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Chaotic fun in the flood;Arts;Exhibition

A weekday visitor to Aberdeen Art Gallery, seeking refuge from the busy city centre, strolls towards the Victorian Collection to see his favourite Landseer, Flood in the Highlands.

Imagine her astonishment when she finds a living tableau of the turbulent scene has been staged below the painting. An impossibly young "grandfather" sits wrapped in a tartan rug, his eyes closed against the raging storm. His "daughter" huddles beside him, her expression realistically wild as she cuddles her "baby" - her 11-year-old chum in a frilly cap and white gown.

Squirming at their feet and trying not to giggle are a motley assortment of boys and girls dressed in fleecy underblankets, fur hats and wraps. They represent the painting's dogs, sheep and goats. Before the visitor knows what to make of it, the tableau collapses into chaos. The young actors - Primary 7 pupils from Hanover Street School - hitch up their costumes and hurry downstairs to join their classmates for the grand finale of their fine art and drama workshop.

This "invasion" of the gallery is part of a simple but hugely successful pilot project by Aberdeen City Council's arts development team, to attract young people into the gallery by making it fun.

The two-hour workshops are held throughout the first fortnight in June. Alison Brown, assistant keeper of fine art, does an informal presentation of four famous paintings - the Landseer, Penelope and the Suitors by John William Waterhouse, Baptism in Scotland by John Phillip, and Sir John Lavery's The Tennis Party.

She sets the youngsters thinking about the characters' situations and feelings.

A boisterous drama session follows. Arts officer Jill Bauld has them dressing up in costumes - many of them are authentic period garments from the gallery's collection. They recreate the scenes they have witnessed and act a short drama inspired by the paintings.

Hanover Street Primary senior teacher Margaret Duff loved it: "This is a wonderful opportunity to get the children to really think about what they are seeing. I'm sure they'll remember it for many years to come. I'm planning to build on the creativity they showed with a creative writing session in the classroom."

Judy Mackie

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