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.

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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

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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!

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Artist Meera Chauda looking at the Schools Mural Designs

Young People into Arts Sector Employment

My Sharing Practice article for engage on Young People into Arts Sector Employment has just gone up online here. I’m looking to set up a network for organisations working on similar programmes that support young people into arts sector employment with the aim to connect both staff and individuals who are interns, trainees or apprentices, as I believe that this specific network does not currently exist. If you are aware of an existing network or are interested in being part of this new network please contact me at rach@particip8tion.com 

Camping with kids in France

Every year we go camping in France - ideally in our camper van, but sometimes in a tent as we have an old VW Transporter Type 2 which doesn’t always make it! We love living outdoors and this year we have been away for nearly four weeks - one perk of working freelance : )

What I love most about these camping trips is seeing our two boys  develop their independence with the freedom to roam the campsites, which is much harder to allow in London with a four and seven year old when living on a busy urban road. They go off to the playground, explore in the woods, make new friends (often from other countries), invent games, and try out new experiences. We also spend lots of time together doing activities like cycling, swimming in the sea, pools and lakes, building sandcastles on the beach, and playing games like mini-golf, ping-pong, table football and pétanque.

Going home is always hard, as despite missing some of our home comforts, we usually feel claustrophobic indoors for the first few weeks and spend lots of time in the garden or local park!   

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Exploring by bike near the lake at the Village de Goule where we later swam

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Our camper van - home for the summer

French Châteaux

When in France with the kids we love exploring the châteaux, and the Château de Murol didn’t let us down. My two boys loved exploring the castle - climbing to the top with a bit of coaxing, rewarded by a great view. They also enjoyed sitting on a throne, and spotting the armour and weaponry. Apart from a leaflet in English, which was pretty useful, the rest of the interpretation was in French including costumed guides, projected animations and a jousting show. However the language barrier didn’t seem to bother my children, and they laughed along with the jokes made by the jesters and jousters. 

We might well be checking out another chateau before the end of our holiday!

 At the top of the Château de Murol

At the top of the Château de Murol

Family activities

At the start of the summer holiday we visited some new and some favourite London venues as a family, meeting up with friends. Here are our top picks:

  • Firstly we were back at the London Museum of Water & Steam again. Located near Kew Bridge station and with a car park right outside it’s easily accessible. The kids love this place with all the interactives and giant pumping machinery. On a hot day it’s lovely and cool inside plus there’s the water area at the back. I always learn something too!  I’ve now bought an annual pass as I know we’ll be back again - kids are free throughout summer and the miniature railway runs on Wednesdays, although we’ve never been there on the right day.
  • Secondly we were back at the South London Botanical Institute for a family workshop. These are always well thought out, connecting with nature. This time we were making pollinating finger puppets (butterflies, insects & birds) followed by a busy bee game in the garden with the kids collecting pollen (pom poms). The staff are so friendly here and adults can have a cuppa whilst they help their children. Look out for the gingko tree outside too!
  • Lastly we made our first visit to the London Wetlands Centre. This is a gem of a place! So much to see and lots of family activities throughout the summer with an amazing team of facilitators. On arrival we were immediately invited to go miniature beast exploring and later we joined a ranger session learning how to build fires safely and what to do afterwards. The play area is unusual with large tunnels and a water area. The whole environment is beautiful and we spotted grey herons from the Peacock Tower Hide. Our favourite thing though was meeting the otters at feeding time. Still loads we didn’t get to see so we will be back!
 Camp fire building at London Wetlands Centre

Camp fire building at London Wetlands Centre

Final blog for AND Advocates

Take a look here at my recent blog reflecting on session five of this year’s AND Advocates programme focusing on reflection, sharing and next steps. In particular we heard from twelve of the Advocates about what they feel they have achieved during the programme this year. 

Working with Brixton Primary Schools

During May, June & July I’ve been running workshops in six primary schools in Brixton with the fantastic artist Meera Chauda. This is for the Brixton Primary Schools Mural Design Project for Art on the Underground, inspired by the 1980s Brixton murals. The six schools’ mural designs are now complete and will be shown in Brixton Library in autumn to coincide with the launch of a new artwork by Nigerian-born artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby, the first in a series of mural related Art on the Underground commissions on the billboard as you enter Brixton Tube Station.

The image shows a domino created at the start of one of the workshops, depicting on one side a self-portrait and the other side a favourite place to visit in Brixton. This was a good way to get to know the pupils and then once completed they connected their dominoes together, whilst celebrating their similarities and differences. 

For more about Art on the Underground and their 2018 programme visit here

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Create Science Day

For their Create Science Day, my son’s school did a call out to parents for them to talk about their jobs making links between the sciences and the arts. So I did an assembly this morning for 120 Key Stage 1 pupils to flag up jobs in museums & galleries that include science, and how the focus on STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) should become STEAM (STEM subjects plus the Arts). There was lots of interaction including a colour mixing quiz and guessing what some paint pigment colours are made from, such as carmine (dark red) coming from cochineal beetles!

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Heather Phillipson Learning Guide for Key Stages 3 - 5

I wrote this Learning Guide for Art on the Underground aimed at teachers of Key Stages 3-5, inspired by artist Heather Phillipson and her artwork my name is lettie eggsyrub. It includes an interview by the artist and explores three key themes drawn out of the work; Science and Art – how these subjects can work well together; Reproduction – gender roles and sexual politics; and Social Change – the egg industry and social-media developments. It outlines associated activities exploring and responding to each key theme, in particular through visual art, video, creative writing and debate, with links to relevant areas of the National Curriculum and Arts Award Bronze.

You can download it here or request a free printed copy.

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My name is lettie eggsyrub

It’s been an exciting week for artist Heather Phillipson and the Art on the Underground team launching the new commission my name is lettie eggsyrub on the 80 metre-long disused platform at Gloucester Road Station. I’ve been listening to passengers and station staff on their thoughts about the commission.

In a few weeks we’ll be launching the Heather Phillipson Learning Guide for key stages 3 - 5, which I wrote, including an interview with Heather Phillipson. In the meanwhile you can take a look here at Art on the Underground Curator Jessica Vaughan’s blog for A New Direction, featuring some extracts from Heather’s interview.

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Wellbeing & Partnerships

Check out my recent blog reflecting on session four of this year’s AND Advocates programme focusing on Wellbeing & Partnerships. Thanks to speakers Dr. Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt, Research Associate at the Cultural Institute based at Kings College London, and Corinne Bass, Senior Partnership Manager at a New Direction, along with AND Advocate Tim Devenish (St. Philomeana’s Catholic High School for Girls) who talked about exploring the representation of emotional wellbeing through the school art curriculum via the project the Elephant in the Room.

Take a look here