Bank Holiday Special: 3 Days of Arts-Inspired Family Fun

If nobody in your household is ready to be dragged kicking and screaming into September just yet, this is your chance to make every last minute of August count! It’s almost Bank Holiday weekend, so here’s my plan for a one-a-day arts fix:

Poetry Saturday
Poetry is just one of a dozen reasons for families to visit the fantastic Curious? festival, as this weekend Kings Cross becomes a maze of discovery. Working with a handful of the 55 arts, culture and science organisations housed in the area, Curious? promises a host of free activities from live art, music, science workshops and pop-up theatre as well as great food and drink, and a dedicated area to busy your toddler! Unmissable for me is the metaphysical poetry recital; Poetrics (Battle Bridge Place, 29th and 30th August, 11am-5pm), which will see words spoken into microphones and transformed into randomly created poetry displayed on 17 special LED panels. If this proves a little too left field, award-winning children’s poet Joseph Coelho will be hosting Curiosity Quest 1 (The Conduit – the Crossing, 29th August, 12.30pm and 3pm) an interactive family performance where you can play your part in a giant group poem (Curated by Poet in the City).

Art Fair Sunday
On their own version of a Beano, the The Art Car Boot Fair (30th August, 12-4pm, £3) is decamping from London for the Bank Holiday weekend, bringing their refreshing antidote to London’s more formal art fair scene to the seaside town of Margate. The car park of Turner Contemporary will be transformed into an open-air gallery, where you can explore a host of original work and special editions, as well as pick up some serious art bargains. Inspired by the relaxed seaside vibe, it all promises to be a bit of a giggle. There’ll be art you can make yourself, 5 minute portraits and a chance to play Pin the Tiara on Edvard Munch’s ‘Scream’. Add this to Turner Contemporary, the Shell Grotto, Dreamland and a gorgeous sandy bay complete with tidal pool and children’s rides and you’ve got the perfect Bank Holiday Sunday. Rain or Shine.

Interactive Theatre Monday
Theatre company non zero one take over the Duffield Studio of the National Theatre’s Clore Learning Centre this weekend and if you’re lucky they are taking your kids with them! In a similar vein to the much talked about Against Captain’s Orders, Ground Control (30th and 31st August, 12.30pm, 2.30pm and 4.30pm, £7) is a kids-only interactive adventure for 7 to 12 year olds, aimed at exploring the themes of space and technology in a more creative way. By taking on the role of Ground Control, children will work together to decide the future of a new planet, with a bit of help from a very intelligent live computer and giant projector screen. You, however, won’t be expected to work nearly as hard as that. Instead you can enjoy the peace and serenity of the Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Top Garden & Bar, child-free for an hour.

All events and activities featured on Arts Aloud are subject to availability at time of going to press. No responsibility taken for events that are cancelled or changed at short notice.

Carlos Amorales invites kids to create a boom with a view

Granted, Margate doesn’t immediately spring to mind when you’re asked to name some of the country’s most spectacular settings to enjoy live music, but a brand new exhibition by Mexican artist Carlos Amorales at Turner Contemporary is about to change that.

Until September, as part of the British Council’s Year of Mexico in the UK, visitors to its magnificent Sunley Gallery will be treated to an interactive installation; We Will See How Everything Reverberates (2012), whilst they enjoy the unmissable vistas of the North Sea from its double height windows.

Inspired by the work of 20th century sculptor, Alexander Calder, over 30 suspended cymbals have been brought together to create a large-scale mobile structure and a unique musical instrument in its own right.

Once an hour (for 15 minutes) visitors young and old (but mainly young) are given beaters and invited to play the cymbals in whichever way takes their mood. Little ones found it so much fun to walk amongst the structure playing their own instinctive tunes, crashing along perfectly to the waves visible beyond, and creating the perfect soundtrack to our rainy May Bank Holiday Sunday.

It didn’t take long for my pounding head to work out why the 15 minute time limit is applied. Reclaiming the beaters also provided the perfect opportunity to restore order to our gallery conduct, after this brave masterpiece allowed us to break all the rules.

Carlos Amorales: We Will See How Everything Reverberates (2012) is on at Turner Contemporary, Margate until 6th September 2015. Admission Free.

How art is transforming Margate for families

My position on amusement parks has changed very little in 30 years. When I was growing up, i was always excited about the spectacle of the funfair, the heady collection of sounds and smells that made up the ultimate family day out, far more so than the nervous energy and anticipation that resulted from ‘rolling-up’ to test your wits against the Whip, or hold your nerve on the Ghost Train.

I’m now very pleased to report, that the seaside town of Margate will soon unveil a brand new amusement park that is just my cup of tea. An amusement park where reluctant thrill-seekers like me can choose whether to get involved or just enjoy things from the sidelines. In actual fact, the restoration of Dreamland, one of Britain’s oldest surviving amusement parks, is one of a number of ways that art is slowly transforming Margate, from a scruffy old south coast town, to a vibrant seaside destination for family visitors.

Dreamland has seen over 10 years of adversity. To the backdrop of Margate’s own depressing picture of 20% unemployment, empty properties and a deserted high street, the site ran into disrepair, and was finally closed in 2003. Threatened by redevelopment, The Dreamland Trust rapidly formed and came to the rescue with a bold vision of restoring it to its former glory. Having overcome other major setbacks, such as an arson attack in 2008, the trust has worked tirelessly to secure £12m of public funding to not only restore the unique Grade II* listed Scenic Railway but reinstate other historical assets such as the cinema, the menagerie cages and a host of original rides. World-class designer Wayne Hemingway is also leading the charge, promising a truly immersive experience to visitors, where the lights, sights, smells and sounds will deliver what he refers to as a “sense of wonderment at every turn”.

When Dreamland is finally unveiled later this year as a celebration of the quintessential seaside experience, it won’t, however, be the first time that the community has chosen culture-led regeneration as its saviour.

At least 20 years earlier, local resident and former Chairman of the Margate Civic Society, John Crofts conceived the idea himself, through his vision of celebrating the town’s association with artist JMW Turner, in a bid to reverse its fortunes. With funding from Kent County Council, building on the landmark gallery began in 2008 and was finally completed in 2011. Today, perched at the end of Marine Drive, the brutalist structure of Turner Contemporary stands proud, celebrating the sea and the skies that inspired Turner’s long and loving relationship with Margate, whilst boosting the invigoration of the historical Old Town through retro and pop art influences.

To the family visitor, Turner Contemporary delivers everything that we have come to expect from a leading art gallery. Packed with world-class exhibitions, the gallery offers a luxury of space for young visitors to explore, along with a well-thought out education programme to encourage visits from schools and community organisations. All this for free, and without compromising the integrity of any of the artist work displayed. Then there’s the views, and for the views there’s the the ‘skying’ mats, giggling along with family visitors and encouraging them to enjoy the space in their own way.

This story of art-for-all has now continued into the Old Town. As well as a host of bijou galleries and creative cafes, it is home to the unique public art space Artist’s Alley; a pop-up gallery for practising artists and art students, dominating the cobbled streets between the Mayor’s Parlour and the museum, alongside the celebrated Margate Bazaar (Mar-Sept, Sunday, 11am-4pm).

A week ago the Duchess of Cambridge visited Margate. As well as visiting the Turner Contemporary, she explored a range of other arts projects and exhibitions around the town, cementing Margate’s growing reputation as a centre for art and artists, and recognition that the town is well and truly on the up. But if you’re thinking that Royal visitors and swanky new galleries has upgraded Margate to Monaco overnight, then rest assured; this Margate is not just for the second-homers or property developers. This Margate is still firmly rooted in its stoic community, a community that has stood by it through thick and thin.

This is not a community that has had art imposed on it, a community that’s the victim of the middle classes trying to gentrify it beyond recognition. It’s a strong savvy community, alive with personal stories and visionaries who have seized the opportunities that lie in Margate’s past and are committed to bringing them into the future for a new generation of visitors to enjoy.

So when it comes to Margate’s reversal of fortune, don’t be led by my fairground trick of standing on the sidelines. Join me and other families and get well and truly involved.

Dreamland Margate is due to open in late Spring 2015. See website for the latest on the redevelopment, or visit the Dreamland Expo (weekends from 10am until 4pm. Free entry, no booking required).