Soldiers’ Journey at Milestones Museum

Soldiers’ Journey at Milestones Museum

November 2014

Dear mummy, it’s not often that we attend a historical exhibition and this week we feel that we are really witnessing something special.

Every year we honour Remembrance Day, we hold our minutes silence, wear our poppies and remember the brave heroes that fought in the First World War for our country, however this year is different.

As it’s the 100th year anniversary of the First World War, people up and down the country are celebrating our heroes by holding events to commemorate our fallen.

The most famous of these is the Poppy Display at The Tower of London, an art installation to mark each and everyone that gave up their lives to spare ours by ceramic artist Paul Cummins.

Closer to home, Hampshire are commemorating the centenary year by celebrating across our county. Hampshire’s Big Theme 1914, is a website dedicated to showcasing events and exhibitions marking the centenary of the beginning of the First World War. It’s a great resource that lists local events and exhibitions taking place throughout 2014 and into 2015. The Hampshire’s Big Theme 1914 website also shares personal stories that help viewers to understand Hampshire’s unique role in the conflict and provide previews of the forthcoming exhibitions.

Little did I know that Hampshire played such a critical role in the First World War, millions of soldiers headed to Hampshire to start their travels to join the conflict. Both my mummy and I wanted to gain a greater understanding of what people experienced during the war.  My mummy has watched war films, documentaries and attended the War & Peace Show but we wanted to immerse ourselves in an interactive experience. Bored of stuffy museums (which aren’t really child friendly) we headed to Hampshire’s Living History Museum, Milestones in Basingstoke. The last time we visited Milestone we saw the Lego Lost World down there!

Milestones is playing host to the ‘Soldiers’ Journey’ which is part of Hampshire’s Big Theme 1914 – a series of exhibitions to mark the centenary of the First World War. Soldiers’ Journey is an interactive exhibition designed to help kids understand what it would have been like to live in Hampshire during the First World War. Hampshire’s Big Theme 1914 had recommended this exhibition as family friendly, so we travelled back to the streets of wartime Hampshire at Milestones. To see Hampshire’s Home Front from a new perspective. Milestones is full of old-fashioned streets, vehicles and shops and is the perfect setting for this new type of exhibition.

Soldiers-Journey-1We follow two fictional characters, Tom and Emily, around the museum to help solve the mystery of a suspicious stranger…is he a German spy? On the way we meet soldiers from across the world and hear their stories via video and pop-up displays and life-size talking illustrations. During the school holidays and weekends live costumed actors talk to the public as well, which added to the whole experience. We even had the chance to play dress up too, by squeezing ourselves into old fashion nurses outfits and soldiers uniforms.

On entry to Milestones we were given a copy of Tom’s Diary which leads us through the war years, pausing at ‘story stops’ where we completed tasks and learnt about life in First World War Hampshire. We were also given pencils to fill in the worksheets in the diary, an audio guide and a map of Milestones.

We spent 3 hours following Tom and Emily around, occasionally stopping for a dance on the bandstand, a drink in the local pub and spend some pennies in the old-fashioned arcades. It’s a very educational and fun experience, perfect for attending this November. My favourite part was pressing the audio buttons on the displays and hearing the people talk and tell stories. Mummy loved the cardboard cut-outs of the characters and the drawings. Tom’s diary was also very easy and fun to follow and a lovely keepsake of the day.

Milestones Post OfficeAfterwards we visited Milestones old-fashioned post office, where you can dress up and post letters in their very own fully working store (You will need a key for this room from the information centre) they like to keep it in good working order. I enjoy listening to the audio description of the shops in the Milestones too! And wore the audio guide around my neck to listen to it. We finished off with tea and biscuits in the great little 1950’s cafe at Milestones and browsed around the extensive gift shop. My mummy bought me some stickers which kept me amused on the way home.

If you want to give your family a fun but educational overview to remember and celebrate the centenary year of the First World War, then we would highly recommend a visit to ‘Soldiers’ Journey’ at Milestones.

Soldiers’ Journey runs from Tuesday 5 August 2014 until Sunday 11 January 2015.

£8.95, Concessions £7.95, Child £5.25, Family £26.75

Love Bella x

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

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 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 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’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. PYRAMIDIHere you’ll find a 6ft tall 3D animated head of, 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.


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Spring at Mottisfont via Freeheelin’

Spring at Mottisfont via Freeheelin’

Friday, April 4, 2014.

Mottisfont HouseDear mummy, a couple of your friends have been to see the Lichfield Exhibition at The National Trust’s Mottisfont Estate and have recommended it to you so we decided to go. The weather is dry but overcast and we seem to be running away from the rain as we head to Stockbridge in Hampshire.

Our first stop on the way is a little designer shop called Freeheelin’, it’s located in a converted barn on a farm about 2 minutes down a small country lane from Stockbridge, Hampshire. It’s very easy to get to and they have loads of parking. As we pull up mummy can hear a cockerel crowing and it’s very tranquil. The shop is warm and inviting and Natasha greets us with a big smile and a cheery hello. The place is filled full of children’s treasure, pretty shoes from infant to child sizes, beautiful clothes such as Bonnie Baby and loads of colourful toys. Mummy spots a unicorn rucksack that she wants but unfortunately they don’t do it in adult sizes.

My new Shoes ECCOThe main purpose for the visit was to get me some sensible booties, as my Start-Rite Mary Janes are far too pretty to wear in the mud. I also needed to get measured as it’s been 6-8 weeks since my last fitting. I’m too small for wellies and I also want something trendy to support my ankles. I love pink and shiny things and am drawn to bright colours, so it was no surprise that when store owner Natasha selected 3 boots, mummy and I decided to go for the ECCO silver ones with neon pink laces. Very fashion forward, they go perfectly with my mint green star skinny jeans from BABY GAP and funky knitted pastel cardi from BONNIE BABY.

imageWe wave goodbye to Natasha at Freeheelin and head on our merry way to Mottisfont. It’s nice and quiet at Mottisfont today as it’s a Friday. We stroll around the Winter Garden on our own and watch the ducks paddle down the river walk. I’m so tired that I go for a nap, mummy’s affronted as she’s been talking to me throughout the walk and I’ve just been ignoring her. I can’t help it mummy, I find country walks so relaxing!

Mottisfont have some changes taking place to some of the path ways around the estate and they are undergoing some spring cleaning ready for the busy Easter period. Both mummy and I are intrigued. We play ball on the lawn infront of the main house and spend a lovely leisurely afternoon looking at spring flowers and chilling out. It makes a welcomed change from all this rain we’ve had recently!

Bella and BallMummy tempts me inside the house with a rice cake as we walk around the Lichfield exhibition, it’s a bit busier in here. We look at all the photographs and my mummy is particularly taken with the Ewan McGregor photo taken by Lichfield of him in a kilt….’yummy’ my mummy says. I don’t see the appeal! It was very warm in there and before long I’m desperate to get back outside in the fresh air. Houses can be stuffy sometimes! The next time we visit Mottisfont will be in June when the Walled Garden will be filled with roses in full bloom and I can’t wait! Last year I was carried in mummy’s sling (read out it here) and this year I’ll be able to get up close and personal with the flowers! Eek! So excited!

Thanks Mottisfont and Freeheelin for a lovely day x

Bella x

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