Emily Turner and Annie Reid co-founded angels & urchins over 15 years ago and the small magazine has since grown to become the go-to bible for London parents, a quarterly glossy packed full of lifestyle features, fashion, travel and trusted What’s On recommendations. Something of an expert, and with four (now teenage) children of her own, the editor shares the wisdom she’s gleaned about family life in London – just in time for the summer holidays that are dawning for parents everywhere:
How long have you lived in London?
All my life. I love it. I’ve always had aspirations to be a taxi driver. I can’t help but think I know a better route than the sat nav. It drives my husband mad.
Hammersmith, by the river. The water is very calm and at weekends it feels like you’re at the seaside.
What are the pro’s/con’s of bringing up a family in London?
My children all walked to school every day throughout primary and one of them up to GCSEs and I love the sense of community that engenders. They have the identity of being Londoners that I had. They take London’s public spaces, museums and galleries for granted which is a gift. On the downside, I suppose they are townies. I would love them to have had a bit more country in them.
Where are the best places to take little ones this summer?
In this heat, the Lido on the Serpentine is one of London’s best kept secrets if you have pre-schoolers. You have to pay (£4.80 for adults, £1.80 for children, £3.50 for a sun lounger) but it has a lovely paddling pool. Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens are fantastic for all ages this summer. You have Christo’s glorious 20 metre Mastaba floating in the middle of the lake and Frida Esbedo’s Serpentine Pavilion is a mix of materials and water and reflections to wander through. And yesterday morning I finally braved the water for a pre-breakfast swim (not one for children but a great way to start the day).
My favourite theatre for kids is the Little Angel in Islington. It’s absolutely tiny and with an amazing programme of puppet shows, and it was founded by the director Joe Wright’s parents. I have always had a rather romantic notion of him growing up in a flat above the theatre.
What about for older children?
My favourite gallery is Tate Britain. One day my kids WILL get how wonderful it is but at the moment they groan at my love of it, ‘Really mum, it’s just a staircase…’ [It is the most beautiful staircase]. They prefer Tate Modern and the Picasso show would be my must-see of the year.
They enjoyed the Summer Exhibition – Grayson Perry’s curation is all it promised to be and we love that the artworks aren’t marked so you need to look them up in the book and see if the one you like is worth £100 or £100,000. It is a good way to start a discussion about the crazy values ascribed to art.
My eldest went to the sparkling new galleries at the RAF Museum in Hendon the other day and was wowed. He even designed and test flew his own plane. The Abba show at the Southbank is on until 29 July and is a fab, immersive experience. Perfect to get you in the mood for Mama Mia 2.
Theatre-wise, I am going to A Monster Calls at the Old Vic with my youngest next week and am looking forward to Walking With Dinosaurs at the O2 next month as it has Michaela Strachan in who we interviewed recently for the magazine and she was heaven.
How can you get children to engage when going round an exhibition?
Don’t be too ambitious. If they find one thing they respond to (positively or negatively) they have got something out of it. Try and do your homework before though. If you have a fun backstory to bring a piece of art to life it will stay with them.
Any tips for surviving a long car journey with children?
I am afraid that the answer is the dreaded i-pad/phone though I hate the separateness that brings. When they were younger Stephen Fry came on almost every trip with us – first as the voice of Pooh and then Harry Potter, all eight books. We have a friend who lives abroad who used to send us CD compilations. John Prine’s ‘Glory of True Love’, Old Crow Medicine Show’s ‘Wagon Wheel’, Todd Snider ‘Vinyl Records’ are soundtracks to our family life – sung at top, tuneless volume. And the Killers. Always the Killers on a car journey. Even now, Mr Brightside will get them to take off their head phones.
Favourite family games to play on summer holidays?
Bananagrams – it is genius. Cards, cards and more cards: Shithead, Poker (Texas Hold’em) and now they are older, Bridge – though none of us except my husband knows any of the conventions so we just play it like whist.
Where’s your favourite place for a family holiday?
The Isle of Wight. My family have a cottage on the south west coast, right on the edge of a cliff. It is tiny but has a big garden so we overflow into tents. It is where I am happiest (and therefore probably nicest). We all get into a gentle routine – trip to the sweetie shop, walk to the pub, beach, ice cream man, more beach. We will be there for a fortnight this summer.
What’s your favourite hotel in the world with/without children?
As a family of six, we haven’t stayed in that many hotels so my answer is probably swayed by how excited we were on the odd occasion we stayed in flashy ones. The kids would say the Half Moon in Jamaica, and we love the Sani Club Halkidiki too, for a family who doesn’t think they like resorts. With my husband, the Duc du St Simon in Paris – it’s old fashioned by spoiling and there’s an excellent oyster bar round the corner.