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Monday, 15 September 2014

Children's Workshop at the National Portrait Gallery

A couple of months ago I ran a children's workshop with The Poetry Society at the National Portrait Gallery. I had possession of a space in their lovely Victorian Gallery for three whole hours on a Saturday afternoon, so I was challenged to devise an activity that children and families could dip in and out of. I wanted the session to be informal, accessible for all ages, and responding in some way to the portraits and sculptures on display in the gallery.

What I did was this. I cut out lots of speech and thoughts bubbles, and stuck them all along the floor, beneath the artworks. People could then come along, and provide the portraits with 'thoughts' and 'feelings'. I discouraged people from looking up any information about the pictures until after they had done the writing; imagination was key. For some of the little children I acted as a scribe, and conversed with them in order to elicit their ideas.

What emerged at the end of the day was a rather surreal, frequently hilarious poem consisting entirely of lines that children came up with. Here it is. Enjoy!


Lines from Children at National Portrait Gallery

I’m sad because a bad man was pushing me
Where is the maid with my toilet paper?
I want a new baby
I am asking Father Christmas for a gun to kill bad people
I am bored because I’ve sat here for hours for a portrait
I am sad because I have no cheese
I am sad because I’m thinking of a sad story
Exactly how long is my snooker partner going to leave me waiting?
I’ve had enough! If someone asks me for one more thing...
I want to be an artist.
My beard is long because I grow it.
I want more lions, because I want them in the museum
I want you to hear me roar
I like lions
Lions are my favourite animals. Can you tell?
I’m sad because I’m too fat
I told you the world was round!
Is that Australia?
I wanted a painting of just myself, not with my sisters!
Tick tock tick tock tick tock.
I am serious because I’m thinking of a serious thing

I’m going for ‘the mysterious look’. 

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