An ear and eye fest

Judith Palmer finds out what's hot this summer. This week it's elephant dung, musical brains and exotic drums.

* Monkey business "The first thing the children always notice is that the paintings aren't hanging on the wall, which allows them to feel close to the work and connect with it at their level," says arts educator Julia Russell, who has been running schools workshops at Freedom One Day, the outstanding exhibition of new paintings by Turner Prize-winning artist Chris Ofili at the Victoria Miro gallery in north London.

The entire upper room is taken up by 13 paintings of identical monkeys, which smile enigmatically, tails looping over their heads, while they seem to play with a cup and ball. Each monkey (mono in Spanish) is a different colour - mono turquesa, mono rosa, mono blanco - its name spelled out in tiny beads on the clods of elephant dung on which the canvases rest. Peering through the layers behind the turbaned monkey, into the swirling background of twining foliage, the viewer is so entranced by the detail that the broader picture is at first elusive - you're at the Last Supper, each apostle raising a chalice and host. This is a feast of colour and light, rich with layers of meaning. Until August 3. Tel: 020 7336 8109; www.victoria-miro.com.

* Music in mind

The Musical Brain, a public forum at the Royal Institution, London, earlier this month, brought together international experts in infant psychology, music education and neuroscience, to share findings about the relationship between music and brain function. Presentations included music's ability to relieve pain and restore brain function in stroke patients, how infants learn pitch and tone, and the latest arguments in the debate over whether Mozart can enhance childhood learning. Catch them on www.rigb.orgmusicalbrain.

* Pick up sticks

London's Royal Festival Hall's drumming and percussion festival, Rhythmsticks, ends with performances from Trilok Gurtu (tonight), Mory Kante (July 20), and Turkish percussionist Burhan Ocal, who teams up with London dance outfit Oojami (July 20) to perform tracks from Bellydance Breakbeats, a frenzied fusion of underground trance music, traditional instruments, and male belly-dancing. Family workshops offer the chance to try Japanese taiko drumming, Jewish poyk, and other percussion styles. Also at the Festival Hall, A Dancing Dog's Breakfast (July 24), is a one-off performance of contemporary dance works with music by the gloriously eclectic Errollyn Wallen. Tel: 020 7960 4242; www.rfh.org.ukrhythmsticks.

* Ladybird, Ladybird

Ladybird Books' Key Words reading scheme was devised in the early 1960s by William Murray, a Cheltenham educationist (head of Thirlestaine school for children with special educational needs). Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum celebrates this local connection with an exhibition of original Ladybird artwork, complete with reconstructed reading corner. More than 60 original watercolours, by artists Harry Wingfield, Martin Aitchison and John Berry, are on show, including illustrations from Ladybird classics such as Gulliver's Travels and La Fontaine's Fables, and from Sunstart, the Ladybird scheme for Caribbean schools.

The illustrations reveal social change as starchy frocks and sandals give way to trainers and Chopper bikes; the People at Work series travels an unrecognisable Britain of coal mines, shipyards, car factories and branch line stations with staff. The Art of Ladybird Books runs until August 25. Tel: 01242 237431; www. cheltenhammuseum.org.uk.

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