Friday, 29 January 2016

The Jackson's Pollocks. After school activities to give you a #KickUpTheArts.

With this wonderful quote in mind, this week I'm giving hoping to give you a #KickUpTheArts with some easy peasy, cheap, artyfarty activities to do at home. At Arts Crusade HQ, we've been doing one thing a week and it's been brilliexcellent. Here are some of our highlights, there's loads more fun activities and inspiration on pinterest.
Melty Crayons - "The Jackson's Pollocks"

It was Mr. Pollock's birthday this week, so we did this one in his honour.

⚡️Box of crayons (£1, Poundland)
⚡️Heavy paper or card - it needs to be heavier than average to absorb the oil (£1 or recycle old stuff)
⚡️Hairdryer - borrow someone else's if you don't have one of these...
⚡️Cotton buds - optional

1. Peel the crayons
2. Stick some crayons to a piece of paper. Stick the paper on the wall / chair / box. BLOW!
3. Watch the crayons melt and drop their gorgeous colours creating magnificent, warm, artwork...
4. Squish the melty crayon nubs onto paper to create Jackson Pollack style art. You can also achieve Jackson Pollock style by not using a nozzle on your dryer and using the highest wind setting...
5. Hang art on wall and see the kids feel well proud.
Total distraction time: 90 minutes 

What the kids learned: "Is this what artists do all day??? I'm definitely being an artist then." Nuff said.

What I learned: Hairdryer without nozzle creates wax splashes in the weirdest places. And a #KickUpTheArts is very good therapy for adults prone to OCD (that would be me...)

#KickUpTheArts rating: ⚡️⚡️⚡️⚡️⚡️

DIY giftwrap - "Wrapping with my homies"

With birthdays happening every weekend this month, we decided to stock up on our own wrapping paper.

⚡️Roll of brown paper (£1 in the poundshop, or just recycle anything you have left around)
⚡️Markers, crayons, colouring pencils (found in most houses were smallies reside)
⚡️Tape and scissors (as above)

iPhone camera at the ready and here's what happened...
Total distraction time: 40 minutes
What the kids learned: It's fun to make n do
What I learned: I will never buy wrapping paper or birthday cards again. Instead, I will spend that money on shoes. Or chocolate. Or both.

#KickUpTheArts rating: ⚡️⚡️⚡️⚡️⚡️

Airy Fairy Play Dough
⚡️Bottle of hair conditioner - strawberry scented (£1 in Poundland)
⚡️Box of Cornflour (£1.79, corner shop)
⚡️Food Colouring (dregs of what's left in the cupboard) & Glitter (if you have it)
⚡️Bowl, spoon, rolling pin (a bottle or mug will do), dough cutters, forks, eggcups, the possibilities are endless....

1. Squeeze all the conditioner into the bowl - FUN!
2. Add the Cornflour - POOF!
3. Mix - WHEEEEE!
4. Drop in some food colouring (glitter would also be most excellent) - OOOOH!
5. Mix again - AAAAHHH...
6. Knead, knead, knead - OH YEAH
7. Play - YAY!

Total distraction time: 90 minutes (plus extra - you keep the dough in the fridge and they can play again)

What the kids learned: Play dough is squishy. Cornflour feels like "an angel's bum". It's good to get messy.
What I learned: As above, plus... Messy play is bad for the kitchen but very good for the mind.

#KickUpTheArts rating: ⚡️⚡️⚡️⚡️⚡️

Yes, I know they ALL get a 5 flash rating, but it's just because it's so much fun, good for the soul and good for the kids to do this stuff. If we encourage their creativity now, hopefully they'll maintain it as they go through life.

I'd love to hear your stories and suggestions, feel free to comment, to follow the Arts Crusade on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest and to give yourself a #KickUpTheArts.

The Arts Crusader ⚡️

Thursday, 21 January 2016

"Off to Neverland!" - our right royal adventure...

My sister - the Actress - got my daughter - the Girlchild - a most delightful Christmas present. A ticket to "Wendy & Peter Pan" at the RSC in Stratford. My sister - the Actress - having spent lots of money on said ticket, couldn't afford to actually get there... So I stumped up for 2 more tickets, grabbed the elder Boychild, and off we drove last Saturday to the RSC in Stratford upon Avon. Dahling.

Us lot (raggle taggle gypsies). To the Royal Shakespeare Company. I had so many preconceptions, including that it would be:
  1. Rrrrroyal
  2. Posh
  3. Stuffy
  4. Expensive 
  5. Serious
  6. Intimidating. VERY.  
  7. Not the kind of place for me
  8. Definitely not the place for kids
I was wrong.

But not on all counts, so let's get this out of the way first - it's expensive. It really is. And it's expensive to get to Stratford Upon Avon too (consider car pooling or booking a streetcar - trains from London are ridiculous). Ticketwise, based on advice from the Actress, ALWAYS CALL THE BOX OFFICE to find the best deals. Box office staff are often actors themselves, who know how to find the best deals, they'll be able to tell you what's available, the best seats for the lowest price, offers available etc. 

And so to the theatah. Oh, the theatah dahlings!

From the moment we walked in, we were swept up in the buzz. It's obvious that everyone's made a right royal effort to be there, it's a special day out, people don their Sunday best and the atmosphere is electric. The staff certainly seem to love their work, all smiles and twinkly eyed. Everyone - from the girl who gave us booster seats for the kids, to the man in the gift shop who complimented my 5 year old on his sword skills - was ace. They're proud to be there. Admittedly they were rather posh, but most definitely NOT stuffy ;) There's also a dressy up corner of the kids, a lovely cafe, a wishing fountain and a fabulous interactive exhibition space: FUN FUN FUN!
As we took our seats in the theatre itself, we were already entranced. It's basically a new take on Shakespeare's original Globe theatre, with seats up the walls and a round space for the stage. The sets are like what I would imagine Disney movie sets to be - obviously no expense is spared, everything is the best of the best and the detail is astonishing. (We spotted a tiny baby with it's head out of the upstairs window of the doll's house and a the Darling childrens' measurements drawn on the wall.)

It felt like we were IN the nursery with Wendy, Michael, John and their little brother Tom (a new addition to the cast of Darlings in this brilliant revision of JM Barrie's original Peter Pan, by playwright Ella Hickson). Myself, the Actress and the Boychild were in tears 5 minutes in and our "faces were raining" for the rest of the 2 and a half hour performance - with tears and laughter and every emotion in between. (Girlchild held it together surprisingly well, but she did squeeze my hand quite a lot and stood up to clap to bring Tink back to life...)

The story itself is really true to, but (in my opinion) better than, the original, totally in tune with modern audiences and just the kind of message I want my kids to be receiving. Smee's dappy for Hook, Wendy discovers she's a brave and capable leader, Mrs Darling is a sufragette(!), Tinkerbell's all 'uggable 'oxton in a tutu, Hook is off the hook - but the kids really couldn't pick a single favourite. This is top quality entertainment, the best of the best in everything from performance, to design, to music and production.

After the show, we hit the jackpot and got to meet Wendy, (Mariah Gale, friend of the Actress) and then go backstage with Smee (Paul Kemp, friend of the Actress). There are no words - the pictures speak for themselves....
Boychild has been playing "Wendy" ever since - the dough hook from my mixer commandeered along with a rather fetching leather coat of mine that I may never retrieve... Girlchild has been keeping tightlipped but says she has started writing her first play. Watch this space...

So, here's another list for you, based on direct experience this time. Taking kids to the theatre:
  1. Sparks their imagination
  2. Fills them with new ideas
  3. Broadens their horizons
Of all of this I have no doubt. I hope our #artscrusade might inspire you to do something #artyfarty with the kids you love. (Don't forget you can find inspiration for your own crusade on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter) With all the pressures on our teachers and the ever increasing focus on "core subjects" in our curriculum, these kind of opportunities to engage with the arts are getting fewer and fewer for kids. It's up to us to make sure they get their dose of culture and #artyfarty goodness. It's life enhancing.

Our day at the RSC will be etched in my memory - and in my childrens' - forever. It was worth every penny and the Actress, the Girlchild, the Boychild and I are going to make it an annual outing.

The Arts Crusader

#culturematters #artmakesyasmart

Friday, 15 January 2016

Museum Trip - "nobody puts baby in the corner!"

My littlest sidekick has just turned 1 and he really doesn't get a look in when it comes to family activities, days out, or anything much in fact :(.  But this week, I took camp counsellor Johnny Castle's message to heart, released baby from his corner and set off to Tate Modern.
"Nobody puts baby in the corner!"
I had no plan, the mission was simple: get out of the house and do something #artyfarty.

Bubs was whingy, moany and windy. Things did not bode well. But on arrival he was mesmerised by the turbine hall, staring at the roof from his buggy, taking in the vastness of the space. It's such an amazing building, the entrance experience alone is worth the trip. Check out the stairs: in the week that's in it, when the world bade farewell to it's "Starman" David Bowie, I wondered if his stairway to heaven looked anything like this...
Stairway to Heaven at Tate
We came across the Bloomberg interactive art wall in the Clore Learning Centre in the basement (after the first trip to the nappy change...). It's this beautiful, tactile, glowing, radiant rectangle of screens, with a timeline of art and artists from 1900 to the present. You touch a name, it expands to give pictures and info on the artists. We were spellbound. Take a look (and if the quality is crap, take a look over on Instagram):
"I've. Had. The time of my liiiiiife.... ;)"
There was another little guy there, must've been 4, the giggles were infectious and he ended up actually wetting himself he was having so much fun :). He was asking his dad questions, "why is Jackson Pollock an artist? Its only scribbles." It just goes to show, you are NEVER to young to appreciate art ⚡️.

So, top marks to Tate for this amazing, utterly mesmerising and brilliexcellent resource. We will be back with the bigger kids as soon as we can.

After an hour at the wall, bubs went for a snooze and we got to check out The World Goes Pop exhibition on the third floor. Thankfully I now have a student card, so I got concession tickets - it ain't cheap £16 a pop! (forgive ;))

Colourful and thought provoking, it gives a really comprehensive snapshot of what was happening in the world in the 60s and early 70s as the pop movement was born and then exploded.
Tate World Goes Pop
The exhibition (on till Jan 24) made me feel that art really does connect us all in ways we don't often have the chance to contemplate. It's so important that we nurture our kids' creativity, because it will give them the skills they need to make sense of their world and to express themselves within it.

This has been a good week for the arts crusade, I now have over 140 followers on twitter and over 100 on Facebook. Instagram is coming along nicely too, so I hope that in another few weeks we'll have people actually posting their #artyfarty pics. Baby steps 'n' all, and every single one of your likes, shares, follows and real life telling people is really important and MUCH APPRECIATED.

Tomorrow it's back to the theatre and this time we're going dead posh - the brilliexcellent Aunty Niecey's taking us to Wendy and Peter Pan at the Royal Shakespeare Company. Dahling!  I'll keep you posted.

The Arts Crusader ⚡️

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

This year, I'm getting all #artfarty with the kids

So, it's 2016 and the Arts Crusade is on. 

Our first family cultural outing of the year was to the panto at the Hackney Empire. What a blast. Colourful, funny, clever, spectacular at times and the kiddos loved it too.
Next up was something more challenging - The Nutcracker, by the English National Ballet at London's Coliseum. I booked our tickets a couple of weeks before Christmas, when I got wind of the FREE child places from a friend. For two days of each year, kids go free to the ballet - brilliexcellent! (I'll keep you posted on facebook and twitter, please let me know if you hear of any deals I can pass on.)

Our kids are 7, 5 and 1 and the older ones are up for the IDEA of going to theatres and museums, but in reality, they can get bored really quickly and then it all kicks off.

So it was with some trepidation that we set off to the ballet - making it out of the house with clean clothes, faces and hands was a major achievement let me tell you. Don't know what I was more nervous about - the three kids having a meltdown or the fact that it was hubby's first time at the ballet too...

En route, I summarised the story of The Nutcracker and explained that there would be no singing or speaking, just music and dancing. By the way, I think this was crucial preparation - my 5 year old would've cracked up (not in a funny way) if he hadn't been forewarned...
The staff at the Colliseum couldn't have been nicer, they were so well prepared for the onslaught of boisterous children and stressed out grownups. When babies got antsy, they had no problem with them having a supervised crawl, allowing everyone to stay in the theatre or come and go quietly throughout the whole performance.

The theatre itself was magical, the costumes were stunning, the story was (kind of) followable, the dancing was spellbinding and the music, oh, the music! 
 Afterwards, we asked the kids which they preferred - panto or ballet? They both said panto. But as soon as we walked through the front door, it was on with the tights, ballet pumps and Classic FM (LOUD) and they danced through dinner, till bedtime. Edie wants to go to the Royal Ballet School and Oisin is coming home from school this evening to build a stage curtain in the living room. It was so blinking inspirational. (Watch the video on the facebook page)
I guess that's it. When children see and hear beautiful, classical, gorgeous things, it makes them aspire to be free, to learn, to be even more special than they already are.

Next up, a museum trip. I'll keep you posted.
The Arts Crusader