Art beat

11th June 1999 at 01:00
Summer's here and it's festival time again. But while parents can enjoy sounds from 30 countries at the Reading Womad world music festival, there's no need for their children to be bored. With its two children's tents - labelled "quiet" and "loud" - and huge Sunday afternoon procession, this is definitely a child-friendly event. There's even a family field on the campsite. And although you'll have to wait until July 23-25 for the actual festival, Womad offers other events with child appeal. Two Australian Aboriginal artists - Mark Blackman and Robert Crompton - are working in schools as well as art centres, giving slide shows and workshops about their culture.

Womad also has an extensive programme of promoting world cultures and tours schools with African drummers, West Indian story-tellers and Aboriginal dancers. Four innovative resources packs for schools - covering the music of West Africa, India, the Caribbean and Indonesia - are available and more are planned for the future. The organisation also offers in-service days and schools workshops, such as the visual arts and dance project led by Shikisha, recently at Ranelagh School. For more details, phone Mandy Macfarlane, tel: 01225 743481.

If, instead of just listening, you would like to play music and can get to Bretton Hall, in Yorkshire, COMA (Contemporary Music-Making for Amateurs) is holding a bigger and better version of its summer school on the last weekend in July. As well as attracting musicians of all abilities, this year sees the first one-day summer school which welcomes children (July 28) as well as the Late Starters String School (July 20-24). The one-day summer school takes up to 100 participants and offers workshops to children of all ages, allowing them to sample anything from opera to solo spots. The highlight is the performance by an all-comers orchestra of Stephen Montague's Dark Sun, a moving 1995 piece on the theme of Hiroshima. One-day summer school costs pound;35. Details from Gill Redfern, 0171 247 7736.

The Dulwich Picture Gallery is closed for renovation until May 2000, but that doesn't stop its award-winning education department from bringing art to the people. Using large laminated reproductions of its paintings - by Rembrandt, Rubens, Canaletto and Gainsborough - the gallery team has created projects to involve those so often denied access to culture.

Visiting the homeless at St John's church near Waterloo station or recovering addicts or teenagers in hospital, the Dulwich team holds sessions which vary from art appreciation to more hands-on activities, such as drawing, painting or making collages. At St John's, the participants started with drawing, moved on to watercolour, and are now exploring mixed media (inks, wax, bleaches) and will finally attempt to build some junk sculpture.

Meanwhile, the gallery's outreach service has been visiting schools not only in Dulwich but as far afield as Dartford and Harrow. Especially popular have been Philippa Abrahams and her sessions on art and science, Nick Ashton on portraiture and the figure, and Dave Latter on the links between art and drama. There are follow-up sessions (for example, on the science of making colours) and story-telling events which tie in with the literacy hour. Special needs sessions and in-service courses are also available. These visits cost schools about pound;50. Details from Sally Gort-Barten, tel: 0181 693 5254.

Making theatre accessible to children in the 10 to 14 age group is always a challenge. Sainsbury's Checkout Theatre seeks to bring them in by commissioning specially written plays for young teenagers. The project has just announced its choice of six winners out of 36 entries. These include new plays about the murder of headteacher Philip Lawrence, an adaptation of Anne Fine's novel The Tulip Touch, a new version of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, as well as plays about subjects such as the graphic novel, young people's images of themselves and a folk horror tale. After another assessment on July 22 , three of them will get a fully sponsored production next year.

The BAC puts the sea back into the Battersea with its Diving for Pearls, an installation for primary children based on Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid. Produced with the aid of Kazzum Arts project. It comprises an inviting underwater grotto scattered with shipwreck curios and a beautiful garden with fluorescent flora and fauna. Using some of these objects, two enchanting mermaids tell the fairy tale. Teacher's packs available. Runs until July 3. Details from BAC, tel: 0171 223 6557.

Aleks Sierz

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