Saying important things with lots of tissue paper – the RA collaborates with Kids Company


Hello, so just a quick one this week…

‘Just go!’ the gallery assistant gestures theatrically and looks the other direction as we scram up the marble steps of the Royal Academy. Our mad dash along Piccadilly had paid off, and my look of utter devastation and sweatiness must have pulled some heart strings too because we were squeezed into the last half hour of Child Hood – The Real Event, though I could have spent a lot longer gawking at it.

This exhibition is currently being held at the RA’s 6 Burlington Gardens, and was created in collaboration with an amazing organisation called Kids Company. If you get the chance, go see it! It’s on until the 22nd July and it is lovely and it is wonderful. Here are a few brief bits and bobs about why:

The work on display was created by children living in some of the most deprived areas of London. It deals with issues of identity and explores many of the challenges faced with such heroism by these young people. These challenges include abusive family environments, homelessness, poverty, emotional and mental health difficulties, substance abuse and trauma.

The cool and tranquil white rooms are festooned with jungles, tutus and Papier-mâché roller coasters in abundance, but it was the trophy room which touched me the most, and so I’m going to talk about that.

The placard reads:


What is there to like when you feel intrinsically flawed? The violated child is terrified of another human being’s glance. …. Is eye contact a prerequisite for delivering blows of words or fists? Will the onlooker sneer in critisism leaving the child unchosen? …

In defence, the masks appear – the camouflage, the layers of attitude, the disguises afforded by clothes, the posturing, the gesturing; they are all hiding places for the fragile self. It takes courage to appear again, to dare to be viewed, to tolerate the moment between being chosen or being discarded. Shame is the prison from which many children bravely step out, hoping for love but never being sure they will receive it.

They wanted to design trophies for their personal acts of emotional courage.

The trophies celebrate the good things in each child’s character, and speak about what is important to them. They are a way of spelling out and marking what has been achieved by the children in overcoming their damaging experiences, and how momentous these steps forward are in the face of such difficulty. There is an online lecture about this topic to be found here and it explains a little more about the work of Kids Company too. I really recommend that you have a listen.

The whole thing is beautiful and very poignant. The things that are said and explored through these works are heart breaking but so precious. What I like most is how each child who contributed must have learned that they too have something to say and give, and they have been listened to.


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