Houghton Hall Part Two - James Turrell / by Jazmin Balfour


If you have read part one you will know that during the summer me and Reuben visited Houghton Hall. The experience to begin with was, how should we put this, a bloody disaster. Tantrums, peeing by the side of the car and being underwhelmed. Luckily part two takes a different turn, bet you are all glad to here that my moaning is over. 

When you get to Houghton Hall you are given a kind of map leaflet, these are Reuben’s favourite things. He is obsessed with following the numbers and this one didn’t disappoint. Our main objective was to see James Turrell’s sky scape for selfish reasons of course. He is one of my favourite artists! 

The closer we got the more excited Reuben became too. He ran up the ramp saying that “this is our spaceship mummy”. We got to the top & I tried to allow him to find the hidden entrance alone and goodness when he figured it out he was 1000x more amazed. 


"our very own space

ship. We can reach the sky"

When we got inside there was a sudden rush and tranquillity & calm. I think both me and Reuben shared the same feelings, he stopped rushing & just climbed on to the bench & watched. We watched the aeroplanes over head from the near by RAF base. He spoke in whispers to me as if he knew this was a place to gather your thoughts & be bathed in light.


We sat for the longest time that I could've imagined. I had thought that with the beginning of our day being so stressful it would have split over to now and the peace would be absent. But we admired the same qualities of the works together, in silence basking in the moments of calm. This was the first time I realised how much I have in common with my three year old child. That we appreciate the light & airy feels, we communicate mentally unknowingly and all that other tossy stuff.

He asked me a lot of questions about the sky, questions I couldn't answer. I tried to be witty about my answers and they made me think myself. Like “why can you not hug a cloud” & “are we aliens?” & “we are aliens? people are people” 

To Reuben this space had transported him to another world, the greatness of the space was alien to him. The sheer depth of being in a thought provoking space that essentially was just light & air was a foreign concept not only to a three year old but also to his 24 year old mother. 

Shit... it’s all really deep. 


"Are we aliens here

and people are people?"

He watched other children rush in and out but still he wanted to stay put. Maybe it wasn’t as magical as I thought, maybe it was simple he was tired out from all his moaning and shouting in the previous hours. 

But as soon as we left so did that calmness, he sprinted down the ramps yelling “I am going to win poo poo head.” 

And all normality was resumed. 

I have serious mixed reviews about Houghton Hall & I do think I would need another trip to really make my mind up, and another pair of hands with me to distract a grump of a three year old. 

On one hand I found the sculpture trail enchanting & fully family friendly. On the other I found it over priced (a bottle of water costing £2) and I found the staff to be overbearing when it came to jumping down peoples throats about touching the art work. I honestly don’t believe this should be up to them, this is something that the parents should do in their own way, and it is incredibly off putting to families who for them, galleries and exhibitions are a new experience. 

It was an odd clientele as well, it was very "country estate", while we're very urban. I grew up in the North Norfolk coast & country and felt like I had been transported to my teenage years of trying to fit in with the horse riding crew who on weekends wore tweed with their hunter wellies & took their Labradors, Winston & Marget out for walkies. Then there's me, wearing Stan Smiths and Grimacing at the sight of mud, with our graffiti/nappy bags that say “Shit” on it. I felt judged & well I judged them too. (There were lots of VERY clean land rovers sitting in the car park I may add... cue side eye). 

I am on the fence so until the next time... If they will let us in after this review (side eye).