celebrates his 80th birthday in July.

Imagine Art Club’s gallery trip was a breath of fresh air. In a world where all too often family or children’s gallery activities are unstructured arts and crafts, happening outside the exhibition space with little or no link to what’s going on next door. These guided exhibition tours take the learning back into the gallery, losing none of the opportunity for creativity, but re-writing your typical curator tours in a fun and interactive way.

For newbie gallery visitors, the trips are highly educational and a low-risk way to ensure you really make the most of your ticket. For those perhaps used to spending more time in this space, the schedule might feel limiting, lacking flexibility and freedom to explore what takes your fancy. In the room packed with spectacular double portraits, we spent so long spotting textures in our books, we didn’t always step back and appreciate the magnificence of the bigger picture. Similarly, my daughter commented that she would have loved to have spent longer watching Hockney’s iPad creations unfold, “…because that’s what it’s all about mummy, isn’t it?” That is what it’s about for her. On the whole, however, the experience was highly positive, and we both agreed that we learned so much more and looked so much deeper than if we’d have gone it alone. It was the perfect supplement to our usual visits, and a real treat for bigger exhibitions.

The next Imagine Art Club visit is on the 21st May.
See Facebook page for details of American Dream for Kids at the British Museum.
Imagine Art Club runs on Saturday, 10am-12pm or 1-3pm, £27.
There is also an After School Club.


Family friendly arts activities for Easter

Whether you’re running out of ideas at the end of week one, or you’ve just broken up with the holidays ahead of you, the arts have excelled this Easter with a whole host of treats from across the spectrum. Here’s my top picks for families.

David Hockney at Tate Britain
Until 29th May, 10am to 6pm, Adults £19.50, Children £17.50, Under 12s free (up to four per family), All ages
If you weren’t aware that one of the greatest British artists of our time is currently exhibiting his biggest every collection of work at Tate Britain, where have you been? Alongside a host of famous works, his spectacular double portraits and mind-blowing digital work makes this unmissable for kids.

Vuelos by Aracaladanza at Sadlers Wells
14th April 3pm, 15th April 11am and 3.30pm, Adults £18, Children £12, Recommended age 5+
Inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s quest to make man fly, this playful production will leave young viewers wanting to take flight! Forming the centrepiece of Sadler’s Wells annual Family Weekend, the performance dates are accompanied by a mini festival, as the doors of this seemingly intimidating venue are being thrown open for families, inviting them to take part in storytelling, workshops, games and craft activities. If this isn’t enough, Sadler’s Wells still have a few tickets left for their infamous My First Ballet, off-site at the Peacock Theatre.

Wicked Wednesdays workshops at Wilton’s Music Hall
12th April, 11am to 3pm, Free, Recommended age 6+
Any opportunity to introduce the children to this London treasure housed in a fascinating part of the East End, is not to be missed. Using the original Victorian wallpaper in the Mahogany bar as inspiration, families are invited to design and make their own, in this free to drop-in creative workshop.

We’re Stuck! at Shoreditch Town Hall
12th to 15th April, various show times, Adults £12, Children £10, Recommended age 7-12
Whilst we are on the subject of magnificent historical buildings, not a million miles down the road, this Grade II listed wonder is debuting a brand new interactive show for children, inspired by the latest educational neuroscience around our relationship with maths. Using comedy, clowning and general silliness, the show promises a voyage of discovery exploring how amazing and utterly rubbish our brains can be at maths – and how we can best grow our grey matter.

Tudor Tales and Treats at The Charterhouse
14th April 2017, 11am to 3pm, Drop in suggested donation £3, All ages
As part of a pan-London celebration of literature, Cityread has teamed up with the unique Charterhouse to transport visitors back to the 16th century, in a family day packed with storytelling, sweet-making and traditional Tudor dance. Once a monastery, a boys school, a private mansion and now an almshouse, you couldn’t pick a more atmospheric location to explore SJ Parris’ Tudor thriller Prophecy, the focus of a number of more grown-up events as part of this year’s collective read.

Urban Festival at Southbank Centre
Until 17th April, See website for full programme and admission charges, all ages.
No half term would be complete without a trip to the Southbank Centre, and for those who have chosen to stay in London over half term and celebrate the art and artists of our city, Urban Festival is most definitely for you. Quite a bit of the pre bookable programme is now sold out, but if you miss the free Fun DMC hip-hop disco in the Clore Ballroom this weekend, then definitely drop in to Craft the City on 15th and 16th April and create your own city of the future entirely out of cardboard.