Activities Art

5 reasons to visit Mars & Beyond exhibition at the Oxo Tower with kids

It may be a little rough around the edges and at times you will feel like you have walked on to a dystopian film set (or in to a squat) but it manages to conjure up all the right feelings and we think you should go - and take the kids too.

Mars has been a bit of a theme this year with the Moving to Mars exhibition at the Design Museum and now this at the Bargehouse. We simply had to visit – and we suggest you do the same. Below are our top five reasons to go with your young Londoners in tow.

It’s interactive

This vast exhibition takes over five floors of the Southbank’s iconic Bargehouse and it is interactive from the go. As soon as you walk in you’re greeted by the colourful martians which you can touch and interact with. It’s a simple idea but really effective for little people, the inflatable forms somewhat reminiscent of a bouncy castle – only this time they are aliens – so have a go and make them sing. After initially being frightened by these creatures, we spent around 20 minutes playing and exploring in space. There is an astronaut projected on a suspended moon who dances at your command, and a piano that communicates through it’s strange music (hoovers, cassette players, radios and whirring fans). The only downside to the experience are the many stairs – for anyone with little children needing to be picked up (and prams deposited on site) this may be a bit of a challenge. 

It’s immersive

Got to love an immersive experience and Mars & Beyond ticks the box here. Get your 3d glasses on and venture into a light room (the toddler spent ages in here too) have a lay down in the chill pod or a debate (or drink if you’re going later in the day) whilst sitting on furniture made of tires.  There’s light play and mini colonies built from disposable plastics that explore the potential future of the human race and two different Virtual Reality experiences on different floors. 

Let’s move to Mars

Oskar Krajewski is the visionary artist that has curated this exhibition and he has collaborated with more than 40 artists to bring us Mars & Beyond. The exhibition questions whether we should focus our energy and resources on solving the problems we have created here on earth or simply packing up and moving to Mars. To help you decide he has created incredibly intricate models of what colonies may look like, with an audio guide that describes in close detail how day to day life on Mars would be. Great conversations to start with older kids.

It tackles climate change

Sometimes it is hard to put the climate emergency into context as we sit in the green and pleasant land that is England looking out of our windows into the bucolic countryside that surrounds the capital. Even in London with its National Park City status and considered the greenest city in Europe (and third in the world) can’t quite convey the full extent of the climate emergency. The Mars and Beyond exhibition helps to shake you up a little and show you the realities in poignant ways. The Greenpeace VR experience was by far the most powerful for us. My toddler enjoyed trying a Virtual Reality headset for the first time and he visited the Antarctic, albeit digitally, where he saw a penguin colony. For him the joy was in this new experience whilst for me, it left a lump in my throat knowing that only two penguin chicks out of the whole colony survived to adulthood. That and the fact that we now consume a credit card’s worth of plastic per week regardless of our diets. 

Huge variety of artworks

There’s so much to do and see – the exhibition can easily take up to three hours to visit and explore. There plenty on offer to interest all types of art lovers from amateurs to connoisseurs including paintings, sculptures, installations, videos, music and live performances. The level of the artworks varies substantially but one thing is for sure, ‘Mars & Beyond’ will be an unforgettable experience for both adults and children. You will leave educated, cautioned, entertained and inspired.

Mars & Beyond is on at the Bargehouse until 15 march 2020 and tickets cost £5 for a child and £15 for an adult. More info and bookings here.

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