Largactyl Shuffle @ Science Museum Lates – A Review

Largactyl Shuffle @ Science Museum Lates – Launch of the Book and DVD at the Dana Centre on Monday 25th April 2014
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Photographer: Bogdan Stăiculescu
The DANA Centre was buzzing last Monday for the culmination of CoolTan Arts’ innovative project, Largactyl Shuffle @ Science Museum LATES. Following four successful museum tours and one workshop event, the book, CoolTan Arts Stays Up LATES, with an accompanying DVD, was launched during a fun-packed evening of talks, games and some wonderful food.
We were given some time at the beginning of the evening to explore the book, a sumptuously illustrated guide to the project which includes many of the original talks given by volunteers on the guided tours, and to watch the DVD which was playing on a huge screen at the front of the room.
Then Kaya Volke, volunteer coordinator on the project, thanked us all for coming and introduced the first speaker, Phil Loring, BPS Curator of Psychology at the Science Museum. Phil told us about the Dana Centre’s aim to provide an adult environment for conversations between scientists and the public, and how the Largactyl project helped achieve this. It was Phil who first approached CoolTan with the idea of working together. He said, ‘It’s a real testament to CoolTan that they ran with it and made it something special.’ As curator of Mind Maps, the Science Museum’s exhibition on psychology, Phil was particularly pleased with the launch of the book which also serves as an exhibition catalogue.
The next speaker was CoolTan Arts’ CEO Michelle Baharier. ‘We couldn’t have been more honoured than to be invited into the Science Museum’, Michelle said, before thanking the many people who made the project possible. There are far too many to name in this review but special mention went to Jean Cozens who sadly died in December 2012. Jean researched and wrote material for some of the tours as well as coming up with the idea for the accompanying book, which has been dedicated to her. Special mention also went to Richard Muzira, a volunteer at CoolTan for many years, who was tragically killed in November last year in a cycling accident. Richard filmed some of the walks and features on the DVD, which has been dedicated to his memory. The third special thanks went to Kaya Volke who led the project as Volunteer Coordinator. Kaya worked extremely hard to bring the whole project together and make it a resounding success.
Kaya herself next took to the mic to explain a bit more about the process: ‘We were given five different themes for the tours by the LATES team’ she said, ‘from there, we came together for discussions and came up with ideas for four guided tours and one room-based event’ Kaya spoke about how the first theme of Speed had been a particular challenge, ‘We wanted to destigmatise mental health issues and the challenge was how to relate that to Speed’ The group chose to focus on the fast pace of modern life and how it affects mental wellbeing.
Kaya next introduced Sasha Dee, one of the tour guides who is also a CoolTan Trustee, poet and artist. Sasha gave us a personal perspective of what it meant to be part of the project. ‘Working with the Science Museum was exciting and amazing’, he said, before describing how it had enabled him to rekindle a strong interest in science that had been present since his childhood, even though he was pushed into the arts at school.
Next up was Andrew Ogleby, a volunteer with the project who expressed his appreciation in the form of street poetry – the highly entertaining Largactyl Lyrical Wrap. Following Andrew’s performance, another project volunteer, Peter Cox, shared what the project had meant to him: ‘Unlike Sasha, I was not good at science and I left school with very little scientific knowledge, so this was a chance to improve things.’
The final speaker was Heide Postges, volunteer graphic designer with the project. Heide explained the rationale behind the board game which is included with the book and which she designed. ‘The game allows you to recreate the journeys we took and to interact with the book. It is also a toolkit to help you relax, chill out and be creative’ she said.
Following the talks, we had a riotous time making origami dice and exploring the board game. Throughout the evening we were well looked after by staff at the Dana Centre who served us with delicious and healthy canapes and as many soft drinks and cups of tea as we wanted.
The book and DVD, CoolTan Arts Stays Up LATES: A Creative and Interactive Journey Exploring the History of Science and Mental Health is free and available from CoolTan Arts. You can view a digital copy online here: http://issuu.com/cooltanarts/docs/cta-staysup-lates-ebook
There is also a short video about the project online here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSGAB8jd_z0
Review: Annie Spinster

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