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).


Houghton Hall Part One - Richard Long by Jazmin Balfour

Richard long mini moosey

Earlier in the year, September to be  precise, I decided to take Reuben to Houghton Hall. Mainly the selfish reason that I REALLY want to see both the Richard Long exhibition & the sky scape by one of my favourite artists James Turrell (whom I will talk about on the next post). I also thought it would be a change of scenery for Reuben to see the art in something other than a gallery which is where he primarily looks at it all. 

I had high hopes, great expectations. I should have known it wouldn’t be all smooth sailing when we got lost on the hour car journey there & my pregnant arse couldn’t hold in my pee any longer & I had to pee beside the car with Reuben shouting “the spiders will get your bum” at me.  


"Go each side mummy

then we race, but don't touch"

Finally we did arrive, 1 hour & 36 minutes later and we were both excited as we drove down the long drive and paid £18 at the booth (pretty expensive but I am a cheap skate student) Why oh why did they put the bloody park right next to the car park, well that was lunch out of the window. After 40 mins I felt I had just paid £18 to watch Reuben half climb up a rope & then jump off. Cue the HUGE melt down on attempting to get him out; this is when time started to run out, they closed at 4pm. Eventually we got in with the help of an old couple (thank you for saving my arse) who could quite clearly see that this blimp of a women was about to have her own melt down & was flustered from the doubting looks given by tweed jacket 1,7 & 28 as I wrestled a three year old through the gate of the park. 


Once inside the actual estate Reuben was extremely impressed by the granditure of it all, half realising that in the scuffle between us at the park I had forgot to feed my child lunch I crammed some squished pack lunch into pruned lips & he soon cheered up. He wasn’t keen on going inside part of the exhibition no matter the chocolate bribes, he said it was too dark so we skipped that and went straight to the front lawn. We stood either side of the vast stones leading towards the house & ran. We had to run apparently, Reuben demanded it all the while shouting “don’t touch the running art” “be careful”. Finally inside Reuben was uncomfortable, he was told immediately by the attendant “don’t you touch anything.” Which immediately put his guard up, I felt this too be a little frightening for him to have someone pounce on you like that. Every time we go to an exhibition we talk about not touching before we go in. This to me is a prime example of why it can be so overwhelming to take kids to galleries, the immediate thought of some adults are “fuck sake that kid is going to ruin the art”. I asked him why he was scared & he replied “there are too many people.” It takes this kiddo a while to adjust to busy places, he gets overwhelmed & to some becomes rude, to me he becomes shy and vulnerable. He will only reply no to questions & hide behind your legs. I really do think this is why he likes galleries so much, no one bothers him because simply they're there for the art work, he feels at ease because it’s not normally overcrowded and when it normally is busy people still don’t acknowledge him. He asked to take a picture & then we left. If I am honest I felt overwhelmed by the amount of people and slightly underwhelmed by the works within the house. From images I had seen the work looked far more vast & impressive. 


"a pterodactyl done a

big poo there mummy"

Once outside all calm was resumed & Reuben bumped into his new friends, the old couple & told them how the paint splattered arch ways were where a pterodactyl had done a really big poo. Lucky the couple weren’t mortified by his imagination & a good job too because I never am, so didn’t have to do the look of “he is three...get over it”. We moved on racing back down the lawn & then time trailed around the slate. He was in a world of his own. His imagination started to bloom & I could see his little cogs working to think up the next part of our game & the adventure we were having. The shapes all around him were egging him on in his make believe & he was transported to a whole different planet. What had started as a really shit day had started to turn into something pretty magical.

Reuben is wearing t-shirt & leggings by H&M & shoes by Vans via Schuh.  


Stay tuned for part two of the blog post James Turrell & also why I am in limbo about a recommendation.