Monday, January 3, 2011

A smattering of London, part 3

It's been a beautiful start to the New Year here in London.

We spent a couple of days recovering from the excesses of the holiday season :), and then doing some more exploring around our new city. The children have fallen in love with the Princess Diana Memorial Playground, a short walk away in Hyde Park. It honestly may be the greatest playground we've ever been to, full of amazing things to climb on, secret passageways, swinging things, sand, and a giant pirate ship! Even in the middle of winter this place is pretty irresistible.

But today we were determined to venture a bit further, so we took on the City and the South Bank. Climbed to the top of the Monument, crossed London Bridge and Millennium Bridge, explored the Tate Modern, and heard the chorus sing at St. Paul's Cathedral. (Isa's loud commentary: "you mean they're just singing, but not dancing?!") It was a great day.

Here is the family contemplating the latest installation in the Tate's Turbine Hall, Sunflower Seeds. We were alternately fascinated, moved, and horrified by this exhibit (which is really the goal of modern art, isn't it?) If you're curious, check out this explanation of the artwork.
I truly loved taking the kids around the Tate, getting them to really look at some of the works, and offer their own ideas about them. It was a chance to explain to them some basic concepts about art - about the artist's intention, vs. what is actually experienced by the viewer; about the word "abstract"; about how the title of a piece can completely change your impression of it. Matisse's The Snail was a favorite example of this. We tried to figure out how artists made certain complex pieces, and why, and whether they were any good at it... :) and of course the kids, when asked to give artworks their own names, often came up with things like "Ugly Scribble".

And now Greg's first week of performances begins. Dress rehearsal tomorrow, Premiere Wednesday night. It's been a crazy challenging time for the technical team, settling into the Royal Albert Hall. We are all excited to see the results!


  1. Hi Shana! So great to here you're enjoying London. Just to let you know, the main circus school in London is called the Circus Space ( I'm sure they'd be happy to let you take a peek. Oh and you may remember me from the annoying stage height question a while back on this blog. Do you happen to know whether the stage has been heightened for the Royal Albert Hall compared to the Grand Chapiteau? Again, not important, i'm just ridiculously curious :)

  2. It turns out that once you've chosen viewing art as a family activity it continues into the children's adulthood. On Boxing Day my sons, their girlfriends, Joe and I, my brother and my mother went to the Barnes. We had a great time and talked about going to the new building next year to compare. Everyone had favorites - Picasso sketches, Modigliani nudes and dancing Matisse figures. Everyone agreed that Dr. Barnes was one weird dude. By the way, the sunflower seeds were in the news here because the installation was shut down for awhile preventing people from walking on the seeds. I don't know if they went back to the original concept or not. I would feel strange walking on lots of little pieces of porcelain artwork! You are so lucky to have gotten to the Tate. It's heartwarming to read about your warm and happy return to England.
    Kate O

  3. Shana--love your blog. Keeps me up to date on what you and the family are doing. Glad to hear that London is going so well. See you soon on Skype. Love, Laurie K.

  4. Thanks everyone for the comments! ...and I'm sorry but I have no technical staging information about Royal Albert Hall, I've only been inside once myself!