Pump House Gallery

Pump House Gallery

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Pump House Gallery in Battersea Park is a contemporary art gallery housed in a former Victorian pump house. Pea and I popped in for a look around after our visit to Battersea Children’s Zoo.

Our visit

The current exhibition is called a hook but no fish by London based New Zealand artist Sriwhana Spong. The exhibition emerged from the artist’s research into Lingua Ignota, a language invented by Hildegard von Bingen in 12th century Germany. When we arrived, we were greeted warmly by the front of house staff. I was advised that the exhibition was spread out over four floors, and there were no lifts, but there was space to park the pram.

On the ground floor, there’s a little self-directed Project Space where you can explore the themes of the exhibition. The room is set up with a selection interactive items including drawing paper, chalk, a box of carved wooden letters, a bucket full of seashells, plastic bottles and much more besides. In the centre is an arrangement of wooden cubes and a set of little mallets. Clearly, the idea of this space is to experience the exhibition first and then use the room to create your own response to it. I only went in there first as it seemed a good spot to unload Pea and park the pram. Once he was released, he made a beeline for the mallets and had a ball battering them against the cubes and wild horses weren’t going to get him to quit.

We spent some time goofing around with the mallets before trying out some of the other objects. Pea was quite taken with the bucket of seashells, but it started to get a bit violent because currently he really likes throwing things. I tried to interest him in making some marks on paper with the colourful chalk, but again, he mostly wanted to just throw the chalk around (or eat it) so this wasn’t entirely successful. We then had a battle of wills as he refused to surrender the piece of chalk he was clutching. When I finally wrestled it from him I scooped him up and lugged him up the stairs to explore the exhibition properly.

On the first floor there’s a film which forms the centrepiece of the exhibition. There was a couple there, just trying to watch the film but Pea took a liking to the guy and kept sidling up to him, casually resting his hand on the dude’s knee and then cocking his head in my direction and smirking. The dude took this molestation in his stride. However, there’s only so much of this unsolicited attention I feel I can allow so after a few minutes I extracted Pea from the situation and we went up to the next floor. That being the case, I can’t say too much about the film and thus probably missed much of the point of the exhibition. But that’s a risk I know I’m taking every time I take Pea to anything like this but I’ll persevere with these activities until he’s old enough to verbalise his protest.

In any case, Pea had a great time on the next couple of floors, as there was ample space for him to crawl around without either harming himself or destroying a work of art. For my part, I was quite taken by the vibrant yellow sigils on the top floor. Once we’d covered the top two floors we went back downstairs for round two in the Project Space – cue more mallet bashing.

I wasn’t sure how successful this would be with a toddler but we actually had a really good time here, largely due to the Project Space. It also probably helped that we called in at a time quiet and the staff and other visitors were unfazed by an untethered Pea giggling, gurgling and bashing his way around the place.

Essential info

Pump House Gallery is open Wednesday – Sunday, 11.00am-4pm and admission is free (donations welcomed). As mentioned, there are no lifts and I didn’t spot a baby change facility but I may have just missed that. The current exhibition, a hook but no fish continues until 1st April. On selected Sundays until the exhibition closes there are artist-led family-friendly workshops in the Project Space – these are also free, no need to book and look all kinds of awesome, judging by the gallery’s Instagram stories – I’m feeling disappointed that I’m unlikely to be able to bring Pea along to one of these before our move. The next workshop is Singing Objects on 25th February.

 

 

 

Battersea Park Children’s Zoo

Battersea Park Children’s Zoo

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Pea and I had a lovely day gallivanting around Battersea Park on a chilly but sunny day in late January. This is a great destination for a family day out as it’s bursting at the seams with things to do with a zoo, gallery, boating lake, several playgrounds, mini golf and cafe spread out over the 200-acre grounds.

The main reason for our visit was to check out the Children’s Zoo. I harbour fixations with certain animals. These include but are not limited to lemurs, badgers, meerkats, sloths and dugongs. When I looked up the zoo’s website, it said there were lemurs and meerkats.  I was sold on the lemurs alone and excited to see how Pea would react to them.

At some point on the way there Pea, as is his wont, passed out in his pram. I only noticed this just as I was walking up to the zoo entrance. Its quite a small zoo and I was able to walk around most of it while Pea was sleeping so it was looking like it might be a very short visit. The lemurs were in hiding when I arrived, but I did notice that their feeding time was coming up soon. So I waved at the wallabies, stared at the squirrel monkeys and marvelled at the teeny weeny harvest mice before circling back to the lemur residence.

By this time the three resident lemurs where parading around in anticipation of the lunch service. And perhaps Pea has picked up something of his mother’s affection for lemurs after all because when I glanced over at his pram, he was sitting up looking wide-eyed and alert. I took him out and we were able to get really close up to the enclosure as the lemurs tucked into their lunch of sweet potatoes, sweetcorn, carrot and pak choi. They really are such beautiful animals and it was great to get so close you could almost touch those magnificent tails (which they use as scarves to keep warm).

After feeding time, we spent the next hour and a half or so tottering around the zoo with me pointing at wallabies, meerkats, emus and monkeys like a loon to a mostly ambivalent Pea. He did seem quite taken with the donkeys but the many play areas were the real draw for him, as was climbing aboard the stationary fire engine and trying on a selection of hard hats. I had to curtail his fun in the water play area because he kept trying to eat the sand. In fact, he got really filthy here. I’d had the bright idea that we were going to spend as much time on walking practice as possible. Even though he can take a few independent steps at home he was having none of it here. Every time I’d try to encourage a few steps he’d just drop to his bum, throw his hands up in the air, chirp “Mamma” and generally just look like a helpless baby bird. If I didn’t pick him up he’d just crawl straight towards some dirt or a puddle and then sit there and refuse to move. Naturally, he also refused to get back in his pram so it was all a bit knackering carrying him around, pushing the pram with one hand. We eventually left when Pea succumbed to another hangry rage.

This is a really good option for younger children (and crowd-phobic adults like me) as it’s considerably cheaper than its Camden based rival, small enough not to overwhelm but there’s still a good amount of animals to see. I imagine it gets busy in summer and during half term, but on our visit we practically had the place to ourselves, meaning there was no need to jostle for a good position to see the critters.  For those nippers that are nonchalant towards the meerkats and the monkeys then the fire engine, swings, or various play areas should provide sufficient distraction.

Essential info

Admission is £9.50 for adults, £7.50 for kids, and under 2’s go free. Battersea Park is the nearest station (National Rail) but there are steps galore. Clapham Junction (National Rail, Overground) is step free and about a 30-minute walk, about half of which is through the park. There’s a cafe and baby change on site, although we didn’t use either so can’t comment on the quality of those but I can recommend the Pear Tree Cafe by the boating lake in the park – plenty of high chairs available, kids menu, loads of other mums and babies and the coffee hit the spot for me.