Monday, 4 July 2016

App Happy Kids (and grownups…)

With summer holidays and the prospect of long days at home (or car journeys to more exotic places) on the horizon, I thought I’d share my recommendations for apps and online options to keep the kids happy. I’m so often torn between letting my three loose on the laptop and feeling like a bad parent, but there is loads of inspiring stuff online that really does fire imaginations and give the kids a #KickUpTheArts.

- APPS -

When it comes to apps, there are plenty of free ones to fire imaginations of all ages, but our favourites are by developer Toca Boca. Affordable (some, not all, are free), beautifully designed and fun to explore, kids can design their own creatures, make their own music, or even get creative in the kitchen. No matter the app my 3 invariably recreate in real life after a session on the screen with anything by Toca Boca. 

MoMA Art Lab is a window into the wonderful world of the museum’s modern art collection and full of simple, beautiful activities that introduce art techniques and rather uniquely, encourages creativity between friends and family members. It’s free and it’s loads of fun.

Tate’sNoisy Neighbours app is filled with really vibrant illustrations and allows users to create their own characters and record sounds, which makes it a big hit in our house. As to be expected of an artyfarty powerhouse like Tate, it has a great kids section on its website - they bring kids together with artists like Hackney resident Camille Walala, film the results and suggest simple, creative projects worth doing on a stay at home kinda day.


A firm family favourite at Arts Crusade HQ is Art for Kids Hub. American Dad Rob is an illustrator who does a weekly drawing tutorial with his two kids and pops it up on his fantastic YouTube channel for viewers to draw along. Rob takes things so slowly that it really is foolproof and the sense of satisfaction the kids get from drawing their favourite characters is pretty ace. Try it, no matter the age, there’s something for everyone on here. 

Make Film Play is another youtube channel worth a look for video tutorials on how to bring art to life. 


Craft whack is a blog run by Jeanette Nyberg and she nails it for ages 8-15 with a great sense of humour in all that she does. She’s my go to gal when it comes to seeking inspiration for easy to do activities, most recently making giant flowers fora Frida Kahlo themed playdate. Yes, really.

The Artful Parent, No Flash Cards and Babble Dabble Do are three more worth a look see for artyfarty inspiration with an educational slant.

Instagram is an absolute goldmine when it comes to creative inspiration for kiddos and adults alike. Check out Susy Rugg, aka @HandyWithScissors - an Australian who makes the funnest stuff with everyday recycled materials - her imagination knows no bounds and the projects are all simple and worth hanging on to after they’re done. @ArtFido is another account that distracts and amazes my kiddos. Visit it to see why. You’ll find me on there as @TheArtsCrusader too of course ;)

- IRL - 

For anyone who prefers to get their art kicks In Real Life, Art Bash and Lemon Art Lab are two Hackney-based art clubs, happy to give the kids you love a #KickUpTheArts this Summer and beyond. 

Happy holidays folks,


@TheArtsCrusader ⚡️

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Baby Jack - step by step instructions

So, we’ve been hanging out at the V & A Museum of Childhood and yesterday we made our own Jumping Jacks. 'Twas fun and I can highly recommend the workshops with lovely, bubbly artist Laura X Carle. She’s ace.

The theme of all their workshops this holiday is "the moving museum" and there's loads of great stuff happening. I've taken over their instagram and in case you don't make it the museum, I'm sharing with you how to get in on the moving fun at home.

So, to make your Jumping Jack, here's what you'll need:

⚡️Pencil & Colouring Pens
⚡️Card - paper will do, but something a bit sturdier is better
⚡️Paper fasteners  / eyelets - you’ll need at least 4, more if you want more joints. Get them in yer local craft / hardware shop or on amazon (did I say that?! slap!)
⚡️String / ribbon / an old lace
⚡️Sweets (for the grown ups or as an incentive for reluctant smallies ;))

NOTE before you start: I would say this is an activity for the over 6s, younger than that will need lots of help, but you can always let them loose with the colouring part and they will most definitely have the wackiest ideas when it comes to choosing a character…

1. On your card, draw your jumping jack character - it can be who or whatever you like, just make sure it has1 x head and body2 x arms2 x legs. You can add more joints if you have enough fasteners (ponytails, feet, hands, jointed legs and arms).

Colour your character in, add a few feathers n gems if you like, let your imagination run wild!

2. Cut out your character into its parts
1 x head and body
2 x arms (upper arms and forearms with hands if you like)
2 x legs (thighs and lower legs with feet if you like

3. Lay out your character and decided how you want the arms n legs to be - up for happy, down for a moodier look ;)

4. Turn your character over and, using a sharp pencil, punch a hole in the places you want the arms n legs to attach

5. Push the fasteners into the holes and secure, but not too tightly or your Jack won't move!

Here’s where it starts to get tricky, so a good time to eat a sweetie and concentrate...

6. Cut two pieces of string and place at the outer edge of each joint

7. Using very small pieces of tape, stick the string to the joints WITHOUT sticking the joints to the body (so the joints still move freely)

8.Cut a longer piece of string and first tie a knot to the middle of your arms string, then tie a knot in the middle of the legs string.

Ya get me?

9. Make sure the middle long string is quite taut and give it a jiggle as you go so the legs n arms can move.

10. Attach a loop of string to the top and you're good to go.

It does take a good bit of jiggling to get it right. Persevere. It's worth it.

Et voila. One Jumping Jack for you (and the kids) to hang on your window and impress all your/their mates with.

Go you SUPERMAMA / SUPERDAD / SUPERGRAN / SUPERNANNY / SUPERSITTER... (delete as appropriate) 👊 👊 👊

If you make one - and you know you want to - post your pics on Instagram / Facebook / Twitter using hashtag #KickUpTheArts and tag @museumchidhood and @theartscrusader to feature in our social media feeds. We wanna see your #JumpingJacks!

I believe my work here is done for now.

The Arts Crusader⚡️

P.S. follow me on InstagramTwitterFacebook and Pinterest for a #KickUpTheArts

Monday, 23 May 2016

Your Half Term #KickUpTheArts

It's here again folks, the kids will be home all week NEXT WEEK. Eeeeeeek! Having had many a mid term meltdown, I have learned that it's best to approach these "holidays" like a scout - BE PREPARED.

In an effort to ease your pain and maximise the pleasure factor, here are some suggestions for you, feel free to take 'em or leave 'em.

Saturday, May 28
 It's a case of Dalston Children's Festival to the rescue today, whoop! Yep, there is some awesome FREE stuff to do all day long - ride in a canal boat with Chug, learn how to paint a mural at Bootstrap, draw on the streets in Dalston Square, paint and create at the Curve Garden, make a pop up card at the Library, have a caricature done at Donna Fugassa, all the details on their lovely website.

Sunday, May 29
Check out “Magical Surfaces” - it's a wacky, weird and kinda wonderful photography exhibit at Parasol Unit. Follow with lunch or snacks at the fabulously family friendly Toconoco cafe just around the corner.

Joel Sternfeld, 'McLean, Virginia, December 1978' (detail)
Monday, May 30
Join me for the first day of half term workshops at the V & A Museum of Childhood. The theme this holiday is "the moving museum" and I’m taking over their Instagram for the week, so if you can’t make it in, I'll make sure you and the kids you love can join the fun and get busy at home.
I know quite a few local parents and carers who feel like they've done this place to death, but change is a-comin and the moving museum is just the start. C'mon in this week for a #KickUpTheArts ;)

Tuesday, May 31
At some stage this week, head to Mayfair's Victoria Miro Gallery to see this dotty exhibit by the even dottier Yayoi Kusama. She is brilliexcellent and it's a great intro to art for smallies. On till end of June.

artist Yayoi Kusama
Wednesday, June 1
Hackney Shed are running 2 FREE masterclass workshops teaching circus skills today for 8-12 year olds (and another tomorrow for 13-19 year olds). Working with a professional circus artist the workshops will cover skills including juggling, acrobatic skills and hula hoop techniques. Woohooo!

Each workshop runs from 11.00am – 4.00pm and will be in the theatre at BSix College, Kenninghall Road, E5 8BP. Sign up in advance (here), bring a packed lunch and prepare to get sweaty... 

Thursday, June 2
At Tate Britain from 11-4pm today 8-14 year olds are invited to get involved, mix things up and redesign the Tate website. Watch out for loads of excellent stuff happening later in the month for kids of all ages - with the opening of the new wing at Tate Modern, there’s lots of free activities for all ages.

Friday, June 3
Yes, there are dirty bits, but there’s also those iconic balloon sculptures and the biggest mountain of play-doh you’ll ever see. Go to Vauxhall and see Damien Hirst’s showcase of Jeff Koons’ work at Newport Street Gallery.

Jeff Koons at Newport Street Gallery
Bring your camera and get the kids to do some funny poses, it's #artskicking and another easy, colourful intro to the art world for kiddos.

Saturday, June 4
It’s the Dalston Children’s Festival again - covering our #arts for two weeks in a row! Arrive early for a movement workshop at the Arcola Theatre, take in a live theatre performance at the Rio Cinema, spend a penny with Bump Buddies at Dalston Square, shake your booty on Forest Road, there's something for everyone.

Sunday, June 5

I know I keep banging on about it, but have you downloaded the SpaceExplorer app yet?
Do it, then go for a lovely leisurely walkies.
The Girlchild spaces out on the Space Explorer trail
Happy Half Term crusaders. Go kick some #arts.

The Arts Crusader⚡️

P.S. I'm mainly to be found on Instagram and in Love East Magazine these days, but follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest if you feel so inclined ;)

Monday, 16 May 2016

Meet the Space Explorer

At Arts Crusade HQ we’ve been well and truly arts-kicked by the recent appearance of some gorgeous, large scale photographs on the walls of our neighbourhood. Intrigued, I met up with photographer Robin Mellor of Space Explorer, to find out more…
Photographer Robin Mellor, with Chuck at Wilton Estate, Forest Road
Space Explorer is a pioneering public art initiative by Robin and co-founder Yassa Khan (who's a Creative Director at Grey Advertising and currently volunteering at a Refugee Camp in Greece - support here! ) that’s been almost 3 years in the planning. Their sense of adventure and passion for bringing art into the heart of local communities raised the lads £16,000 on kickstarter and the support of sponsors including Hackney Council to make their innovative plan a reality.
“Space Explorer was set up to try and reach as many people as possible, to inspire those who wouldn’t ordinarily think about walking into a gallery. I think it’s important to try and reach out to an audience who aren’t regular art lovers, as well as those who are.” Robin Mellor
Community is very much at the heart of the concept, engaging local people in their own space in “democratic, unexpected and intriguing ways”. Having lived in Hackney for 12 years, Robin grappled with the fact that for such a creative borough, there’s really not much public, freely accessible art on display here. He planned to show this work in a gallery, but the cost of getting the sound right proved prohibitive, so he hatched a new plan to make the walls of Hackney his gallery instead and to harness the power of the smartphone while he was at it. Boom! A whole new immersive art experience is born.

This inaugural exhibition “Another Space and Time” comprises 15 large scale photographs of American desert dwellers. Printed on vinyl and dotted on walls from Mare Street, via London Fields to Regents Canal, each image is accompanied by an audio story, unlocked when you download the free app. The images are intriguing as is, but the audio brings a whole other dimension to the show. 

The Girlchild with Cathie at the Morland Estate, Gayhurst Road
Cathie on Gayhurst Road is a recovering alcoholic. She attributes her recovery to the power of the desert and its wild dogs, who rescued her when she was at her lowest ebb.

The Claw, Richmond Road. You'll need a banana to keep you going...
Round the corner on Richmond Road are a set of dinosaur claws deposited by a UFO, according to a man who knows Jesus - personally.

Sandi on Wilton Way asks "Do you really need those curtains?"
Angela on Regent’s Canal found peace and mental clarity in the desert after years in the City, while Sandi on Wilton Way found freedom in shunning consumption.
“The hardship you must endure in the desert is perfectly counterbalanced with freedom you are granted. It is this relationship that makes for an incredibly creative and resourceful environment, one which forces those who live in it to explore and learn about themselves as well as the world around them.”  Robin Mellor
Robin reckons his subjects would get a kick out of where they’ve ended up. From the American desert to the streets of Hackney, who’da thunk it, eh?! I reckon there's a whole other show in that...
Running from the T-Rex, Broadway Market
Pausing to look and listen as we amble through our neighbourhood, crossing paths in this way with people living at such a physical remove from ourselves, is a positively energising experience. It’s certainly got me thinking and renewed my belief in the creative power of boredom. For kids and adults alike, less is more. We don’t need to be constantly doing stuff and consuming stuff. Sometimes, just let’s all get bored as hell and watch what happens next.

This is an exhibition for all ages - it’s got fresh air, dinosaurs, UFOs, funny hairdos, cowboy hats, the eternal search for the meaning of life and parent-approved screentime. It’s absolutely, positively right up my street.

Now get your smartphone at the ready, put your explorers’ boots (and headphones) on and give yourself a jolly good #KickUpTheArts.

Download the Space-Explorer app for free on apple or android
or pick up a copy of the magazine in cafés along the route
- Exhibition runs till June 30th -
keep an eye on the website for details of artist led workshops 
on the Wilton Estate and at Hackney Picturehouse, happening soon...

The Arts Crusader ⚡️

P.S. follow me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest for a #KickUpTheArts

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Top tips & my top 5 Hackney Galleries to visit with kiddos

Here's my latest offering in Love East magazine, winging its way to Hackney homes this month. Read it here. Or just, ya know, here. Enjoy!

Visiting galleries can be ‘challenging’ with little ones in tow. The potential for breakages, short attention spans, the “will they / won’t they have a tantrum?” factor, why would you bother? Since I decided to give myself a #KickUpTheArts this year, I’ve taken the plunge with my three (age 7, 5 & 1) and been thoroughly, pleasantly surprised.

So long as you…

- explain the rules in advance (Use bribery or turn it into a challenge - “Whoever gets through without touching or breaking anything gets a bun.”)
- have a game up your sleeve (try “I Spy”, “Who can speak the quietest?” or “Tell me a story”)
- plan something to do afterwards (a trip to a nearby playground or park)
- ensure the easy availability of cake

…taking kids to galleries is FUN and inspiring. You can find lots more tips over on my pinterest.
find more tips here

My Top 5 child friendly Hackney Galleries

London wise, Saatchi Gallery is our new fave - it’s free, there’s no barriers between the artworks and the viewer and kids are really welcome. In Hackney, we’re spoilt for choice, but here are five worth visiting with the kiddos…

Stour Space, Hackney Wick - it’s recent “What’s Up Plant?”exhibition included a marshmallow cactus and a plaited plant on a tricycle. What’s not to love?! A small space with a relaxed vibe and lovely art shop on site. The adjoining cafe is excellent, with great food, coffee and canal views. Follow with a scoot at QE Olympic Park.

we had a good giggle at "what's up plant?" at Stour Space
Banner Repeater, Platform 1, Hackney Downs Station - make like Harry Potter and visit this great little gallery inside the station. It’s the best fun to get to and everybody leaves with a FREE piece of art.

the kids LOVED Banner Repeater gallery in the train station
Standpoint Gallery, Coronet Street, Hoxton - we once found a giant walrus trapped in the lift in this gallery behind Hoxton Square. Upstairs, Stuart Carey’s ceramics studio and the magical New North Press host regular open studios and family workshops.

...we once found a giant walrus in the lift at Standpoint Gallery...
BSMTspace, 5D Stoke Newington Road - streetartists a speciality in this Stokey basement, recently filled with lead balloons (really) and Jeff Koons’ inspired street art from Fanakapan.

fannying around with Fanakapan at BSMTspace
Print House Gallery, Ashwin Street, Dalston - next door to the Arcola Theatre, this space often hosts local themed exhibitions. Currently seeking submissions for a collage-themed exhibition in July, when the roof garden will be open to visitors too.

what's dalston done for you? at Printhouse Gallery
No excuses. Give yourself a #KickUpTheArts.

The Arts Crusader ⚡️

P.S. follow me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest and give yourself a #KickUpTheArts

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