At least once a month I panic that I am failing my children in some new but devastating way. That they will be condemned to live out their lives in misery and despair because they haven’t had piano lessons. This month I have been hyper-ventilating that I am insufficiently enriching their spare time with stimulating extra-curricular activities. Which is why in the last few weeks my children have been surprised to find themselves on a day trip to the Science Museum, dancing to the Bollywood Brass Band, and attending a talk on Homer’s Iliad.
I have written about the Science Museum before and it remains excellent, but Bollywood at Blackheath Halls in south east London was a whole new experience. Band leader Kay Charlton opened the evening by inviting the audience to dance in the space in front of the stage, which I thought was just an easy way to identify who had been drinking before they arrived. And for the first couple of songs two confident individuals ploughed a lonely furrow waving their arms and jiggling awkwardly from foot to foot. But, as the evening went on, more and more people began to join them.
I’m not sure if there are any down-tempo songs in Bollywood, but every single one the Band played was an absolute barn-stormer. In the background a huge screen projected carefully chosen dance scenes from Bollywood movies, and for every other song, a dancer in traditional dress gyrated mesmerizingly to the music.
By the time we reached the finale, pretty much every member of the audience was on their feet. My family were all up giving it more welly than a Barbour and Hunter shop in a sale. We went home as happy as we were sweaty, which must count as a triumph by any objective measure.
Next up on my children’s cultural odyssey was Dulwich Literary Festival and tickets to see classicist and broadcaster Natalie Haynes talk about her new book, A Thousand Ships, a re-telling of the Trojan war from different female perspectives. I’m going to level with you here, this is not something my children were busting to go to. This was a little treat for mummy disguised as an educational benefit to my children.
After anxiously bombing round darkest Dulwich on a rainy Friday looking for, but failing to find, the entrance to Dulwich College, the evening went surprisingly well. Natalie took the audience on a whistle-stop tour of The Iliad with a fierce feminist take on the well-known tale. As she rightly pointed out, it is just as much about the women caught up in the war as it is about the men. After all, Helen is the only character so integral to the story that we have added the words ‘of Troy’ to her name.
At the end of the evening we left with a signed copy of the book, two children with a nascent interest in ancient Greek literature, and a very happy mummy, who is now a little bit in love with Natalie Haynes. I’m chalking that one up as another win.
Mr B reckons that we are reaching the end of my children’s cultural education, as either my enthusiasm or my money will soon run out. But he hasn’t realised that the Troy exhibition is now on at the British Museum and that tickets are FREE for children under 16. I feel a little giddy just thinking about it…
Want to expose your children to the same maelstrom of culture as mine have just endured?
- The Science Museum is absolutely brilliant. Read my blog about what you can do and see or visit their website.
- We saw the Bollywood Brass Band at Blackheath Halls, who run a varied programme of music, talks, comedy and arts and crafts for all ages.
- I think you’ve missed the opportunity to hear Natalie Haynes speaking about A Thousand Ships, but you can still buy the book, or you could cheat and read Natalie’s own article Helen of Tory: the Greek epics are not just about war – they’re about women or this article Epic win! Why women are lining up to re-boot the classics.