Deborah Curtis and her partner Gavin Turk are the inspirational couple behind "The House of Fairy Tales" project, the travelling art circus.
Five years ago, needing something to do with their children during the day. Curtis set up a crèche in their studio workspace. The local council insisted that they had contravened health and safety regulations. And so to keep the project going, she downgraded the project and fellow creative parents soon flocked for child-centred self-expression exercises and lunch.This led on to Supernova, an arts-based day centre for primary school children – the artistic catalyst for "The House of Fairy Tales".
It began public life at the Port Eliot literary festival as a way to interest children in art, science, history and ecology in the hope of getting them engaged in ways they wouldn't have done in a normal classroom. Several one-off events followed including an annual event at Camp Bestival and at the Applecart in Victoria Park, Hackney .
Audiences walk in to "The House of Fairy Tales" through a suspended archway and enter what Gavin Turk describes as a "parallel universe". Here, children are encouraged to develop strands of their personalities they might not previously have realised existed – as alchemists, extremists, illusionists, surrealists – and where fact and fiction, right and wrong merge.
As she explained in an interview with the Guardian, a media partner of Camp Bestival, "It's where anything is possible, if you think about it, a festival is a fantastic place for kids, as long as you are prepared to let go of some of your basic parenting ideals. In other words, hygiene, teeth cleaning, and bedtime goes out the window. But they are in a loving, and very community-based, environment, where everybody watches out for everybody else's kids."
She and her team now collaborate with more than 100 primary schools in London alone and have initiated talks with several museums and galleries with the intention to run their own festival.
"If we are going to effect serious change in our behaviour patterns as adults in order for society to evolve as a whole – and I believe we must – then we have to start by looking at our relationships with our children, and focus more on what their world is going to look like when they grow up.