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.