I spoke to Kate back in the winter and she was really unsure what Art in the Park was going to look like and if it could even go ahead. We chatted about ideas like ticketing to reduce numbers or counting people in. Without knowing what the restrictions were going to be it was impossible to know what form Art in the Park was going to take this year.

The first weekend of August came and there was no restrictions in place! The festival went ahead and felt very much like it had in the past, no need for tickets or counting. I think we were a bit more spread out than previous years, this didn’t change the feel of the festival. As the festival was outside many people chose to not wear masks which made it feel even more like it had before.

This year I created Laughing Lollies. We had originally chatted about making a piece of work in response to Covid back in September 2020 but as Easter came and Covid was still a big deal we decided we wanted to make something that make people laugh instead and that gave them a moment of joy. What could be more joyful than five giant lollipops in bright colours that are super shiny telling jokes. They were incredibly popular with 7,500 people interacting with them over the two days. The jokes were infectious, children would repeat the ones they’d heard to their parents and people would share jokes they new. I hope the jokes created a catalyst, I like to imagine that people went to work on Monday and shared the jokes they learnt and then that person sharing ti when they got home.

Laughing Lollies is my first touch-free interactive artwork. They work really well, you walk past them and the amazing Letitia George from BBC Coventry & Warwickshire radio will tell you a joke and laugh along with you. The lollipops work with a motion sensor and have a Adafruit sound card, amplifier and 5v speakers in built into them. They really isn’t any need to touch them.

To my surprise everyone touched them! They touched and touched and touched them. Some people thought the motion sensors were buttons which explains some of the touching but when I added a label saying ‘motion sensor’ people still touched them. I don’t understand! Pre-covid it would be really normal for people to want to touch my work outside of a gallery and I would actively encourage them to. To keep them safe I made something they didn’t need to touch but still did – one child even licked them! I thought after people wouldn’t want to touch things any more, I’d go as far to say it’s unfashionable to touch things in public now but it’s seemed to not have effected the people of Leamington. I’m double jabbed and I still don’t want to touch anything, perhaps I need to relax a bit and I am trying too.

The lollipops are off to MK Gallery and will be in their outside space for the bank holiday weekend. The gallery are supervising them, I won’t see people interacting but I will ask the gallery for feedback on the touching situation to see if it’s common.

1 Comment

MK Gallery opened it doors again in May after a tricky year of being open in September, October and for 18 days in December, they are over the moon to welcome visitors back. Their approach is very much visitors first and what is possible in the pandemic.

To make visitors as comfortable as possible the staff are lateral flow testing and how to keep them safe is constantly being discussed. To visit, the audience are being asked to book online first, this can be done in person but there might be a wait and it can take a minute or two to get all of the information for track and trace.

The main exhibition is visual art, it is currently Memphis: Plastic Field which looks great. This opened in December and is on until 12 September 2021. MK aren’t asking the artists to risk assess their work, the gallery is doing it. If it moves, play sound or has lighting they do the risk assessment with the artist. For sound they have removed head phones and have spread the pieces out to allow the sound to travel.

They are looking to do more outdoors and are really enthusiastic for it to happen, especially with a teenage audience. On Monday’s they have parkour which is great as it activates the site, there is graffiti on the floor outside. Over the summer there will be lots of activities taking place.

From my chat with Niki and Tara the audience was the most important thing for them and them feeling comfortable. They want to make sure if you are a fully enthusiastic toucher you have a great time and if you are feeling very vulnerable you can come and enjoy the exhibition in full confidence that the gallery is doing every thing they can to look after you. They are really excited to be working outside of the gallery over the summer which I’m really excited about as it really is my favourite place to work.


The BALTIC reopened in May and I had a good chat with Vicky Sturrs, head of learning and civic engagement before hand.

From May – July the BALTIC will be open with covid safe measures in place. They involve things like booking online before your visit, tickets are free and can be got on the door but there might be a wait. For family sessions there are extra resources that are cleaned and quarantined after use. The amount of people allowed in one gallery at a time has been halved and then will be slowly increased up until July. This is interesting as it might change the way visitors view the art on display, imagine going to see the Mona Lisa with half the amount of people there! The increase in numbers won’t just happen, it will be based on watching the visitors and their behaviour around others. This is what interests me the most about my chat with Vicky, it’s all about the audience and they’re confidence and how they react to the space, not the government guidelines (of course being mindful of them) but actually how the audience are feeling. The BALTIC want to be the lead on this, the last 18 months have been hard, they’ve had to constantly react to the guidelines. Now with the roadmap in mind they want to start taking control of their own destiny with the visitors at the heart of it.

For families the learning space is open and separated into zones for bubbles of six. These are bookable sessions with seating, tables and play equipment. The sensory space is bookable too. Over the summer there will be a summer of play with a play library on the square outside of the gallery. There will be free tea, coffee and juice and lots of playful resources including hula hoops which I am a big fan of. I can not wait to see this come together.

On September 25th 2021 the BALTIC’s famous play exhibition will once again open with Albert Potrony, Equal Play. The exhibition will be on for a year, this is longer than usual as the date has had to change many times and their business plan has changed. Play is a strand of work they are really interested in.

Albert’s vision for the exhibition came pre-covid, they haven’t expected him to change the exhibition at all. Covid is included in all their conversations now, they are looking at how to make it possible in a Covid world. The BALTIC want artists to have visions that they are excited about. How to make it possible is a discussion.

Chatting with Vicky has been brilliant. I feel we are very much on the same page, it’s about making work that’s exciting and finding how to make sure the audience is comfortable with the work. I was really inspired by the BALTIC choosing their destiny. It feels impossible to plan for the future, with this approach you can plan, just do it safely and don’t rush. I’ll definitely be heading up-north to see Equal Play in the winter and taking my little superstar with me.