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‘Colourful, hopeful and full of joy’: Why V&A Dundee is giving away 10,000 free books

Illustrator Laura Darling pictured with the new Design Busters book.
Illustrator Laura Darling pictured with the new Design Busters book.

A free family activity book created by V&A Dundee aims to banish “digital fatigue” by sparking creativity at home.

The museum is distributing 10,000 free copies of quirky publication Design Busters to families across the city as well as other parts of Scotland.

With cheerful and playful illustrations by Dundee-based artist Laura Darling, the book is available to all and can downloaded for free here.

Tracey Smith, young people and families producer at V&A Dundee explains: “Families were finding the second lockdown much harder, feeling under pressure with home learning, and also responding with lots of digital fatigue.

Some pages from the Design Busters activity book.

“There’s a lot of pressure on families to be able to lots of different things online, but you might end up needing six laptops for four kids and their parents.

“We really wanted to make something physical ­– and beautifully designed – because we’ve got a lot of digital content and the question is how much more do you keep putting out?”

Families get free copies

The launch of the book coincided with the Easter school break and the families receiving a free copy have been reached with the help of community groups, food banks, schools and hospitals in what has been a huge team effort.

Some of the organisations involved include local charities Dundee Bairns and Togs for Tots, Dundee Food Insecurity Network’s 35 foodbanks and larders as well as NHS children’s hospitals in Dundee, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Tracey says she and Laura worked together to ensure Design Busters is easy to use at home: “We’ve brought together activities that are all based around the home, gardens or parks that are completely safe to do through the lockdown period – but none of them make reference to Covid or lockdown.

Laura turns to one of her favourite pages in the book.

“Laura and I wanted to make something really colourful, hopeful and full of joy – not talking about the current situation.”

Artist Laura Darling has worked with V&A Dundee before, but never on a project of this scale. She says she was “delighted” to be asked.

“The activities and so accessible and enjoyable – anyone could do them,” Laura explains.

Inspiration at home

One of Laura’s favourite pages is the Museum of Me activity, which encourages people to look around their houses for objects to draw that tell their family story.

“I really love this one because a lot of my practice is looking at everyday things and finding out the stories behind them,” she adds.

Laura has also created a Design Busters video (below) that introduces the book and the Museum of Me challenge.

Tracey adds: “We’ve heard from the hospitals that they are going to be used in the therapeutic play centres for the children who are having surgery.

“Because you can download the activity book online we are also seeing schools picking up on that so we’re hoping it’s going to be a valuable resource for educators as well as families.”

Reopening soon

Laura’s illustrations have bright pops of colour but are mainly black and white. Not only does this make printing easier, it also acts as a blank canvas for children who wish to colour the pages.

Tracey goes on: “If you want to work with a child at secondary school age there are ways that you can develop the activities and make them more complex. It’s pitched so it’s going to work with a lot of different families.”

V&A Dundee has announced it will reopen on May 1 with new exhibition Night Fever. Tracey says: “We’re really looking forward to reconnecting with families, young people and all our audiences and the priority is safety and following advice. We will be restarting our tours in smaller groups from June.”

🌈Togs were delighted to have been chosen recently to be one of the community groups to receive a batch of this wonderful…

Posted by Togs on Thursday, 1 April 2021

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