Transports of delight;Art beat;Easter events

9th April 1999 at 01:00
Jackson Pollock, one of modern art's great mythical figures, makes a fantastic splash at London's Tate Gallery. Anyone who's ever looked at an abstract expressionist canvas and thought that any child could do better would do well to check out this show. Pollock's seemingly random - but actually immensely well-controlled - drips, drizzles and splatterings, painted in the 1940s and 1950s, are eye-opening, in terms of their texture and their vivid overall effect. It's rare to see abstract paintings that seem to glow in the light.

But "Jack the Dripper" not only reinvented modern painting, he was also a reckless "urban cowboy" whose life raises questions about our image of the 20th-century artist. Pollock's heavy drinking, violent outbursts and death in a car crash make him the James Dean of American art. Was he a tragic genius or a thoughtful artist in search of a style? Plenty here to look at and discuss. There's a teachers' study day, Expressions of Abstraction, on April 17, as well as study days for A-level students, Pollock: Legend, Myth and Reality, on April 20 and 28. Booking and teacher's pack from Tina Melbourne, 0171 887 8756.

For those more interested in the art of pop music, Sheffield's National Centre for Popular Music opened in a frenzy of good publicity in March. With its "soundscapes" and interactive exhibits, where children can bounce around while creating music, it is an all-singing, all-dancing museum which covers the history of pop from Billie Holiday to Bjork. It also has an ambitious education programme developed with the help of 24 teachers, who try to keep pupils in tune with national curriculum targets. There are free workshops for schools, with activities such as Indian music, African drumming and street dance. Resources range from colourful teachers' packs and study packs to INSET days and time on computer workstations. School group reservations: 0114 296 2626.

If you'd prefer to have a pop group visit your school, Blitz is the name to remember. In the past four years, this hip company has sent bands, including The Cartoons, Another Level and Peter Andre, into primary and secondary schools. Each visit features a 15-minute performance followed by a question-and-answer session about the music biz or bigger issues such as drugs and crime. Smaller workshops are also available. There is no charge. Details from Sue Harris, 01923 268561.

London's The Word literature festival was a big hit with children: in Ealing they made papier mache sculptures of their favourite literary characters; in Harrow they listened to performance poet John Bently. Although the festival is now over, follow-up activities at Deptford's Albany Theatre include the Writeathon, which involves 27 primary schools, one from each London borough. A parcel containing a surprise object is sent to one school, pupils write stories and draw pictures about it, and then send their work on to the next school. The results will be on show at the Albany during April.

Fancy sending a postcard to the Queen? Another The Word project, If I Were in Your Shoes, is for children from London's diverse ethnic groups. Using the format of a blank postcard, it aims to help children whose first language isn't English to tell their stories. Starting with the phrase "If I were in your shoes..." children are encouraged to write to the person of their choice - from David Blunkett to their Mum - expressing their view of multicultural London. Responses in two languages, with self-translation, are encouraged. The postcards are on show at the Albany in April. There's also a Refugee Writers' Workshop on May 1. For more information, tel: 0181 691 3277.

If postcards can inspire children, so can buses. In March, poets Paul Cookson and Ian McMillan inspired budding young Simon Armitages from Westminster schools to scribble their verses about buses, trams and trains at the London Transport Museum. Pupils from St Augustine's and St Luke's, two primary schools in the area, as well as older kids from Pimlico secondary had their imaginations well stoked by the museum's spectacular collection. Now their work has gone global, thanks to a special Words on the Web website. The museum is currently organising more events and a literacy pack for schools. Website address: www.ltmusuem.co.uk.

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