What?: The Whitechapel Gallery’s Crib Notes events for under-fours and their carers are sporadic to say the least. We’d already missed two thanks to oversubscription and an adult headache respectively, so I was really looking forward to this one, which promised a tour – toddler in tow – of Thomas Ruff’s Photographs 1979-2017, followed by refreshments and a chat.
Things got off to an inauspicious start thanks to the rain, which is always a pathetic fallacy where Bab is concerned, and only proceeded to get worse upon our arrival at the gallery, where Bab overwhelmed a fellow 19-monther with so much love she literally floored her, provoking hysterics, before having her own spectacular tantrum in the bookshop, induced by my efforts to curb her kleptomania.
Once all the parents, carers and offspring were assembled in the foyer we were led into the gallery, where the Assistant Curator began his talk on the German photographer’s back catalogue for the benefit of anyone whose child hadn’t immediately wandered off.
One would have thought photography would be the ideal medium in terms of limiting damage at the hands of 20 or so under-fours, with everything displayed behind glass and the main gallery space left free for running around like a headless chicken, but there was still a no-touching rule and, as anyone who’s ever come into contact with a toddler will know, trying to get them not to touch stuff is akin to trying to choreograph an army of cats to do ballet.
As per usual with the majority of toddler-friendly events designed to let parents do normal-person things, I spent too much time attempting to avert disaster to really pay much attention to what was being said. That said, we’ve endured a pretty tantrum-tastic solo expedition to the Whitechapel Gallery before and I have to say chasing an angry infant around an art gallery in the company of two dozen other baby wearers and toddler trailers is infinitely preferable to going it alone and being frowned at by as-yet-childless 20-somethings who have absolutely zero clue what utter carnage parenthood holds.
Anyway, everything was worth it for the refreshments afterwards, which included healthy toddler snacks, bottomless tea and as many Cadbury’s Fingers as you could cram into your pie hole. There were also plenty of toys and books, and everything was hosted in a nice, safe upstairs studio space where you could pour as much orange juice down your front as you fancied – and that was just the parents.
Where and When?: Crib Notes sessions take place on Wednesdays from 10am-12pm every few months, to coincide with new exhibitions. The Whitechapel Gallery is next door to Aldgate East (District, Hammersmith & City), a six-minute walk from Aldgate (Circle, Metropolitan) and 10 from Whitechapel (Ginger, District, Hammersmith & City).
Best Bits: Another one of those things that makes you feel like an actual human and not just a toddler’s PA, even if you do spend the whole time trying to avert toddler-inflicted disasters.
Worst Bits: You’re not supposed to touch the art, which means your child will want to touch everything.
Facilities: Baby changing, buggy parking, step-free access, refreshments included.
Would We Come Back?: Maybe on a happier day.
Bab tries to touch everything in sight at Crib Notes: Thomas Ruff, Whitechapel Gallery, Whitechapel.