2nd June 2000 at 01:00
You don't need clocks when I'm about.

It all goes bright when I spring out.

a riddle by Steven, aged 11. If you haven't guessed the answer, there's an explanation in the final paragraph.

Last year, to be an arts commentator was to be an expert on hard hats and muddy building sites. As the 20th century ended, Lottery funding promised to transform our cultural environment with new or expensively refurbished galleries and museums.

In the first half year of the new millennium, all the planning and upheavals are bearing fruit and now it's one grand opening after another - the Lowry arts complex in Salford, the extension to the National Portrait Gallery in London, Tate Modern and, last week, Dulwich Picture Gallery in south London. "The new oldest public art gallery in England" has been showing off an extension by Rick Mather, which has been added to Sir John Soane's elegant early 19th-century original.

The collection was originally assembled for the King of Poland in the 1790s. The pictures became the first national collection in England when the king was forced to abdicate. Dulwich is probably best known for its Gainsboroughs, Van Dycks, Rembrandt's "A Girl at a Window" - and its education department.

Until now, head of education Gillian Wolfe and her team have had remarkably few facilities on-site, but they have won many awards anyway and become well-known for their outreach work in schools and the community.

Well, now they have the Sackler Centre for Arts Education, an airy space looking out towards the grassy surroundings of the gallery and only yards from the paintings. Family summer events and practical courses are planned, and, in the autumn, Eileen Cooper, a former artist in residence at Dulwich, will be giving classes to go with an exhibition of her work. Tel: 020 8693 5254. Back to the clock theme introduced in the riddle. There are melting ones in various locations in what was once County Hall, just beneath the London Eye. Now, instead of waiting nervously to be interviewed for a job in the erstwhile Inner London Education Authority, you can enter the Dal! Universe. Well, you will be able to from tomorrow; the organisers' clock became a bit pliable at the last minute and journalists at the press view may have been reminded of last year's building works as they avoided newly-stained floors and tried to block out drill noises.

For aficionados, this will make an engrossing, themed wallow - Dreams and Fantasy includes Dal!'s designs for Hitchcock's forties film, Spellbound, and a bronze "Nobility of Time" (melting clock); Sensuality amp; Femininity has a Mae West lips couch and variations on the Venus de Milo with pull-out drawers (representing secrecy) as well asquite a few representations of the female form which I for one would not classify as either sensual or feminine; Religion and Mythology includes a beautiful bronze statue of St George and the Dragon and more than 100 biblical illustrations. Dal! agnostics may find the experience, which seems to take the spectator right into the artist's madly buzzing head, rather suffocating. Education events are promised. Information: 020 7620 2420.

The exhibition Enchanted Shadows: tall tales from the world of puppets will be at the Croydon Clocktower from July 1 to August 31. Puppets and marionettes from all over the world will be used to enter the world of story. Shadow puppets from Malaysia and India, for instance, will illustrate the Ramayana and marionettes from Italy Orlando Furioso. Workshops must be booked in advance and include designing and performing a puppet show based on traditional Turkish theatre, Karagoz, on July 28 and 29. Tickets: 020 8253 1030.

There is only a week to go before nominations close for the Classic FM Music Teacher of the Year 2000. The two winning teachers will each receive a trip for two to the Verbier Music Festival in Switzerland, and Bluethner pianos will be presented to their schools. Information: Music for Youth, the long-established charitable organisation that runs the Schools Proms and the National Festival of Music for Youth, would like everyone to note that it is alive and well and preparing for the 30th anniversary national festival scheduled for July 3-8. It is Youth and Music which has unfortunately announced its demise. MFY: 020 8870 9624.

The Liverpool Everyman is looking for young playwrights aged 14 to 20. The closing date for scripts with a running time of 10 minutes is September 30. Ten winning plays will be performed on the Everyman stage in November and one young writer will receive the Whitbread in the Community Award for most promising young playwright. The Everyman will be running workshops during the summer. Contact Lisa Stam: 0151 708 0338.

The answer to the riddle - as if you didn't know - is "Sun". Steven's poem is published in Riddle-me-ree x twenty-three, a collection produced by children at Bart's Hospital Tuition Unit and sold at pound;1 a copy, all proceeds to the Children at Bart's Fund. The booklet is the result of poet John Mole's workshops at the London hospital, part of his residency as the Poetry Society's Poet in the City project. Together with fellow poets Eva Salzman and Jane Duran, John Mole has encouraged the writing of poetry among all kinds of city dwellers and workers - lawyers and accountants as well as school children. For information about Poetry Society education: 020 7420 9880. For copies of the riddle booklet: 020 7601 7931.

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