Tuesday, 19 April 2016

In Print - 5 easy places to see street art in Hackney (with kids)

Whoop whoop! The Arts Crusade made the FRONT COVER of this month's Love East Magazine, giving the #KickUpTheArts campaign it's very own kick up the ar**.

Love East is the brainchild of Julie Daniels, editor and #artskicker-in-chief of this FREE local magazine, full of East London history, happenings, reviews and recommendations. Its day-by-day events calendar is a keeper - it goes straight on the fridge door at #ArtsCrusadeHQ.

In case you haven't got your copy yet, read it here or here's the article with some extras for you intrepid blog readers ;)


It’s April. Here’s a #KickUpTheArts for you.

Us Hackney locals are swamped with great arts and culture right on our doorsteps. From the Hackney Empire to the Geffrye Museum, the V & A Museum of Childhood to the Arcola Theatre and the Whitechapel Gallery, we really are spoilt.

But for me, so much of the best art the borough has to offer is on its streets. I don’t fully agree with Banksy when he said, “the worst place to see art is in Museums”, but he definitely has a point. When we look at art in the context of other art, we’re influenced by how the gallery has positioned the work and by what surrounding pieces are saying too. When it comes to streetart, it’s BOOM, in your face, we’re either visually arrested, or we move on.

Artists like Stik, Stinkfish, AKAJimmyC and Zabou have made this borough their gallery. Their art is everywhere - not just in the hotspots of Shoreditch, Brick Lane and Hackney Wick, but in Haggerston, under the railway arches in Bethnal Green and in side streets off Dalston Lane. It’s ever-changing, emotionally charged and it’s FREE for all to enjoy.

Stinkfish, under the arches, Cambridge Heath Road
Plus, if you’re a parent, carer or anyone with kids in tow, you can view great art without worrying about fingerprints on the fine prints or crumbs in the cabinets. Bonus! Next time you pass a piece that catches your eye, stop, take it in and talk about it. Ask the kids to share their thoughts, what they like about it or don’t. It’s a great way to help them with self expression and I’m pretty sure it’d work well to kickstart an awkward teen date too ;)

5 easy places to see street art in Hackney (with kids)

Hackney Road - Walk from Cambridge Heath Station to Columbia Road, stop for a break at Hackney City Farm.

ItsArtista (main) and various artists, Hackney Road
Haggerston - Find Stik on Queensbridge Road then head down the canal towards Haggerston Station, swinging into Snake Park for a play if the kids are getting restless. The Haggerston Tea Room or Tin Cup cafe are both super friendly places with proper teas n coffees.

Dalston Lane - From Amhurst Road to Dalston Junction, there’s graffiti at the old Boy’s Club, a Stik above the shops, a tiny alley opposite that’s wall to wall ace and the now iconic peace mural is outside the Eastern Curve Garden - the perfect place to end up.
Stik, Dalston Lane
Hackney Wick - just get off the overground and walk around, this place is a treasure trove. Watch the boats from a canal-side cafe, or pop into the Pearl if you can get a seat…
(by the way, this twitter account is BRILLIANT for everything Wick-related)

The Rolling People, Wallis Road, Hackney Wick
Brick Lane - best before breakfast (when the shutters are down), have a mooch around the tunnel at Shoreditch Station, then walk across Brick Lane, down Cheshire Street to Grimsby Street. Then have a beigel and a cuppa - right there on the street.

Various artists, Brick Lane
Delighted to be back in print again next month, in the meantime join the crusade on InstagramTwitterFacebook and Pinterest and give yourself a #KickUpTheArts.

The Arts Crusader⚡️

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Flying solo... at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich

After the longest Easter hols in living memory, I headed to the National Maritime Museum on Tuesday, for some nautical themed fun with Mr. C. -  a man I met on twitter. Shhh!

I was so excited to be set free sans kiddos that when I came upon the front door, I felt a bit like Dorothy coming to visit the Wizard of Oz. Set in the heart of regal Greenwich, just down the hill from the Royal Observatory and through the park from The Cutty Sark, this place is impressive. Scarily so. But I clicked my heels together and went inside.

The most airy, light filled beautiful space embraced me and Mr. C. did not disappoint ;). After a coffee (good) and a chat (great) in the Sammy Ofer wing, I got the royal treatment.

Tuesdays are play days, so first up we dropped in to meet Dave - a man with a knack for keeping kids entertained and engaged with what the museum has to offer. As he strummed his guitar, the little ones stomped around with scarves and shakers, following a trail through the museum before settling back in the activity room for maritime themed arts and crafts. At £3 a session for under 5s, it looks like money well spent.

The craft cupboard is like an artyfarty pirate's treasure chest - chock full of the most enticing crafty stuff. Seventh heaven.

Passing a silver speedboat and a gilded showboat, we headed up to the mezzanine, home to "The Big Map". It's a massive map of the world on the floor, which the museum team uses in creative ways to get kids to contemplate the sea, the land and their place in the world. Genius.

Through the Baltic glass alcove, through the RE:THINK gallery, in a room that used to be an office, lies a beach-themed exhibition, curated by Bethan Peters, Choreographer in Residence (yes, really). Complete with indoor pebble beach, wave lights and ocean sounds, it provides a restful space for tired smallies or a peaceful experience for autistic visitors.

Back in the RE:THINK gallery, kids are encouraged to be hands on, with volunteers on hand to take exhibits out of the cabinets. Brilliant! The theme changes every 6 months, so nothing here gets stale. There's a big happy wall, stuck through with pencils, where you give feedback or share thoughts on exploration, discovery and the sea. Just another clever, quirky touch that makes this place a wonder for local and international visitors alike.

Before leaving, we headed to the AHOY! zone - an interactive place reminiscent of the Discover Story Centre in Stratford. Smallies get to  stoke the coals in the engine room, sail foam boats on an air-ocean (seeing is believing), play fishmonger, or watch from below deck as the seagull-cam on the top of the mast keeps an eye on what's happening in the main museum space. There are thoughtful touches aplenty here for visitors with special needs and it makes the overall experience better for everyone.

Mr. C. and I had a long chat about my motivation for the Arts Crusade and how to attract low income families into galleries and museums. The National Maritime Museum is free entry and has an excellent outreach programme (involving a blue suitcase filled with artefacts), but still struggles to reach kids without going through schools. I've not found the answer in the months I've been doing this, the best I hope for is to inspire by doing and hope that giving myself a #KickUpTheArts might have a ripple effect.

I can understand why an incredibly gorgeous building like this can feel stuffy and imposing to visitors not used to museums and galleries, but once through the doors, it's a welcoming, happy, inspirational place. I could've spent the whole day and not got bored, but it would've looked a bit weird without the kiddos...

Next up at the museum is the groundbreaking "Above and Beyond" season (May 27 - Aug 29), a totally interactive exhibition where you can learn to fly like a bird, design and race your own supersonic jet, and even take an elevator to the edge of space. This family is SO going. (it's only 30 mins by overground from Dalston Junction, change at Shadwell for the DLR)

As for my #twitter date with Mr. C.? He had me at "ahoy!"...

The Arts Crusader ⚡️

P.S. Join the crusade on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest and give yourself a #KickUpTheArts