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.

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

London Design Festival: 6 Amazing Family-Friendly Installations

The London Design Festival started last weekend, with a view to promoting everything that is great and good about the city’s creativity. The event is running at various venues across the capital, and as well as a host of dedicated family events, including an 80’s Pop-Up Dress Up & Dance performance and Alice in Wonderland inspired workshops, there is also an immense collection of family-friendly installation work.

Here’s 6 of the best on display until the festival closes this Sunday.

1. The Drawing Room, Faye Toogood
Literal depiction of a drawing room, where visitors can relax in an environment that evokes a derelict country house, where surroundings have literally been drawn in.
West Wing Galleries Somerset House, 21-27 Sept Mon-Wed & Sun 10am-6pm, Thu-Sat 10am-9pm, Free

2. My Grandfather’s Tree, Max Lamb
When an old ash tree on his grandfather’s farm started to rot, Max was keen for it to take on a new life beyond its original roots. The result is 130 logs all created from sections of the tree and laid out in order of diameter, with the 187 annual growth rings clearly visible.
The Embankment Galleries – Mezzanine & Studio, Somerset House, 21-27 Sept Mon-Wed & Sun 10am-6pm, Thu-Sat 10am-9pm, Free

3. The Wave, Alex Rasmussen with Neal Feay
The West Wing Galleries will be awash with 700+ anodized aluminum panels, invisibly fastened to form a structural swell, reflecting crystalline shades of Pacific blue.
West Wing Galleries Somerset House, 21-27 Sept Mon-Wed & Sun 10am-6pm, Thu-Sat 10am-9pm, Free

4. Tower of Babel
A monument to the great British pastime of shopping, the tower stands 6m high and comprises of 3000 bone china shops, each depicting a real London shop as photographed by the artist.
Brompton Design District, Medieval & Renaissance 1350-1600 The Paul and Jill Ruddock Gallery, Room 50a, Level 1, Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, 19-27 Sept, Mon-Sun 10am-5.45pm, Free

5. The Cloakroom
Don one of the 150 navigational Toogood coats from Room 55 and be guided to 10 places in the Museum galleries where unique sculptural garments offer a response to items in the Museum’s collection.
V&A Museum, Britain 1500-1760, The Clore Study Area, Room 55, Level 2, Cromwell Road, 19-27 Sept, Mon-Sun 10am-5.45pm, Free

6. Curiosity Cloud
Supported by Perrier-Jouet, enter this playful installation exploring the interaction of humans and nature, comprising of 250 mouth-blown glass globes set in a darkened room, 25 of the which contain insect species either extinct, common or newly discovered.
V&A Norfolk House Music Room, Brompton Design District, Gallery 52b, British Galleries, Level 2, Cromwell Road, SW7 2RL, 19-27 Sept, Mon-Sun 10am-5.45pm, Free