61: curiouser and curiouser

This week I was lucky enough to attend a press view of the new V&A exhibition Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser, their latest offer for families. After the last family exhibition I saw at the South Kensington site (Winnie the Pooh) I wasn’t sure what to expect from Alice: Winnie was a very ‘V&A’ exhibition with a thin veneer of Instagrammable experiences but very little else in terms of engaging activity for children. I liked it as an adult but would probably not have taken my children in and expected them to be entertained for long.

I had two children with me and another adult, all from our local school in Bethnal Green: we had been asked by our comms team to find some children to write a review for an online children’s newspaper. I was interested in their reaction to the exhibition as well as wanting to see it myself!

I need not have worried: from the moment we headed through the entrance in the Sainsbury Gallery they (and I) were entranced. Both children were familiar with the books, and were fascinated by the objects and illustrations as well as the immersive nature of the experience. The use of sound to draw people closer to particular objects is really well judged throughout: trains, voices, quotes from the stories. The white rabbit wayfinding motif was beautifully done.

I was also very impressed with the low-tech nature of many of the interactives: much as kids love a screen, they also enjoy the opportunity for physical engagement. Particular favourites for them were the hall of mirrors and the tiny house to explore. There were high-tech moments, of course, and the children were fascinated by both the waterfall of Alice’s tears and the Mad Hatter’s tea party, as well as the virtual reality installation.

There’s enough in the exhibition to engage adults as well: I got hopelessly overexcited at the skeleton of the Dodo at the start of the exhibition and the lovely Tenniel illustrations, as well as by finding out more about the author and the ‘real’ Alice. Film is used throughout, both the familiar Disney version and more obscure anime and surreal interpretations.

The latter half of the exhibition shows how much impact the Alice stories have had on artists and designers: Viktor and Rolf’s fashion, for example, or Heston Blumenthal’s reimagined Tea Party. I was most amused by the inclusion of an ‘educational’ video called Curious Alice from 1971: accompanied by the brilliant White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane, it was supposed to warn children about the dangers of drugs but was quickly withdrawn as the psychedelic imagery was intriguing children with mesmerising visuals.

The high point for the children was the virtual reality installation, which they raved about to their friends back at school, and the opportunity to meet exhibition curator Kate Bailey at the end. She spoke to them about the enduring power of the story and the universal appeal of Alice, which comes across strongly in the exhibition.

Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser opened on 22 May 2021. Do book in advance!

The wonders of technology

As I mentioned last week, I am actually in North Wales this weekend so have rather cleverly set this post to publish automatically (I hope) thanks to the wonders of modern technology. As it appears on its usual channels I will hopefully be out on a walk somewhere in Snowdonia!

I have managed to finish the Vappu socks, and have also handed over the latest in the year of handmade gifts to its recipient. I hope he likes it! The pattern can be found here. The lovely bags were painted by Thing 2, who wanted a tote to put her school clothes in on PE days.

Next up is finishing the Hobbit Hole, a crochet cow which is currently legless and another gift or 3.

That’s it from me – I had better go and pack as sadly that can’t be set to automatic….

See you for week 62, or ‘what I did on my holidays’.

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

The Lollipop Shoes/Peaches for Monsieur le Cure – Joanne Harris (Audible)

Pel Under Pressure – Mark Hebden

Attention all Shipping – Charlie Connelly

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