Monthly Archives: February 2014

Teapoys and Wallpaper: A Voyage of Discovery at Gawthorpe Hall

With a generous grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, we are exploring Gawthorpe Hall through oral history, photography and the creative arts in a project called Portraits of the Past.  As part of the project artist Kerris Casey-St.Pierre worked with primary school groups local to the Hall.  Here she tells us how it went…

This was a really interesting project for me. Like many of the children I had not been to Gawthorpe Hall before, so taking part in the tour with one of the schools groups was fantastic and really informed my decisions about what kind of work I would do with the children afterwards. Being able to see their reactions to the objects in the Hall meant that I could choose things to work with that I knew they would respond to. Taking part in the tour myself created a shared memory with all the groups.

During the tour we did two activities. First we went to the kitchen where we were treated like new staff and told to polish the silver. The children really liked this and learned about the life of a servant. Next we went upstairs to set the table IMG_0161 - propswith the silver, learning about where things go and why. The actors in costume engaged children straight away. The Butler was very good and it was hard not to go along with it.

After that we had an upstairs tour of the Hall by the housekeeper. We looked in the entrance and the withdrawing room and learned about Charlotte Bronte. The children were interested in all the different and special things. The Teapoy, a box on a stand where they kept tea locked as it was so expensive, stood out as interesting.

We saw the ceiling and chandeliers, secret doors, commode, cupboard and learnt about the special sideways chimney.

In the Long Gallery we looked at the portraits and were told about the different uses of the long gallery, including for exercise and cricket. The children liked the wallpaper. They were very hands on with the sample and enjoyed being able to feel the gold and velour textures.

They had noticed the monogram KS everywhere.

When I arrived at the schools I first talked to the pupils about their tour and what they remembered. They remembered a lot actually, sometimes with a little prompt.  But the fact that there were people in costume and that they had been actively engaged (polishing the cutlery and laying the table) not only captured their imaginations, it had also made it easier for them to relate to the people who would have lived there in the past. Having been there and seen all the objects and heard about them whilst looking at them meant that they recalled most of the information they had been given.

The works we created were in response to the wonderful wallpaper that many of the children had been impressed by and had enjoyed feeling, and the Teapoy in the withdrawing room.

We made Teapoys using flat packed boxes from the scrap store. They had to put the boxes together and think about how they would decorate/customise it. There was no right or wrong and there were lots of different ways to achieve the same thing. We covered and lined them, and some of the groups created their own monogram to personalise their boxes further. Keyholes also developed as the project went on.

Creating their own Teapoy or special chest to keep precious things in gave the children a chance to really express themselves, as well as something special to keep, which will continue to remind them of their visit to the Hall and all that they had learned there.

We also looked at wallpaper, linked to wallpaper in the Hall, and had a go at making or enhancing wallpaper designs ourselves. The children added materials to wallpaper squares to enhance the texture and also added lots of gold shiny papers like the gold leaf to make it bespoke, to make it special. This didn’t always get finished so I left this with the schools, and they seemed very keen to continue and finish after the session.

I used materials from the scrap store and told the pupils about the store, which was also a learning experience as most of them hadn’t heard of it, and was a good connection to recycling and re-use.

The practical experience at the Hall was a really good way of engaging the children and helping them to learn. Walking there was a good experience, walking up the drive and seeing it all and how big it is.  The making process also helped the children to connect. They remembered a lot and then made something with a connection to the Hall and to themselves. Everyone really enjoyed the workshop and seemed very engaged throughout, probably because it was very personal to them.

A nice extension for the project, or for future project development, would be to have an exhibition of children’s work in response to the collections, spending longer on the making and take it a step further.

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As part of Portraits of the Past MPA is running a Family History Engagement Day on 4 April.  The event is FREE but places are limited and booking essential.  Find out more on our website.

In Praise of Julie

David Smith reflects on MPA’s relationship with the lovely Julie Hesmondhalgh.

Julie…Julie Hes…Julie Hesmondhalgh….Hayley Cropper…we all loved Hayley and now she’s gone….

I met Julie in the mid eighties.  I was dropping my son Craig off and picking him up each day at a three-week long summer drama course at Moorhead High School in Accrington.  Julie was a part of a friendship group of very talented girls who after A-Level Theatre Studies at Accrington and Rossendale College all went off to drama school in London together.

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Julie kept in touch with Craig whilst they were both in London and recommended him for a job acting and writing for theatre with the West Yorkshire based Company Impact.  At that time Craig tipped us off to go to see Julie at the Royal Exchange in Much Ado About Nothing where she was performing alongside her great friend Joseph Alessi son of an Accrington tailor..  She had two small roles: a maid and a soldier night watchman.  It was here that she was spotted by a casting director from Coronation Street and you know what happened from there…

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In 2001 Mid Pennine Arts was working on a major environmental arts community engagement programme called Land.  It was supporting the iconic Panopticons project.  A part of the programme was a project called Trees for Babies.  In partnership with Trees for Burnley we created a new woodland at Rowley Country Park recruiting young families from the Edith Watson Maternity Unit in Burnley.  Julie and her partner Ian Kershaw had a young daughter, Martha Mo.  When asked if she would come to a celebratory event to meet the families involved and present them with a special memento of their involvement not only did she agree without hesitation, and refuse to accept a fee, but she brought two month old Martha Mo with her!  It was an evening to remember. The clue to Julie’s feeling for people was the way she engaged with the young children who came along, making time to speak to each one as they came up with their family to receive a hand-made book:  Trees for Babies…and of course we planted a tree in the new woodland for Martha Mo.

Did you know that Julie asked her fellow cast members not to buy her a present on leaving ‘the Street’?  She asked them to make a donation instead to a charity in Accrington: possibly ‘Maundy Relief’ for which she is a patron.

….and back to the drama course at Moorhead High School in the mid eighties…who set up and managed the project?  Mid Pennine Arts, of course! Have you heard the theory about the importance of the eco structure that exists in the arts, supporting and developing early signs of talent…?  Mid Pennine’s role here is a small example of how it works.  That course was important for me too.  I was so impressed by the school that I went on to work there as Deputy Head for 13 years and then came to Mid Pennine Arts having seen at first hand what it can create and deliver for the communities it serves.

…and what of Julie?  Go to see her at the Royal Exchange in February in Simon Stephen’s new play Blindsided.  Then you might return to see her astonishing performance in Black Roses: the killing of Sophie Lancaster.  Julie is a terrific actress who has never forgotten her roots in Pennine Lancashire .

Yes, we all love Julie…