As part of my campaign to ensure 10YO and 3YO don’t spend their entire summer in front of the telly, today we headed for the Hepworth in Wakefield. They’re running various free holiday activities over the next few weeks, and this week’s sessions are entitled Artigami, which involves, according to their website: “folding, ripping, bending and more, discover the art of paper folding to create structures inspired by the holes and strings in Barbara Hepworth’s sculptures.”
Because I’m a bit rubbish at driving to new places, and especially rubbish at finding parking spaces, I decided to take the
coward’s way out environmentally friendly option of public transport. The cheapest way of getting one adult and two children from north Leeds to central Wakefield is a Metro Family Day Rover ticket, which we picked up at our local post office for £11.40. This was only actually a pound cheaper than buying return bus and train tickets for me and 10YO, given that 3YO still travels free. However, as it covers up to two adults plus three children, or one adult and four children for all off-peak buses and trains in West Yorkshire for a day, it’s a bargain well worth knowing about.
Travelling by public transport with small people is usually – on the outward leg at any rate – heaps of fun. I still remember being a grumpy commuter lurking behind my free copy of the Metro, but to them it’s an opportunity to scramble up to the front seat at the top of the bus, to look at the world from a whole new perspective, sing “The Wheels on the Bus’ whilst actually on a bus (!), to stand facing backwards on the escalators at the train station, shout ‘Bye bye Leeds’ at full volume as the train departs – in short, to act like it’s all a huge fun-filled adventure rather than a tedious grind.
We got a train to Wakefield Kirkgate which is much closer to the Hepworth and as we arrived just before midday, decided to eat first and get creative afterwards. I hadn’t been organised enough to bring a packed lunch so the cafe at the Hepworth did very nicely out of us. Am I just living in the past, or is £18 is a bit steep for lunch for 1 adult and 2 kids? On the plus side, the cafe did have an unusually good selection of healthy hot and cold choices for kids.
After we’d eaten it was time to get down to some arty business. The childrens’ activity sessions were taking place in a bright welcoming room just off the main lobby area, and I could tell that 10YO and 3YO were itching to sit down at one of the tables and get stuck in with the scissors and glue sticks. But first we were issued with a clip board with some pictures of sculptures, and sent off round the gallery to try and find them. I thought this was a really nice touch, as it helped us – particularly 3YO – engage with the sculpture galleries which we had initially, if I’m honest, found a bit inaccessible. I’m not a particularly arty person myself. Literature and theatre are my preferred versions of culture, so I’m slightly out of my comfort zone in art galleries, particularly when looking at abstract modern pieces. We got quite involved in trying to spot them all, and 3YO was particularly keen to be lifted up to look at some of the larger sculptures in more detail. Then it was back down to the activity room, and we spent a happy hour or so cutting, hole punching, glue-ing and generally creating. The objective was to try and use paper in a more 3-D way than usual, using some of the sculptures we’d just seen as an inspiration, rather than creating something flat on a page which is what our craft activities normally tend to be. There were various options – cutting out paper patterns which could then be folded up and made into models of some of the Hepworth sculptures, or doing your own thing and seeing what you could create by yourself. Unsurprisingly we went for the latter option, and between us we created (to name a few) a boa constrictor, a kaleidoscope, some multi-coloured glasses, a house and a sort of dream-catcher thing.
What I particularly liked was that this felt like much more than the kind of “craft activity” we’d do at home. There was a real link between what we were doing and the work on display in the gallery. In the past we’ve had less successful days out at galleries or museums which just haven’t felt very child-friendly due to what 10YO describes as the “Don’t touch that-ness” of these places. But this felt like a really good way of helping children to acclimatise to being in that kind of space. The staff running the session were really helpful and friendly and encouraged the children to explore their ideas. The selection of materials to work with was also quite exciting from the children’s point of view – in addition to the ubiquitous scissors and glue sticks they also got to experiment with hole punchers, staplers, twisting bits of wire to fasten things together and using coloured cellophane to hold up to the windows or in front of a projector shining its light against a wall. In many ways it felt like an arts and craft activity organised by professionals, and consequently much better than the stuff I cobble together at home with old cereal boxes. It’s on every day this week until Friday, there are different themed activities on during the rest of the holidays – oh and there’s also a great playground just outside – so if you’re in the area, why not check it out?!