I am super excited to announce that Arts Council England have awarded me with a project grant to investigate how to make interactive art without touch over the next year.

As you’ll know I love inviting the audience to touch and interact with my work, with Covid-19 this just can’t happen. The project gives me the time and resource to spend the next year figuring out how to still make really playful, interactive work but without touch.

I’m going to be working with MK Gallery, Culture Coventry (Herbert Art Gallery & Museum & Transport Museum), Coventry Council’s event team, Art in the Park, Artscape Management and the BALTIC. With them I’ll find out how art organisations are responding to Covid-19 and I’ll be doing some of my own research too. I’ll produce a PDF and do artist talks in the Spring to share the research and most importantly how it effects artists, artwork and audiences.

After the research phase I’m going to spend time developing my digital skills with Ludic Rooms to gain the skills I need to make interactive art without touch. With my new skills I’ll make a small installation that will be revealed at Random Stringin the winter 2021.

To keep up to date with the project keep checking my blog, Twitter and Instagram. It might be a little quite from Christmas until March as I’ve got a little one on the way. I’ll still be working hard, watch this space! My play blog will continue to grow as I read Michael Rosen’s Book of Play, keep an eye on that page too.

This project is made possible thanks to public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England.


After months of Leanne and I sewing the monsters are complete and have been to the BALTIC to be played with and interacted with their family audience. I am sad to say I’ve not been able to see the installation, Do Touch. I had Covid so I have had to stay at home. My husband Chris delivered them for me and the amazing BALTIC team did a fabulous job of installing for me. It is now a few weeks later when I write this, I think I’ve been a bit too sad to think about it. I really wanted to see it in situ, in the space it was design for. Vicky suggested postponing but I didn’t want to, I wanted to do it during Easter half term so lots of families could see the work and Leanne and I had worked so hard to get it ready, it seemed a shame to not do it. I thought I’d be better and able to go and see it at the end of the week but I wasn’t, I took one day too many to get my negative test.

I’m really pleased with Do Touch. The giant spikes look amazing, the colours work so well together and they feel so voluminous. I’m really pleased with the fabric, it has a good robust appearance that is friendly feeling due to the colours and visible weave. To get them so full I’ve put in foam disk in the bottom, I’ve recycled the foam from the large cushion that was in the Light Pavilion. It feels good to be doing some repurposing. The velcro spots work well, I’ve machine sewn them on so they aren’t perfect. If I was to use velcro in the future I’d find another way to attach it. Leanne did a great job of making the tentacles, they are very beautifully made, they feel really high quality. She used tape on her velcro and hand stitched them into place, I think for the size of the spikes this would have been difficult to do. The velvet makes them incredibly tactile, I’m really attached to the dark blue ones.

I’ve had some gorgeous photos of families playing at the BALTIC take for me by Barry Pells. I’d like to share those with you. 

Some amazing play happened. They migrated across the space as two children need to save them from the monster sounds. Dens were created. Sword fighting took place between families and they were worn as hats.

Here we are at the end. I’ve learnt so much from the project but I think the most important thing is make the audience feel comfortable and they’ll trust you. I think this could apply to lots of different things, it could be accessibility or Covid, put the audience first and make them feel safe.


STEAMhouse Talk
As part of the research project I wanted to do a talk with STEAMhouse, artists and arts organisations to find out how they have been creating work through Covid and what they are doing now we are coming out of the pandemic. On Thursday 24th Feb the talk took place, by co-incidence this was the day England came out of Covid restrictions. The speakers were Anne Forgan from Ludic Rooms, Becky Waite from Blue Coat art gallery and artist Pippa Hale. This was a really nice mix as Anne ran a festival outside with the public, Becky has been working directly with disabled artists and Pippa has been creating interactive, playful artworks. There was a really great mix of perspectives.

Anne from Ludic Rooms in Coventry began the talk. She focussed on Roam + Dwell and Random String, Roam+ Dwell was a series of workshops and art interventions through the summer and Random String was a festival that happen in November over a week. Previously Random String has happened with Warwick Art Centre with a symposium and artist events in Coventry’s empty shops and interesting spaces.

Originally Random String should have taken place in 2020 but this change to 2021 to fall in with City of Culture and to give them time to think and plan. Ludic Rooms is based at the Canal Basin in Coventry, where I used to be based. It is an incredibly amazing space with the only bit of water in the city, the 5.5 mile long canal. Coventry is landlocked, you can’t be further from the sea than here. Amazingly the Canal Basin isn’t regularly visited. Ludic Rooms wanted to bring the people to the Canal Basin and to widen Random String’s audience to the public.

Being at the Canal Basin worked well for running the festival during Covid. It is an outdoor space. Through the summer they ran workshops. There was endless hand sanitiser on offer, masks were worn and stickers were offered. The sticker idea I love, they had red, green and yellow. Red still feeling very cautious, amber for wary and green feeling at ease. What a great way to show how audience members are feeling. With objects the audience were interacting with they used wipeable surfaces and easily replaceable objects.

Random String took place in November, at night along the towpath for a 1km route with nine art works made for the festival in partnership with the City of Culture. Being at night, along the towpath meant the audience needed to be managed, it’s dark, bumpy and thin. The programme was created during lockdown were people needed to be kept in bubbles. This worked with the restrictions of the towpath, people where sent along in their groups and given distance. The artworks were placed so they didn’t create bottle necks. The artworks were mainly visual spectacles, they made good photos, they weren’t all interactive.

Poetry Bridge by Ludic Rooms in collaboration with poet, Mary Courtney was an interactive installation. Words selected by the audience appeared on a bridge in neon writing, it was brilliant. The texture of the bridge really added to the artwork. The audience selected the words they wanted by pointing, not by picking them out.

The second piece of work that was interactive was music which needed to be listened to. The festival was in a residential area so they would have liked to give out headphones to people to but they couldn’t afford to do this. They asked the public to bring headphones with them and there was a QR code to start the music. Anne felt this didn’t really work because not everyone brought headphones, you could listen on your phone without headphones or when you got home. Not having them stopped people needing to share and it did stop waste being created.

Anne’s closing statement is what has really stuck with me; Create an experience where the audience trust you. Ludic Rooms needed to communicate that these are strange times and we’re responding to them. Create conditions of connection. Make the experience worth the risk.

Becky runs Blue Room at Bluecoat in Liverpool. I feel very guilty to say that I’ve been to Liverpool three or four times and I’ve not been to Bluecoat. I will certainly go when I next visit. It is an contemporary art centre and working home artists. Blue Room is an inclusive art project with learning disabilities and neuro-diverse adult-artists. There are 4 groups and 40 members creating visual art and soon dance. The project Studio Me helps support individuals to develop their own practice and to progress to being a professional artists.

When Covid started the Blue Room studios had to close. The challenge was how to keep the artists connected and creative. This created Blue Room at Home. Which began by phoning members! This might seem surprising but not all members had smart phones, computers or tablets or would need support using them. Although their carers and support workers are incredibly supportive they have other tasks to do too such as getting up other residents, making lunch and doing personal care. This was a huge under taking! At first Becky and her team were making videos, this was timely and not well accessed if members needed help with the tech. Instead they created easy read packs and art materials were sent out.

In response to the tech issues Blue Room applied and received an ACE grant to buy 15 iPads with data chips. More easy read guides where created to show what to do when you get an iPad to getting on Zoom. I can totally imagine this situation, for some people this would have been like learning how to get to space. This alien, intimidating space was somewhere some carers didn’t want to go. Becky and her team had to do this with 40 members. I say Becky and her team, for a while this was Becky and one other as the rest of the team was on furlough. This also brought safe guiding issues, Becky had to write safe guarding protocol for using the tech and being in new spaces like WatsApp and get the users to understand these protocols.

Running the sessions on Zoom came with challenges; the time it took to run a session and plan a session, the members being on time, the information needed to get the users onto Zoom and materials the members needed to have on hand. We all know these are hard things to do after all becoming Zoom users in the last two years.

Becky and her co-worker ran four sessions a week and members could attend as many as they liked. Before they could visit the Blue Room once a week, this was definitely a positive. All the members learnt new skills from never dreaming of participating in a Zoom session to running one. Becky and her team learnt how to run a good Zoom session. Some of the members really shone in Zoom where they might be quieter in the Blue Room. Different members got to meet each other, in the Blue Room different groups would be in different spaces. They got to meet and work with National Artists.

They had 17 months online and came back to Blue Room in August 2021 after lots of risk assessments. The members are raring to go, they have a new confidence. They are having social sessions now too where they are showing work created at home. They are no longer running Blue Room at Home but they are running some online sessions for all groups to get together and share ideas. From having Blue Room at Home has meant that when there was Storm Eunice on Friday they met online instead, previously the session wouldn’t have happened. Becky likes the idea of running Blue Room at Home for artists across the UK but this needs time and funding, something for the future.

With the restrictions being lifted today Blue Room is still following the adult social care protocols, this is to keep safety measures in place. This might take some explaining to the members as the world outside is now different. I think this is a really interesting point, not everyone feels the same. I am certainly still a mask wearer in busy spaces but I know not everyone feels this way, this can be stronger than I do or less. This is the case for all spaces. If we remember what Anne says, make it worth the risk and create trust with the audience. This is what Becky is doing, she’s offering an incredibly exciting programme with amazing opportunities in a safe space for everyone.

Pippa Hale is a an artist from Leeds who creates playful artworks in foam, iron and neon. She enjoys to co-create and takes inspiration from place, culture and heritage. Pippa came to play after having her children in an urban environment. Pippa had the opportunity as a child to climb trees, roam and explore. With her children they could visit the park, soft play or the sculpture park (with keep off signs). They couldn’t experience free play in the same way she did. Pippa researched play and then began creating free play experiences with her art for everyone.

She created Play Rebellion for the BALTIC Centre For Contemporary Art from Oct 2019 – February 2020. It was created from 16 foam blocks and allowed for limitless creation, the audience became the sculptor by moving the blocks into their own creations. The BALTIC encouraged all visitors to join in, which gave everyone permission to play. Some adults felt uncomfortable with this, they had a feeling of expectation. This is because play is programmed out of us as we grow and art becomes something that is judged and marked. I’ve seen this so many times myself and I really try and make my work as inclusive as possible to encourage everyone to play.

Play Rebellion wasn’t effected by Covid as it closed just before the first lock down took place. What was effected was it’s ability to tour. It had been extremely successful at the BALTIC, family visits where up and the cafe takings were 40% up. Because of the timing the tour hasn’t been able to yet happen

Play Heaven was Pippa’s next commission for Left Bank Leeds which opened in 2021, again Pippa was lucky with the dates. It opened when there wasn’t any restrictions in place. Play Heaven is 8m long by 4.5m, an inflatable beast. Play Heaven is a site-specific installation co-created with locals.

Left Bank Leeds is based in a former church building so Pippa referred back to Biblical texts for inspiration. There she found a quote from Christ saying we must become like children to enter the kingdom of heaven (Luke 18:15-17, Matthew 18:3). So Pippa asked the locals to draw their ideas of heaven, these were colourful and free flowing. From the drawings Pippa created prototypes from plasticine before her finished design that was then created by Inflatable World in Nottingham. Working with Inflatable World was interesting as she had to think about height restrictions, clearance zones and how her shapes could be created into an inflatable. Alongside the inflatable are loose parts for little people to interact with.

Throughout Pippa has been lucky with dates. The co-creation started in summer 2020 when restrictions were reduced, the sessions could take place as planned and it has been open with limited restrictions apart from during December when Omicron was most active. Her next installation will open in 2023 in York’s National Railway Museum.

I asked Pippa about her creativity and if she’s had to make any considerations in her work around Covid. Pippa explained that she always has to work to the commissioner’s health and safety protocols with making large installations but she hasn’t been asked to specifically consider Covid.

If you think about and look at Pippa’s work it really is a fun, spectacle that you want to jump into and get involved with. It is worth taking that risk that Anne spoke about at the beginning; it is so special and would be such a treat to play within that it is worth the risk. The institutions she is working with are building their trust with the audience so they know they are safe.

After all of my research, listening today, watching audiences and the thinking I’ve done I believe we need to let the audience lead. Whether or not restrictions are in place all audience members need to feel safe. They are taking a risk to see artwork whether interactive or not, let’s make it fantastic, playful and a real spectacle for them to experience in surroundings that they can trust and feel safe.

I’d like to say a special thank you to Ruth from STEAMhouse for organising today and an extra special thank you to the three speakers.


For the finally of my Arts Council research project I am creating Do Touch Me. The research has been into how to create interactive art without touch for a Covid world. The outcome of the research is people want to touch and you really can’t stop them. Instead of trying to change my work to not allow touch I am choosing to embrace it and creating an installation you can touch. To keep the audience safe hand sanitiser will be in place, the audience will be asked to wear masks and they will be asked to use the installation one house hold at a time.

For a bit of fun and to play with the concept of non-touch, Do Touch Me won’t look very nice to touch. I want it to have the feeling of a monster about it. I will use neon colours in clashing tones and create spiky forms. The forms will be soft to touch made from crushed velvet and stuffing. When you get close to the installation the forms will make monster noises to scare the viewer away. To make the installation interactive the audience can move the small, spiky forms (tentacles) using velcro on their bottoms and velcro spots on the large, standing forms.

Do Touch Me will be at the BALTIC from the 20th – 22nd April 2022.

To get started I’ve created prototypes in different fabrics, with different stuffing, fastenings and bases to see how safe they are with families and if it effects how they are playing with in any way. I took the prototypes in Mini Enginneers last week and Anja kept them for her coffee morning on the following Friday.

Some beautiful play took place, they were used as I intended but in other ways too. The tentacles were used to tickle each other, they were stroked, cuddled and used as saws. They become hats and unicorn alicorns. Families used them with the Mini Engineers parts by posting them through tubes. I’m looking forward to seeing them in the BALTIC in their own space and the wonderful play that will happen.

From watching the interaction I have decided to use velvet for the tentacles and waterproof canvas for the taller spikes. They will both have ripstop inners and be finished with zips. Inside they’ll have cardboard bases that sit within the outer layer. The softer velcro will be on the bottom of the tentacles. The monster noises will happen outside of the spikes with a speaker and sensor set up in the same space.

I’m going to make 50 tentacles and 20 standing spikes. The spikes will range from 1m – 1.5m so that children can use them on their own with their grownup.


Last Thursday I had the pleasure of meeting with Anja, the family learning officer from Coventry Transport Museum. I really wanted to chat with Anja as we have a shared love of play. Anja’s role is to bring as much play as possible into the museum to encourage STEM learning and to make family visitors feel as comfortable as possible within the museum. I met with Anja to find out how she has been doing this throughout Covid and if she’s made any changes that she will be continuing into the future.

Anja runs Mini Engineers on a Wednesday. This is an open ended play session for early years families. In a space within the museum tubes, wheels, balls, cogs, fabric, tins, cars and much much more (the list is endless) are put out for the children to explore, play and create their own worlds. There are lots of parts for lots of fingers to interact with. I asked Anja what has her experience of sharing work with audiences post covid been like?

Anja thought that there would be less uptake, she thought they’d want objects cleaning throughout and in-between sessions but this isn’t possible because there is sooo much stuff! She was wrong, families came, played, interacted and masks came off. The parents were relieved to be able to play and to be able socialise with others.

Changes have had to happen. You now have to book online, the session size is now restricted and there is a small booking fee. When you book online you are told about the Covid measures, mask wearing, social distancing, using hand sanitiser when you enter the museum. Booking the sessions has changed the feel. The session used to be a lot freer, you could drop in but now it is two set sessions. It used to feel like an adventure playground but with the sessions being set to an hour and a half this doesn’t happen in the same way.

Within the museum the interactives have been turned off to reduce people touching the same area. Anja still wanted to offer a free playful experience within the museum. This comes in the form of Trunkies, ride on, red bus suitcases with STEM toys inside. Anja’s manager wrote to Trunkies and asked about the possibilities of sponsorship and they sent them 15 suitcases! How amazing. The Trunkies and objects are all cleaned when returned.

While chatting Anja told me about a similar concept that Manchester Art Gallery are using; they give you a toy when you go in. It’s tangible, in your hand and it helps to stop fatigue. It allows you to miss bits of the museum and look for connections with your object instead; colour, textures, material. By having it your hand it stops you touching objects within the museum. Cleaver!

I asked Anja about when artists come in with work what she needs them to be thinking about. When designing she wants them to be as creative as possible but to have in the back of their mind Covid. At this early stage Anja will inform them of the museums measures. Together a risk assessment will be created. Anja felt that the organisation needs to inform the artist so the artist can then comply, it is the museum’s risk. She advised before creating work for any institution ask what do you need me to do,? what are your covid regulations? what is your risk assessment? Then think about what are my limits. Be flexible. This was really interesting to hear, it feels different to the BALTIC and Anja pointed out that all institutions might be different. I wanted to challenge my self when making the final installation to make something that can be used in many different spaces, this is something to consider; How do I make it possible to use the installation with different Covid measures? This is especially important as those measures change depending on what is happening with Covid at different points in time.

I was interested to know if Anja had experienced anything differences in the way people interact as I hadn’t at all. Similarly she hasn’t, masks are worn if they have to be. People have still been touching, playing and sharing. They will try and use all of their sensors. Play is really needed after lockdown.

Looking to the future Anja will be keeping the Trunkies. The sessions will keep being bookable online, whatever happens she’ll continue to offer a safe play space within the museum. Anja is thinking about touch and play within the museum and creating a play trail. This might be open ended games in the museum throughout time. Games your grandparents, then parents, big sister and now you would play within the time period of the collection. This could involve timeless games that are familiar like twenty questions. She finds that familiar games help to grown people in what can be an unfamiliar space because they know how to do that bit, as they do it they become comfortable within the unfamiliar space. By the end of their visit it’s familiar.

What an amazing job Anja does.


For Random String I created a totally new, immersive experience for myself and the audience. For the duration of Saturday 13th November I was in the projection marquee experimenting with circles and colours. I invited the audience to come and be part of this experiment.

I love getting the audience to play with my work, this is usually through touch. For Going Round in Circles I spent the evening being the only person who touched the installation and the audience was the artist! I placed perspex circles in front of an amazing video by Antonio Roberts to see the different effects of colour combinations and size. The audience suggested where to place the circles, what pattens to create and what colour combinations to try.

Watch the evenings action here

Find out my feelings here