A few months back I was invited to join a meeting with the Nottingham Family Arts Network – the people who run the city’s arts venues. Blogging opens some amazing doors, and some doors I miss (I used to be a drama teacher and education advisor) – it was a real honour to help shape an event for family bloggers in the region, to showcase family arts events in Nottingham. They hosted an incredible event, although I should have know it would be awesome, after all, these people know everything there is to know about family arts events.
Our day touring the family arts network was just what I needed, it gave me and L a massive creative and inspirational boost – she dearly misses the amount of art she did at infant school, so this was her idea of heaven. It reminded me how incredibly lucky we are to have these venues on our doorstep and how much there is to do as a family. Have a look at how much art and culture we squeezed into just one day, check the links to the venues at the bottom of the post, get out your diary and book some art and culture into family life.
Nottingham Theatre Royal and Concert Hall
I can’t recommend a backstage tour enough, you can book on to regular tours, more information here. Check out what shows are coming too, we’ve got Horrible Histories and Diversity on our list.
Having done my stints as a stage manager, I loved sneaking a look at the props table.
Backstage is so exciting.
This wall is where elaborate scenes would have been painted 150 years ago, when the theatre opened.
Setting foot on stage was magical, our tour guide David truly brought alive the theatre in years gone by, as well as in terms of current shows. The kids had so many questions, like how do you dust that chandelier? By climbing into the attic roof and winching it down – eek!
The neighbouring Concert Hall has had so many acts over the years and we watched The Bodyguard team setting up the stage.
It is easy to forget libraries have more to offer than just borrowing books. They have events on over half term, so we sampled super hero story time, followed by super hero mask making and graphic novel writing. I was really impressed by how quickly the children were to get stuck in, L soon had characters and a storyboard mapped out. It was lovely to be reminded how much children love being around books and to watch them effortlessly creating their own stories and picking new books up.
We popped to Nottingham Contemporary for lunch and a spot of playing with artefacts and costumes courtesy of Nottingham Museums. Nottingham has a great selection of interesting museums, including Nottingham Castle which has some fantastic interactive, touch screen exhibits, costumes to try on and underground cave tours. The Museum of Nottingham Life takes you through 300 years of Nottingham’s history, while Green’s Windmill has Science, and of course a flour milling theme. Wollaton Hall is full of history and stuffed animals and insect collections, as well as being a glorious deer park and providing the exterior for Bruce Wayne’s mansion in Batman Returns – you can read about our day out there on my other blog. Gothic Newstead Abbey is the former home of poet Byron and a great place to run wild as we discovered earlier this year.
The Contemporary is an awesome modern art space, with loads of space for kids to engage with the galleries, an amazing family workshop offering and spacious and delicious cafe.
We played in the Sun Ra exhibition, Sun Ra was an experimental jazz musician, who also believed he was from Saturn. HIs music is suspended from the ceiling via lost of headphones, while his album covers are on display. We were challenged by one of the resident artists to ‘draw what we heard’ on a sheet of sticky labels. Yes we had yellow ponchos on, because when it finished we got to stick our sticky labels all over each other and turn each other into walking works of alien art. It was so much fun and totally liberating.
Next we joined the drop in family arts activities, these run in term time and holidays and weekends, here’s one we did earlier. When we visited the theme was Hello Yellow, with all sorts of methods available to fill the room with yellow – always one to be hands on, L went for finger painting her contribution.
We whizzed over on the brand new tram link to Nottingham Lakeside, a first for lots of us.
Apart from having regular children’s theatre, Nottingham Lakeside Arts also has two galleries where children can access Art Explorer packs with themed activities around exhibitions. We also didn’t realise there are lots of historical artefacts and ancient treasures which have been discovered in Nottingham on display in the University of Nottingham Museum just across the grass. There’s also an amazing cafe, and Lakeside is perfectly placed for a day out, with Highfields Park and the University boat lake outside the door.
We worked with an artist in residence to produce clay pieces inspired by Anna Collette Hunt’s Swarm which is currently exhibited in the foyer.
I love the impact of this piece both from a distance, and then close up when you see the swarm is made up of hundreds of intricate and unique clay insects.
Having sketched some designs for inspiration, the kids went back to the table to work on their designs. There are regular weekend art and drama classes for young people here, as well as one off events.
I couldn’t resist joining in, although I chose the trickiest insect creation I think!
What an incredible day. It was a big day, you probably wouldn’t attempt all these family arts events in Nottingham in one day of course – but saying that, the children were so engaged and excited by what each arts venue had to offer they all behaved brilliantly, and i certainly wore them out!
Need to Know
If you are looking for something fun to do with the family this half term/this weekend/today/next week/this month, check out these venues for amazing family arts events in Nottingham:
Plan your Tram Travel
This is the video we made last year with the Nottingham Family Arts Network – there is so much to do in the city.