CPD at the Courtauld Gallery

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of facilitating a CPD session for an experienced team of gallery educators at the Courtauld Gallery, who are currently running outreach sessions in schools whilst the Gallery is closed for redevelopment. I devised activities that included a brainstorm around making contemporary connections to key artworks in the Courtauld Collection, and a discussion on classroom management issues. As usual in my CPD sessions, we used a lot of flip chart paper, postits & coloured pens. And from the feedback their favourite activity was ‘throw the question!’


Brainstorm around Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear

Lisbon - family friendly city

We have just returned from a holiday in Lisbon with our kids aged 5 and 7. It is such a great city for a family to explore (although a little expensive). Here are our highlights:

  • Castelo - this is where you find the Castelo de São Jorge which has great views across the city and the kids loved exploring it - they sat on the cannons, climbed the towers, viewed the archaeological site, and got a guided tour across the city via the camera obscura. We were even joined by peacocks whilst we ate lunch!
  • Belém - this is a lovely area just outside the city centre (you can get there via train, bus or tram) where the kids roamed by the waterfront (we also tried the electric scooters), climbed up the Tower of Belém, took a trail around the Art Museum (Museu Coleção Berado with a collection to rival Tate), and marvelled at the ornate Jerónimos Monastery, before we ended the day tasting the Pastéis de Belém!
  • Cascais - this seaside town is a 40 minute train ride along the coast where we climbed to the top of a lighthouse, visited the spectacular orange building and paintings in the Paula Rego Museum The House of Stories, and ran around in the nearby Parque Marechal Carmona (where in summer there is a petting zoo). Of course there was the beach as well, where the kids ate icecreams, built sandcastles and splashed in the waves!
  • Parque das Naçeõs - this area was so good for the kids we came twice! Arriving at Oriente station we checked out the street sculptures (by Anthony Gormley, Jorge Vieira and others), then took a cable car along the waterfront to the Oceanário. If you think you’ve been to an aquarium before you’ve not been to one this enormous! A giant central tank is surrounded by a number of zones featuring animals and fish from different climates - our favourites were the playful sea otters and the waddling penguins (one was called Oliver Twist!) We returned a few days later to experience the nearby science museum Pavilhão do Conhecimento (The Pavilion of Knowledge) - two massive floors packed with interactives and the Dóing area where you could ‘make’ and ‘tinker’. It was loads of fun and very educational!

In addition to these highlights, roaming around the city was a big hit with the kids - taking trams and furniculars to viewpoints as well as a boat across the River Tagus. And our fussy little eaters even enjoyed some of the ‘petiscos’. We hope to go back one day - as my 5-year-old says “I love Lisbon”!

Outside Lisbon’s Science Museum 

Outside Lisbon’s Science Museum 

Engagement Advisory Group

Today I attended my first Engagement Advisory Group meeting at the Horniman Museum and Gardens as their ‘young people’ specialist. I am pleased to be giving time to somewhere I love to visit with my family. This is a voluntary group comprised of individuals who are able to offer a strategic overview of their areas of expertise and act as advisors during the Collections Peoples Stories project at the Horniman Museum and Gardens. These areas of expertise include museum community engagement, participatory work, need and provision in their local boroughs, current initiatives and best practise working with their target groups: mental health service users, new arrivals, older persons, disabled people, young people, marginalised families and ESOL learners.

Symposium: Youth-led Programming

Earlier this week I was at The Photographers’ Gallery for their Symposium: Youth-led Programming, presenting about Art on The Underground’s Clay Station Traineeship that I set up and ran in 2017. I was joined by trainee Abigail Holsborough to get her perspective on the project. We were part of the first group of speakers focusing on Behind the Scenes Programming which included speakers Aleema Gray from the National Maritime Museum and Rio Blake Youth Trustee at The Photographers’ Gallery. This was followed by a panel discussion covering tokenism, institutional change, barriers, and paying young people. Three more sets of speakers then focused on Public Facing Programming along with a second panel discussion. It was a fantastic turn out of arts educators and young people interested in engaging with museums and galleries, including one of my old Youth Forum members from the National Portrait Gallery.

You can watch the symposium here (Abigail and I are the first speakers).

Abigail and I presenting about the  Clay Station Traineeship 

Abigail and I presenting about the Clay Station Traineeship 

Work in Focus: Michelangelo’s Taddei Tondo

The first of a number of teacher resources I’ve been writing for the Royal Academy (RA) is now online. This ‘Work in Focus from the RA Collection: Michelangelo’s Taddei Tondo’ acts as a springboard for students to compare and contrast this incredible marble sculpture with other artworks in the Bill Viola / Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth exhibition, on at the RA until 31 March. Take a look under the section for teachers about this exhibition here.

Southwark Time Detectives

Today we were joined by nearly 70 children and accompanying parents taking part in Art on the Underground’s Family Day: Southwark Time Detectives. The participants used the family trail to explore artist Linder’s giant commission that wraps Southwark tube station, created a 3D collage of Southwark’s past and present with artist Meera Chauda, and handled objects from the Cuming Collection - that feature in Linder’s work - with Curator Judy Aitken. The next Art on the Underground family event will be a tour of the Brixton murals in June. Watch this space...


Artist Meera Chauda helping a family

The Bower of Bliss engagement activity

During February and March I’m delivering sessions for Art on the Underground as part of the engagement programme I have set up this year. This activity focuses on the 85-metre long billboard commission The Bower of Bliss at Southwark Tube Station by artist Linder. Earlier this week I met two student groups from Lewisham Southwark College for a tour of the commission and was joined by Linder who generously talked about her influences as well as exposing her creative processes. Feedback included:

“There’s noise at the front which matches the bold image. I like it here at the back where it’s more peaceful - visually and noise wise.”

“My students really loved the talk and exhibition. I could tell by our conversations this afternoon that Linder really had inspired them.”

This session will be followed by a free family event during the half-term holidays, along with a poster design project with Year 1 BA photography students at London Southbank University.


Linder talking about her commission  

Routes in Work Network

I’ve been keen for a while to set up a network that brings together organisations and individuals, like myself, who are working on programmes with the aim to get young people into arts sector employment and discussing how we can diversify the workforce. Then I discovered that a group already exists, the Routes in Work Network, which I am excited to have now joined. This was set up by Laura Turner-Blake, Curator: Young People’s Programmes at Tate. I attended my first meeting this week for interesting presentations by Jennie Godsalve from Creative & Cultural Skills and Shingirai Sibanda from Create Jobs (A New Direction). There was also an opportunity to connect with members of the group. I’m looking forward to the next meeting already! 

Looking ahead to 2019

I am mapping out my diary for 2019,  getting excited about the following projects:

  • Writing two teachers’ resources inspired by the RA Collection at the Royal Academy of Arts;
  • Evaluating the schools touring programme Take Flight for Little Angel Theatre;
  • Continuing to evaluate the DEVELOP Programme for young people at The Photographers’ Gallery;
  • Working with audiences local to Southwark tube station to engage with Linder’s commission for Art on the Underground, including families, colleges and a women’s group; 
  • Setting up the first internship for Freelands Foundation; 
  • And being a guest speaker on the Alternative Models for Art Education module on the Art and Design in Education MA at the Institute of Education.

In addition, I am currently talking to two national museums about projects which I will reveal when they have been finalised. I have also signed up to be a mentor to one of the Young Freelancers at the London Transport Museum, and I am now part of the Engagement Advisory Group at the Horniman Museum as their youth specialist. So it’s a busy year ahead!

2018 Highlights

As I sign off work-wise for Xmas I’m reflecting on my highlights for 2018: 

  • Continuing to run CPD sessions for the AND Advocates, an amazing group of arts teachers working with A New Direction;
  • Writing a Learning Guide for Art on the Underground aimed at Key Stages 3-5 focusing on Heather Phillipson’s giant installation at Gloucester Road station my name is lettie eggsyrub  (available to download here);
  • Continuing to evaluate the DEVELOP Programme for young people at The Photographers’ Gallery, in particular tracking a few individuals’ journeys and seeing how much they have progressed;
  • Working on the planning & delivery of the Brixton Primary Schools Mural Design Project for Art on the Underground with artist Meera Chauda and six local primary schools with their artwork being displayed at Brixton Library to coincide with the launch of Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s Commission at Brixton tube station. 

I’m looking forward to some exciting projects in 2019. Watch this space... 

New employment

I’m excited to be working with the Royal Academy of Arts (RA) as a freelance writer and consultant on a series of teachers’ resources related to their fabulous RA Collection. Since the Gallery’s recent redevelopment, works from the Collection have been shown together for the first time in the RA Collection Gallery and the Vault Gallery. Watch this space for more on the resources...

For more information on the RA’s Collection visit here

A Social Prescription

I enjoyed attending the engage conference 2018: A Social Prescription in Manchester last week focusing on Arts & Health. Highlights for me were the two key notes; on day 1 Clive Parkinson Director at The Manchester Institute for Arts, Health & Social Change, Reader in Arts, Health & Social Justice, and day 2 Esme Ward Director at the Manchester Museum. I also took part in an inspiring workshop run by Angela Samata, Freelance Arts and Mental Health Professional, on suicide prevention (check out her free online training session here)

As part of the conference I took part in speed mentoring, as a mentor, and also presented at Soapbox. My presentation focused on Young People into Arts Sector Employment with a call out for other freelancers and organisations running internships, traineeships or apprenticeships to form a network to share good practice and to support each other in the work that we do. This relates back to my sharing practice article for engage back in September.


My soapbox presentation at the engage conference 2018

The Bower of Bliss

This week Art on the Underground launched Linder’s commission The Bower of Bliss at Southwark tube station. At 85m long this street-level billboard wraps the exterior of the station and celebrates the pleasure of women. The women that feature include individuals who worked for Transport for London in the past - depicted in artwork in the London Transport Museum Collection - to those of the present day.

Linder spent four months as artist-in-residence, researching and mapping a vertical history of Southwark, drawing on local collections including Southwark Council’s Cuming Museum Collection, the London Transport Museum Collection, and Transport for London’s lost property office.

I interviewed passersby on the launch morning to get their initial reactions: 

It’s visually appealing. I’m really drawn to it but I’m a bit weirded out.”

“I looked at it, then noticed the eyelashes and went whoa! It's a face.”

“It brightens the world up!”

For more information about the commission visit here


The Bower of Bliss, 2018

Wat Sawang Arom

We’ve just been away on holiday in Phuket, Thailand, meeting up with family members. The children loved swimming in the pool, digging in the sand on the beautiful beaches, playing with their cousins and eating the delicious food. We also tried to teach them a bit about Thai culture by visiting a local temple, Wat Sawang Arom. They were fascinated by the Buddha statues covered in gold, and the stories told on the temple walls. They saw the beehive like structure where fire crackers are let off for chasing evil spirits away, and they spotted some Buddhist monks dressed in orange cloth so we talked about how their lives are governed by a set of rules. The children all asked lots of questions!


Outside the temple Wat Sawang Arom

School visits to Brixton tube station & Brixton Library

For the past two weeks we’ve been welcoming classes to Brixton Library from the six primary schools participating in the Mural Design Project. They visited to see their mural designs on display there, after visiting Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s work at Brixton tube station; all inspired by the 1980’s Brixton Murals.

We asked the pupils to talk to a peer at the noisy tube station about Njideka’s work - seeing how many things they could see between them and then thinking of questions to ask about the commission or what they would ask the artist if she was there, including:

“Did you want to be an artist when you were little?”

“Is the room real or did you use your imagination?”

“Why did you put lots of pictures in the picture?”

”Is this your real family? Are you in the picture?”

“How did you make this painting?”

We discussed this further at the library where some of them chose to draw pictures of the commission. We also gave them question cards to encourage them to explore the display - looking at their own and the other schools’ designs - and we ended by playing eye spy.

The display at Brixton Library is up until 4 November and there is a free drop-in family day with artist Meera Chauda on 24 October afternoon - take a look here

Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s commission is at Brixton tube station for the next six months - more information here.


Drawing of Njideka’s  commission by a Year 3 pupil

Brixton Mural Map

In relation to the Brixton Header Wall series, Art on the Underground have produced the Brixton Mural Map to highlight key murals from the 1980s across Brixton and into Stockwell. Sadly some of the murals in the area are in need of repair whilst a few no longer exist.

I wrote the family engagement questions for each mural in the Brixton Mural Map. Follow the map to find the murals, or take a look up whilst you’re in Brixton and you might be surprised to see one! A printed Mural Map is available from Brixton tube station or Brixton Library and is also downloadable here

Brixton Mural Map

Brixton Mural Map

Opening of the SLG Firestation

I was excited to be at the launch of the former Peckham Road Fire Station last week - a new contemporary art space and annexe for the South London Gallery (SLG) which has been realised through a Heritage Lottery Fund Grant, amongst other fundraising. When I first worked at the SLG I carried out a Community Consultation that fed into the phase 2 bid and then set up a Community Forum for the Gallery.

I was lucky to look inside the building at an early stage when it was in a derelict state but two and a half years later it has undergone an incredible transformation whilst retaining original features such as the windows and doors. On the lower floor there is a shop, a gallery space and an archive room - the SLG archive has been made public for the first time. The next floor up contains two gallery spaces, and on the third floor a gallery space and community kitchen. On the top floor ‘the attic’ is the Gallery’s new education space with a room adjacent which will become an artist studio but is currently showing a film made as part of a local community project. A lift replaces the original staircase and a beautifully designed white stairway has been inserted into the space where the horse drawn fire engines were kept.

The Grade II listed 1867 Fire Station building is the earliest surviving example of a purpose built fire station in London, and it housed the families of the firemen which is why there were domestic sized spaces including a kitchen. I for one am keen to find out more about the building and the stories it could tell, as well as to see the exhibitions and participate in the events taking place there both now and in the future.

For more information about the SLG Firestation visit here


The former Peckham Road Fire Station 

Brixton Header Wall

An exciting new commission by artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby  - Remain, Thriving - went up at Brixton tube station last week, the first of a new series of commissions for Art on the Underground. These take the murals that were created in Brixton during the 1980s as an initial point of departure and invite the selected artists to respond to their diverse narratives, the rapid development of the area and the wider social and political history of mural making.

I interviewed passersby to get their initial responses to the work, such as:

Made me think you rarely come across an image of just Black people in general; it’s about the everyday, not suffering

It reflects our community - Windrush.”

For more information about the commission visit here


Remain, Thriving by Njideka Akunyili Crosby at Brixton tube station

DEVELOP Year 2 Launch Event

Last Saturday I spent the afternoon hanging out with young people at The Photographers’ Gallery for their Year 2 launch event of DEVELOP: Preparing for a Career in the Photography Industry

for which I am the Evaluator. We invited participants to add their ideas to an interactive timeline reflecting back on Year 1 and thinking ahead to Year 2.  I chatted with individuals and observed the various activities - Q&As with industry professionals, a Teen Talk in the gallery space, a zine making workshop and a photoshoot with a professional photographer. I also asked participants to fill out a feedback form as they left. 

One participant said they liked: 

“The organisation, how chill & nice it is & the amazing variety of people.

For more information about DEVELOP take a look here


Timeline activity

Mural Design Project

Today the Brixton Primary Schools Mural Design Project display went up at Brixton Library. This features the work of six primary schools created during the workshops I ran with artist Meera Chauda for Art on the Underground inspired by the 1980’s Brixton Murals. The display coincides with the launch of Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s commission at Brixton tube station opening later this week. For more information about the mural design project take a look here


Artist Meera Chauda looking at the Schools Mural Designs