Families and access to Kensington Palace

03 August 2012

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Fabric of Cultures displayed, the fruits of the first of the Palace Explorers projects at Kensington Palace. Copyright © Mark CocksedgeFabric of Cultures displayed, the fruits of the first of the Palace Explorers projects at Kensington Palace. Copyright © Mark Cocksedge

At Kensington Palace an innovative programme has been running for Historic Royal Palaces called Palace Explorers. It starts with outreach work in local primary schools, especially in areas of cultural diversity where people are not traditional visitors to heritage sites, developing storytelling skills both in the palace and in the classroom. Gradually, the children’s families and friends are drawn in, developing their own skills and telling their own stories in a programme of inter-generational learning. This is bound together with both craft and art activities and with digital ways of learning.

Eventually, we have a Family Forum, a small group of parents who have been drawn into the palace and its world, and take a message about enjoying heritage and its experience back out into their own worlds. They have been developing their own programme, making their own discoveries, and learning to guide each other round in their own languages when English is not their first language. It all started in the gardens, and now has moved indoors with the grand re-opening of the palace at Easter 2012.

When we first put this on in 2011, the result was a fashion show inspired by the characters who had lived in Kensington Palace, made from fabrics with designs inspired by the families’ own rich cultural heritage.

Out of that endeavour we have a group who will be using the new community space in the re-opened palace to make a regular story time for toddlers, and during the National Family Learning Festival from 13 October to 11 November 2012 they will be hosting a festival at the palace, using this to promote the community space and events there. We are looking to develop a story about the mystery behind the unknown black youth featured in the famous trompe l’oeil painting by William Kent on the King’s Staircase. In the story he will be his exploring the palace and meeting significant characters in each space or room, for instance Queen Anne in the beautiful and renowned Orangery. Once training has started, we will be running story time at local libraries too, as we did during half term holidays last year, and especially during National Storytelling Week in January 2013.

This is still a small start, but for many who are taking part it is a big step: binding their own culture and experience together with the palace and gardens at Kensington, and making something exciting and new out of both. The results will then enrich many more lives, and this will be a pathway that others can follow.


Post by David Souden
, Historic Royal Palaces


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