Making Arts Accessible: Under the Sea Discovery Day

Looking back at our accessible family arts day at the British Museum.


  • Sarah Underwood
  • Learning

This blog was written for us by Sarah Underwood, who has just been shortlisted in the 2016 Creative Conscience Awards for her work with us - congratulations Sarah!

Having recently coordinated House of Illustration's pilot scheme of free accessible arts events for families, I had the great honour of being invited along to coordinate and support a final event in the series.

Taking place on 7 May, this one was part of a larger event: a Family Discovery Day at the British Museum in response to their Sunken Cities exhibition, organised in collaboration with Camden Family Learning and Frank Barnes School for Deaf Children.

House of Illustration was one of several arts organisations and museums invited to devise and deliver a drop-in activity on an Under the Sea theme, and families were invited to discover and learn together.

Working with Head of Education, Emily Jost, we commissioned two workshop leaders, Jhinuk Sarkar and Monique Jivram, who came up with some wonderful activities including giant collaborative sculptural sea landscapes and pop-up carousel books, which the families were then able to take home.

It was amazing to watch the sculptures grow and change over the day as the children added their own artworks and collages. We were left with an amazing interactive seascape, which families were able to move around and engage with. The event was fully BSL interpreted, with a signed picture book reading area for children to relax and enjoy stories of the sea.

We had a wonderful day and it was especially rewarding to receive such positive feedback from the families who came to join us. It is incredibly important to offer families in the community opportunities to access the arts, and projects like this provide a much-needed space for them to work together, use their imaginations and learn new skills.

One father said: "I'm at work all day and I just don't normally get to spend time with the kids like this. Today has been brilliant."

We saw families working together to create some fantastic pieces of art including this amazing diving girl made by a family of four who stayed almost all afternoon!

Special thanks to Sir Quentin Blake, Larissa Joy, Jeremy Carver and the Lakehouse Group for providing the funds to make it possible for us to take part. Once again we were hugely grateful to the Mayor of Camden for joining us and for offering her support for our series of events.

I feel incredibly proud to have been a part of this day and very much hope we can continue our efforts towards inclusivity and access to the arts for all families in the future.

Here I am at the end of our day, a fully transformed sea creature: