Our Dismaland Experience

Dismaland gift shop

Dear readers, I’m sure a lot of you have heard about the notorious Dismaland by now. (If you haven’t where have you been?!) It’s been all over the news, trending on Twitter and it’s the most talked about Modern Art show in … Continue reading

Adventures with Charlie and Lola at Mottisfont

Dear mummy, we finally visited the Lauren Child exhibition at Mottisfont, National Trust. We’d been waiting since the exhibition started in July to find the perfect weekend to visit. It’s the first art show I’ve been really, really interested in….being … Continue reading

Christmas at Mottisfont, National Trust

Christmas at Mottisfont, National Trust

“The Nutcracker”

Today king of mice, tonight king of dolls. Tomorrow… king of EVERYTHING!
-Mouse King

Dear Mummy, it’s December and we are looking for fun things to do in Hampshire over the Christmas period. As you all know we’re big fans of The National Trust and have been members now since I was born. Each Christmas Mottisfont hold a Christmassy wonderland in their grounds and the house. If you don’t know what or where Mottisfont is, then head over here to check it out and have a look at some of my past reviews.

Mottisfont GroundsThis year the Mottisfont NT team have put on a spectacular display, it’s theme is The Nutcracker, where toys and fun comes to life!

The Nutcracker is based on the book “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” by E.T.A. Hoffman. Russian composer Peter Tchaikovsky wrote the music for the ballet which it is now most famous for. Over the Christmas period families flock to see the ballet, but this year The Nutcracker story is being hosted a bit closer to home in Romsey, Hampshire at Mottisfont, National Trust until Jan 4th 2015.

We were lucky enough to go on the opening day and weren’t disappointed with the weather either. It’s a bright and crisp day, the last day of November 2014 and there is a chill in the air. We wrap up warm and put our wellies on, as it’s especially muddy at Mottisfont at present, you see they have some building works happening at the entrance to the estate. The National Trust are creating a super-duper visitors centre which will be opening this time next year! Looking at the plans on the way in, it looks fab – very modern and in keeping with its surroundings.

So there is a temporary wooden chalet with pretty fairy lights to greet visitors to Mottisfont. It’s very quaint. No ducks are out on the river, as it’s too cold! The large trees are all bear, their huge branches looking creepy like something out of ‘Sleepy Hollow’ I half expect a headless horseman to appear out of the large trunks.

The Cafe has been swapped around since we last visited, which is a shame as the dinning areas seem a bit more cramped and the queues for food longer. It could be because its busy today….We grab some yummy Christmas Cake, a kids picnic box and some warm soup and a jacket potato. My mummy dives into the cake before she’s had the soup! I, on the other hand, am quite content to be a fidget-bum and terrorise the rest of the dinners by weaving in and out of the chairs and creating havoc. It’s all a bit stressful to get all of us sat down and eating, and mummy and daddy take turns to feed themselves then me. An elderly group sit next to us and just stare.

Mottisfont's ChristmasAfter lunch we head outside to explore, running around like mad loons on the grass – and that’s just mummy. You see my daddy is still not well, he had pneumonia and don’t think he’s fully recovered yet, so walks around finding it hard to breath.

We head into the house and follow The Nutcracker paper guide and activities (the printed map is a suggested donation of £1 and is a good keepsake) We follow Clara and other characters from The Nutcracker around the large manor house. First we stop to see the enormous size christmas tree and wrapped presents – the baubles are larger than my head! My uncle, cousin and daddy sit on the carpeted floor and play with some of the old-fashioned toys laid out (it’s all very civilised) well…it was until I decided to have a mad 5 minutes, jumping around and dancing to silent music.

The Nutcraker at MottisfontWe head down the pretty lit corridor to the large wooden staircase and see Herr Drosselmeyer (a character out of the Nutcracker) directing visitors upstairs to the dream mechanical world of the Nutcracker. We play peekaboo through the banisters and I get scared of the large wooden puppets, we don’t have time to sit and craft paper puppets, so my mummy takes them home for us to do later.

The next room is filled with clear little boxes. Inside these boxes are little mechanical toys. They look super cute – but on closer inspection and when daddy pushes the red buttons on the side of the display cases – they come to life! I get scared instantly and look away. However, my mummy is in her element, pressing each and every one of those red buttons and enjoying the displays. The weird and wonderful automata are on show from the famous Cabaret Mechanical Theatre. We eventually walk through Mottisfont’s art exhibition rooms, where the Nutcracker story is projected through film, showcasing an exciting battle between the Mouse King and the toy soldiers, artwork and activities (we won’t tell you too much as we don’t want to ruin the surprise for you if you decide to go) but it’s awesome. Beautiful little lantern theatres reveal more of the story.

Bella at MottisfontWe’ve been inside the house for nearly half an hour, and as the sun is shinning we head back outside to find the ‘Land of Sweets’ in the courtyard, a cuppa tea and some Christmas presents from the gift shop.

My mummy decides that sticky fingers shouldn’t be inside a gift shop and after picking up several times and being told to put them back, I’m safely escorted from the premises by daddy. However I do mange to convince them to buy this cute little pack of jingle bells for the tree….well, they aren’t really for the tree! I take two out and frantically wave them up and down, making the bells ring around the courtyard, people stop and stare and they sound very christmassy – just like reindeer bells I think. It’s not long before I’m trading one for a chocolate coin off my cousin..yes I’m really that devious. My mummy peals the golden wrapper off it and I devour the chocolate coin – my first one ever! Now that my cousin and I have bells we ring them together creating even more noise – its such fun!

The Winter Garden at Mottisfont Holding hands we all head to the ‘Land of Snow’ in the Winter Garden to take in the beautiful art installation by Sarah Filmer. Glass and perspex snowflakes hand from the tree and sparkle in the winter sunlight. The sun is bright and low in the sky and the snowflakes twinkle when the wind catches them, we also see large mirrored snow geese swooping up to a large oak tree.

I have fun chasing my cousin around down the windy paths and through the gates, I get very muddy after falling over a couple of times. My mummy however, is not horrified by that – I mean whats a bit of mud eh? What she IS horrified by though is other visitors reactions and judgment to seeing me covered in mud *Shock* Horror* covering their expressions….come on guys! It’s only a bit of mud…haven’t you ever seem a muddy child! Jeeeeze!

Mottisfont WinterThe temperature has dropped and we ahead back to the courtyard where I play in the learning and activity room, colouring in a gingerbread man and sticking little gems on him, while daddy warms up. On returning outside I see my opportunity to check out this large puddle which has been playing on my mind. I wanted to play in it earlier, but didn’t have the chance.

Now mummy and daddy are having a rest drinking their tea and watching me from afar I jump in. The puddle covers my feet so I can’t see them anymore, mummy and daddy are talking and I can hear them discussing about whether I’m ok jumping in that large puddle and what happens if I………oh dear. I’ve fallen over. Right in the puddle. Right on my bum. Water seeping into my boots. Doh! Oh well, at least mummy and daddy have ANOTHER spare set of clothes.

Needless to say on the way out we dodge all puddles……

There is mist coming off the River Test, when we leave at 4ish, we’ve lost the daylight and the half-moon is out, I eagerly point at it shouting ‘mooooom’. Its cold. Real cold. My cheeks are rosy and my fingers are like little icicles. We all bundle in the car and head home. I sing loudly all the way home (much to the annoyance of mummy).

If you love the Nutcracker story…or just love Christmas, then this is the place for you. It really will capture your imagination.

We were most impressed by the time and effort that went into the creation and preparation of the Land of Sweets by Mottisfonts Craft Group….so well done! It really was appreciated.

We had a fantastic day. I’m sure these photos say it all!

Love Bella x

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Idle Cans and my funky festival cart

Idle Cans and my funky festival cart

Dear mummy, we are excited about this next post. Some of you may be aware from twitter that we recently commissioned the talented Idle Cans www.idlecans.co.uk to decorate our festival cart after seeing an exhibition in Basingstoke.

All our own work BasingstokeIt all started over a month ago, when we visited Basingstoke Festival Place shopping centre, and saw a really cool pop-up art gallery.

The shop was run by local artists in Hampshire as a way of showcasing their work to the masses.

It’s a fantastic way of bringing art to the retail sector and gives people the opportunity to purchase some great one-off pieces.Funky children's festival cart

The gallery features Illustrators, street artists, sculptors, furniture designers and fine artists.

We particularly liked Kev Munday’s artwork and he uses different types of media to display his graphics.

He has just finished decorating great-grandfather clock! You can find the pop-up shop at www.allourownwork.co.uk and on Facebook.

Idle CansIdle Cans had been recommended to us as the perfect artist to embellish our festival cart which we bought off Amazon for the bargain bucket price of £30!

Considering it’s at least £60 to hire one at a festival, this was a real bargain.

We purchased it to carry stuff from the car to the camping site at Just So Festival and also to cart me around in during the event, as an alternative to a buggy.

Carts are great to wheel over hard terrain due to their large wheels and sturdy chassis. So we contacted Idle Cans to get a quote. He replied back very quickly and professionally with a reasonable quote to cover the cart with his custom artwork. He’d never done anything like this before and was up for the challenge.

So what and who is the mysterious Idle Cans? Idle Cans is infact a Graffiti and Street Artist called Nzie, who set up Idle Cans Ltd 2013 nearly 10 years after his arrest for graffiting trains and public walkways.

He wanted to do something positive with his talent and to set a good example to others.

Fist bump with NzieSince 2003 he has been promoting the positive side of his art and is now a legal street artist running kids workshops in schools, helping paint local government murals and using his skills to bring joy to many children’s lives. What a great turnaround!

You can see his work at http://www.idlecans.co.uk

We delivered the cart to him in the pop-up gallery and within 2 weeks it had been completed!

Very speedy! We were amazed at the results. The design brief was to create a woodland scene on the sides and to commemorate my first camping and festival experience.

He had personalised my festival cart with my name and added little toadstools and woodland animals. It looked very Disney but in a funky street style way. We were very impressed by the artistic drawings and the spray paint finish.

We got so many lovely comments from the gallery staff when we came to pick it up and mummy and daddy towed me through Festival Place to give it a test drive. When we were at the Just So Festival, loads of people stopped to stare in awe and we had some lovely comments on the design. I got a high-five from Idle Cans and must have been his youngest customer.

Idle Cans festival cartWhen we got to Just So Festival, a lot of other families had their own personalised carts but mine stood out a mile.

Idle Cans did a fantastic job on it and we would recommend his services to anyone looking to personalise a festival cart, or commission a funky bit of street art.

He is very talented and looking at the other artwork he does that boyz got skilz.

Thank you Idle Cans for my beautiful cart 🙂 We can’t stop raving about it enough! I’m sure we will attend many more festivals with it and will be a part of my memories growing up. A future family heirloom? I think so!

Bella xx

Just So Festival 2014 Review

Just So Much Fun at Just So Festival

August 15th – August 17th

Dear mummy, phew! What a weekend we’ve just had! We travelled 3 hours up to Cheshire for the annual Just So Festival. It had been in our calendar for months, we’d scoured Pinterest for costume ideas for the Tribal Tournament and busy prepped all our camping gear (I’d even packed my own teddies!)

The journey up and camping.

On Friday morning we were finally on our epic adventure. The car was full to bust! Keeping me amused in the car was a challenge, even though I slept the majority of the way up, daddy had ‘In the night garden’ on standby just incase I got fractious. We were all conscious that we needed to get to the festival when the gates opened at 12pm to pitch a tent and secure our home away from home.

Camping at Just So Festival 2014Being first timers, we didn’t know where to pitch up or where to go. Natural instinct took over and mummy bundled me in my festival cart when we arrived with some bags and we took off on our trek to find a bit of flat grass. We walked for what seemed like ages, winding our way though the mass of already pitched tents. Even though we arrived at 1.30pm a lot of people had already secured their patches and more disappointingly secured others with bags and chairs. We asked several times if we could pitch up and sadly kept getting turned away with festival goers saying they were “reserved” for friends. Before we knew it we were very far from the car park, up a gradual slope and saw the end of the roped off little path. At last some space! Horror descended over our faces when we found out these patches too were “reserved” for friends that hadn’t turned up yet! 5 tent pitches! Eventually we talked the other camper round to let us pitch up as mummy had walked so far with me. When daddy turned up he was angry and couldn’t understand why people would reserve bits of grass with chairs and coats. Not a good start to the weekend my mummy thought.

It took us 2 hours to get sorted. However it wasn’t all doom and gloom, mummy had walked so far up the campsite that we realised we were only a stones throw from the entrance!! “Well done mummy” this is a perfect position I clap. Luckily for us we pitched up just before the rain started and after the quick shower, had a cuppa and a well deserved sandwich.

The next challenge was getting our festival wristbands, mummy queued for 20 mins for her wristband, she wished we had gone to get them as soon as we arrived. The sun was shining, but bored kids had trashed the ‘hello’ signs which dotted the pathway up to the entrance which was a shame. It was 4.30pm when we finally got into the festival on Friday. 2.5 hours after the festival had started! Our own fault for not leaving earlier, but also it seemed that everyone arrived at the same time to collect their wristbands. Top tip: lay your tent out on the grass, then get your wristbands before putting the tent up.

Friday evening at the Festival

We went around the festival site to get a lay of the land and it is stunning, so much attention to detail. Rode Hall is beautiful. The organisers have done a wonderful job with the decorations and the artwork. Just So Festival has 8 main areas. The Social & Footlights, Peek-a-boo, Head-over-Heels, The Imaginarium, Jitterbug, Spellbound Forest, Lazy Days and the High Seas. We started off at the Social, the main hub for eating and dancing, with the main stage within a walled field on a farm. It was called Footlights, with a bar opposite…the perfect remedy for my parents after a stressful afternoon.

We chilled out and listened to the folky, bluegrass acoustic band called ‘Kidnap Alice’ in the afternoon sunshine, black clouds threaten but nothing came of it.

Hanging around at Just So FestivalWe explored the magical Spellbound Forest and listened to some dusk campfire stories from the fabulous duo Patrick and Bridget. They were very funny! Later we headed back to the campsite for a BBQ and an early night for me.

While I was asleep Grandma and Grandpa looked after me while Mummy and Daddy took a trip down the spooky path towards The High Seas and saw the awesome Shadowplay. I slept without a problem all the way from 8pm til 7am not bad for a first timer camping eh? Mummy and Daddy on the other hand were woken by a screaming toddler in the middle of the night which is a standard hazard of camping so close to other young families. On the whole though we were all amazed how silence descended on the campsite at 11pm and all was still until babies woke at dawn.

Saturday at the Festival. The Lantern Parade Day.

We woke with glorious sunshine on Saturday, dew on the grass and our bellies full of excitement for what lay ahead. Mummy took me to Peek-a-Boo, a baby and toddler area of the festival, for my early morning walk as not to wake the other campers, and for me to have some brekkie. She wheeled me around in my festival cart, while I remained in my sleepsuit, wellies and dressing gown, she in her PJs and she had a leisurely coffee and I had a jam croissant. We joined in with the ‘Wake Up Sleepy Heads’, and giggled as parents joined their infants in a cross between dancing and aerobic stretching to shake our weary bodies to life, ready for the day. It was such fun being silly and my mummy remembers seeing all the adults prancing around under the big tree.

Within Peek-a-Boo there was also a baby changing tent, a baby bathing tent, a feeding tent, Clay Babies (which we sadly did not get the opportunity to join in with as it always seemed too popular) the Sheetfort, Sling library and Weleda tent which hosted other baby activities such as Cello Babies and Baby Yoga. Do you know what would have been good? A soft play tent. But alas, they didn’t have one….maybe for next year? (During the weekend we missed so much here, as it always seemed very busy).

Just So Festival DecorationsBefore we knew it 2 hours had past and it was 9am, ready for my cereal and for my Mummy to wake the rest of our camping party, Grandma and Grandpa and Daddy. Mummy and Daddy dashed off to the Social to practice the Tribal Stag Chant ready for Sunday’s Parade and loved it. Afterwards we all spent the whole day exploring the festival. From 10am to 6pm. Mummy and Daddy had gotten into their Stag costumes and really into the Just So spirit of things.

We played in the sand at the Pirate Ship in the High Seas (another fab area of the festival) joined in with some pirate fun and lazed away lunchtime in the sun. Watched the Dancing Games and people playing in the hay, unfortunately we missed the opportunity to take part, as it was a pre-register. We watched circus performers and blew bubbles on the Lazy Days lawn. Listened to some more live music and generally sat and watched the world go by. I wanted to walk everywhere, so there was no rushing around and by the time we got to places we missed a lot. We stumbled on bits of things and threw our routine and stress out of the window. We dressed up and danced around. The Family Traveller magazine sponsored the event and we had our family picture taken on one of the Imaginarium Stages.

Saturday night while I was in bed, Mummy headed out to watch the Lantern Parade while I rested my weary head. It was spectacular and hopefully when I’m older I will come back and be able to fully appreciate it. That night Grandma and Grandpa went into the woods (Ooooo I say!) to relax around the curious campfire and they listened to the fabulous brass band ‘Perhaps Contraption’.

Sunday at the Festival. The Tribal Tournament / Wild Rumpus Parade Day.

Just So Festival WeekendOn Sunday, after a heavy thunderstorm over night the day was ominous. Black clouds littered the sky and the mood was glum. New day trippers had entered the site and gave the festival a fresh feel today, lifting wet spirits with new costumes ready for the tribal parade later that night. We spotted some great characters, like Mr and Mrs Fish carrying huge fishes on their backs with babies in slings on their fronts. The talented Fox 5 family who were singing in the Jitterbug Tent, the beautiful mermaids and the little boy who kept high-fiving my Mummy and Daddy, chanting “Go Stags!”

We joined in with the fantastic Bollywood dancing at the Social, provided by the awesome Sohan, teaching us great Bollywood steps, my Mummy and Grandma were busting some Stag moves while I looked on.

Organisers and volunteers were handing out golden nuggets for the tribal leaderboards. (One of the many Just So Festival activities ongoing during the weekend was an animal tribe competition to collect these golden nuggets in a tube in order to win the prized Just So Festival trophy). We had lunch by Head-over-Heels and watched the festival goers try out new circus skills.

The weather was hot and sunny when we finally settled down on a picnic blanket at Footlights to watch the star attraction John Hegley. His funny poems and silly songs made me dance with glee, even though I couldn’t understand what he was saying and a lot of the jokes went above my (and other children’s heads) to the wicked delight of the parents and that added to the fun. We loved the actions to ‘Guillemot’ bird. Just before he finished the heavens opened and we retreated to the comfort of the social barn for a cuppa.

Afterwards we aimlessly wandered around the woods and the Mirror Maze taking in the last of the daylight hours. I was fascinated by the lamps hanging from the branches and the fairy lights twinkling in the dusk. It was truly magical and our favourite moments were in the Spellbound Forest, Mummy and Daddy watching in awe as wonder spread across my face.

Just So Festival PhotosWe found that the early hours in the morning and early hours in the evening were the quietest, we felt we had the whole festival to ourselves which is a testament to the intimate feel of this children’s festival. I had a blast and looking back at the photos that my Mummy and Daddy took, I have a smile in 99% of the them.

Mummy’s highlight of the Just So Festival was watching me jig around to the music at Footlights and Daddy’s highlight was Tribal Chanting. My highlight was my eyes opening up to a whole new world of magic in the woods, performance and beauty. That sums up the Just So Festival. If you are looking for an arty, folky, funky family festival with a real sense of belonging then this is the festival for you.

As first timers we felt included in the Just So family. The Tribal Tournament was great fun, high fives from strangers, smiles and nods of approval for being silly, everyone was so friendly during the festival shenanigans (it’s just a shame the goodwill and magic didn’t extended to the campsites) no wristband salute we’d heard so much about and they needed more lights on pathways to add to the festival sparkle.

Our top tips for festival camping

1) Don’t pack too much! No, you don’t need those 24 batteries!!

2) Distraction for children when putting up and taking down tents with toys and music.

3) Snacks, when the food queues get too long and kids get fractious.

4) Familiar toys and books, to make your tent feel like home.

5) Wipes, wipes and more wipes, for when dewy grass gets on sticky hands.

6) Throw routine out of the window, don’t have a plan just go with the flow – it will be easier for everyone, trust us.

7) Be silly, be a big child, get messy and engage, leave your stress in the car park.

8) Let it all hang out, no one cares if you wear your PJs all day! (mummy is a prime example)

9) Get clothes and bags ready the night before for epic adventures in the morning.

10) …and breath! Take time to look at the sky.

Just So Festival SocialWe hope you like our little review on our first camping and festival experience at Just So Festival. We have only just scratched the surface of this great family festival and what was on offer. We would recommend it to any family, young or old! As a baby there were certain activities that I couldn’t do, so I can’t wait till I’m older to visit again. Be sure to visit the Wild Rumpus team and the Just So Festival website for next years shenanigans, their early bird tickets for 2015 get listed soon.

The question is will Mummy and Daddy let me go again? Will we head to Camp Bestival instead? Who knows….watch this space.

Bella xx

Binky Linky
Throwback Thursday

Quentin Blake and Friends at Mottisfont

Quentin Blake Exhibition at Mottisfont.

Mottisfont lavenderDear mummy, last Friday we visited one of our favourite haunts Mottisfont. For those that don’t know Mottisfont Abbey, it is a National Trust country estate situated just outside Romsey in Hampshire. It’s sheltered in the valley of the River Test and includes a large manor house which hosts art exhibitions, a winter garden, a walled rose garden and a river walk.

We’ve been in every season and Mottisfont is most spectacular in June when the roses are at full bloom.

Even in the winter months the large gothic trees and immaculate winter gardens are fabulous at Mottisfont. Today we are visiting to see the Quentin Blake exhibition.

Back of mottisfontIt’s a bright and sunny day and we arrived at 10am so we could enjoy the whole day here. We usually head around the front of the house and set up base camp, but today we are seeking shade at the back of the house. Mummy and Grandma laid out the blanket and had a cup of tea while I went to explore the great open space with my football.

The lavender smelt wonderful and the gentle breeze wafted a fragrance so delicate that you could just close your eyes and go to sleep. It was a super hot day and the breeze was a welcomed relief. I stopped from playing every once and a while to sit in the shade and drink my juice and eat the leftover crumbs of mummy’s bakewell slice acquired from Mottisfont’s lovely tearoom.

Baseball capSilly mummy had forgotten my sun hat today, but luckily for us Mottisfont has a great gift shop which sells everything you could possibly need for your little adventurer. We picked up a rather cute, hot pink kids baseball cap, which just about fit me. I loved it and wore it all day! Back to front, to the side like a hip-hop artist. I looked so ‘street’ all day! 😉

We went on a walkabout with my new sun hat and met a lovely gardener trimming the edging of the lawn and some very nice maintenance men climbing up ladders tending to the roof of one of the out-buildings. It’s getting hotter now in this midday sun so we duck inside to see the exhibition.

We’ve been to Mottisfont many times before and I remember dancing downstairs at the Snow Queens Ball. I know my way around the house and head straight for the stairs as the Quentin Blake exhibition is upstairs in the gallery part of Mottisfont.

Quentin BlakeMy mummy’s been waiting for months to see this exhibition. As a child she loved all the Roald Dahl books and the illustrations that Quentin Blake provided for these books. He too was a great storyteller. Through his pictures he brought the books to life for my mother.

Sir Quentin Blake was born in 1938, and is most famously know for illustrating children’s books by the likes of Roald Dahl and Joan Aiken.

‘Chocolate Celebration’ an illustration in watercolour and ink (above) for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory hung on the wall signed by Quentin Blake going for £4,750. Wow mummy that’s a real bargain!

My mummy’s favourite books he illustrated were The BFG, The Witches and The Twits. We weren’t disappointed by the exhibition, beautiful illustrations were on show for all to see and my mummy loved the trip down memory lane.

Quentin Blake Best of BuggiesOur favourite pieces by Quentin Blake at the exhibition were the Doughnut Machine, showing characters Arabel and Mortimer eating doughnuts. Also the ‘Best of buggies’, an illustration with pen ink and watercolour designed for a greeting card in 2008. We liked this piece because it shows a super-duper buggy with all it’s contraptions.

Some other notable children’s illustrators at the exhibition were, Oliver Jeffers, born in Belfast in 1977. Our favourite drawings of his was ‘Henry kept eating books’ from the Incredible Book Eating Boy published in 2006.

We liked Micheal Foreman and his fabulous Alice in Wonderland and treasure Island inspired watercolours. There were so many talented illustrators at this exhibition it was a real feast for the eyes! Even though I was a little bit small to fully enjoy this, mummy will read Roald Dalh books to me and remind me when I’m older that we visited Quentin Blake’s exhibition.

It’s well worth a visit, so much to see and do at Mottisfont both inside and outside.

The Quentin Blake exhibition at Mottisfont is on till the 14th September 2014.

Bella x

Digital Revolution at The Barbican, London

Digital Revolution at The Barbican, London

http://www.barbican.org.uk

The BarbicanSomething slightly different on the blog today. Mummy visited the Digital Revolution exhibition at The Barbican in London last week. A greatly anticipated event which had been on my mummy’s radar for some time. It was listed on Time Outs 10 Top Things to do in London last week.

The Barbican is Europe’s largest multi-arts venue showcasing art, music, theatre, dance, film and supporting creative learning. It looks like a plush cinema when you enter and ‘creatives’ fill the foyer on their trendy laptops and smartphones, working and having meetings.

We’ve traded the outdoors for indoors as we explored all things digital. Digital Revolution brings together artists, film-makers, CGI specialists, game designers, musicians (such as Will.i.am) and architects. Wow mummy! This exhibition looks really interesting, even for a non-geek like me! It’s an interactive show, so ‘do not touch’ doesn’t apply here! My kinda place!

Digital pets! Is this in our future?

The Petting Zoo at Digital RevolutionAs we walk into the Barbican we are greeted with a hub of activity, people are staring at something in the walkway near the entrance to the exhibition and ticket desk. On first glance it looks like hanging celling lights with funky LED lights, but as we walk past it, it follows us. Ooooo spooky! We realise that this is actually part of the exhibition called the Petting Zoo by Minimaforms who are an architecture and design studio.

It’s three giant robotic pet snakes which have the ability to adapt to their environment, mimic and touch their audience. The robotic installation of artificial intelligent creatures are designed to learn and explore behaviours through interaction with the public. It seems very alien. They love the attention and mummy spends a great deal of time playing with theses giant snakes. They follow her hand and shy away as she plays peek-a-boo with them. I think, artificial intelligence? Surely this is the rise of Skynet?? I’m worried.

The curve at Digital RevolutionsAs we turn to gain entry to the exhibition, we hear a familiar voice walk past us, mummy looks and is starstruck….it’s none other than the most famous musician/male pop artist in the charts Will.i.am. Wow! He looks just like he does in telly, my mummy thinks, grinning from ear to ear! He’s here to ensure his installation PYRAMIDI is running smoothly and to gauge public feedback on this opening day.

It’s further in the exhibition, so we make a note to visit it. He disappears into a lift with his mates and we, completely awestruck, head into the main exhibition. It’s very dark in here…….as we enter what as know as The Curve part of the Barbican, we are transformed into a world of large digital screens, the gentle humming from computer screens and lots of computer geeks playing on games consoles like PAC Man and Space Invaders. My mummy feels very nostalgic.

It’s like a computer museum, charting our digital past, cataloging early computers, digital artworks, video game cult classics and really old CGI footage.

However it has a computer expo feel about it and people are shuffling from one light box to another. It’s cramped and overwhelming, too much input Stephanie! We don’t spend long in the first part of The Curve.

Creative Spaces

Gravity filmmakingNext on the list is something that we really must see…it’s called Creative Spaces, a behind the scenes look at films like Gravity and Inception. We are immersed in large screens taking us through the visual effects from Oscar Award winners Tim Webber at Framestone and Paul Franklin at Double Negative. We watch how they use different techniques from CGI and filming rigs to light boxes and robotic cameras to make these blockbuster movies.

Music makes the world go round

We move forward in the exhibition and suddenly we are ushered through a red velvet curtain in to a small dark room.

We realise it’s to see Will.i.am’s installation PYRAMIDI. Music pumps through the speakers and the wall comes to life with an animated visual backdrop. This Sound & Vision part of the exhibition explores how emerging technologies have changed the way we experience music.

Will.i.am PYRAMIDIHere you’ll find a 6ft tall 3D animated head of Will.i.am, created using projection mapping that follows you around the room, alongside three robot instruments performing his newly commissioned song ‘Dreamin’ About the Future’, it’s a collaborative project created with Yuri Suzuki.

In this section there is also interactive and computer generated music videos which you can watch and listen too.

I believe in angels

Next up is a showcase of electronic artists who are well-versed in computer code. Using their talents to translate boring code and numbers into something visually beautiful.

My mummy with wingsA stand out exhibit in the State of Play section was Chris Milk’s The Treachery of Sanctuary. My mummy’s always wanted to have wings…and in this interactive exhibit she gets the chance. Gesture control and camera technologies are used in this interactive shadow play piece of artwork.

My mummy stood infront of the white screens and was amazed how her arms transformed into wings. A bit like Kinect on the XBOX or Wii Sports.

But far more sophisticated and beautiful than that. My mummy loved it and it was spectacular to watch her shadow fly away up into the air.

Mirror Mirror on the wall…

Spooky mirrorIn the next room a creepy mirror hung on the wall, like one you would find in a fairground House of Fun. It’s by Rafael Loranzo-Hemmer called The Year’s Midnight. My mummy had fun playing around with this interactive mirror. A camera is positioned to one side and locks onto your face as you stand in front of your reflection.

It triggers an animation within the mirror (which is actually a cleverly disguised screen) and plumes of white smoke pours out of your eyes, it’s clever and we spend a great deal of time mucking around with it.

We also dance around in front of Daniel Rozin’s real-time sketchy Mirror No. 10 as our reflections are sketched in front of us, like a Photoshop filter.

Digital Revolution ticketsWe head downstairs after visiting the Indie Games Space, where mummy challenges her friends to some old fashioned platform games. She loses gracefully claiming she’s out of practice.

We then are plunged again into darkness as we walk into the unique three-dimensional light field where we manipulate and dance around beams of lasers and luminous forms.

It’s very intense with smoke machines and lots of lasers and feels like we’ve entered a laser quest game. I’m half expecting someone to come out with a laser pack/gun and zap us.

We’ve been in for nearly two hours! As we leave the Barbican the bright sunshine hurts our eyes, seems like we’ve been indoors all day and in a different world. This is just a brief overview of our experience at the exhibition, it’s definitely worth a visit and teenagers would love it! The Digital Revolution exhibition goes on until the 14th September 2014.

Bella x oh…and mummy.

 

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall