Category Archives: Schools

My Mid Pennine Story…

Hi, I’m Katie, I’m 15 and in Year 10 at St Christopher’s CE High School. I have been doing a  work experience placement here at Mid Pennine Arts for two weeks. I didn’t know very much about the organisation before I arrived, so this is all very new to me. MPA is in the middle of compiling a digital archive, to celebrate their 50 year anniversary and I am very pleased that I have been involved in this process. Whilst looking through images, brochures, leaflets and posters I found some things that I found particularly interesting and wanted to investigate further. Throughout my time here, I have been doing just that and I would like to share some of my findings with you here on this blog.

I’ve been dancing and performing since I was three, so naturally many of the projects and events that stood out for me were about dance and theatre. I’ve tried to pick a few projects from each decade, so that you can get a sense of how MPA has developed but also because I wanted to explore the early years of the company.finished-contraptions

In the 1970’s The Mid Pennine Association for the Arts set up a travelling theatre company called TheatreMobile. The company travelled around the Mid Pennine area performing shows, plays and pantomimes in a range of venues for all different age groups. One thing that struck me about the performances was how little it cost to go and see them – I think the most scrooge-and-marleyexpensive that I found was onIMG_7365.JPGly 60p! Today you struggle to buy anything for that price and to see a performance of theduo-photo-1 same nature would be far more expensive. I decided to do some research about prices in the 70’s and I’ve discovered it cost only five pence for a pint of milk and nine pence for a loaf of bread; 20 cigarettes would only set you back 30p and you could buy a Mini for only £600! Something else I have discovered from an old newspaper article is that the early shows were done with five actors, no lights and a £50 budget, which again is quite amazing. I came across another press cutting, talking about how actors from TheatreMobile had been to visit and entertain children who had to spend Christmas in hospital; MPA is all about bringing people and communities together and I think this really shows that    the ethos has always been this way.1970s-northern-ballet-company

Also when looking through projects from the 70’s, I discovered the Northern Dance Theatre, who were the only regional ballet company. They toured around the area performing their latest ballet each season, the earliest documentation I can find of this is in September 1970. What really stood out to me was their photos and how exquisite they looked in them, and as I do ballet myself I can truly appreciate how hard they must have worked. It seems that the Mid Pennine area loved them too, because they made numerous appearances throughout the 1970’s.

I1980s-collagen the 1980’s, a dance company called the Lynx Dance Company came to visit the Mid Pennine area, they were a contemporary company, who focused heavily on getting dance into schools. I found this interesting because today there still isn’t much dance in schools and I think it’s a really important and valuable thing to have.

Accidentally, I stumbled upon an exhibition of dance photographs by a man named John Austin called ‘Out of the Limelight’. I found myself fascinated by this because John said he wanted to photograph dancers because when he takes a photo, he is looking for perfection and he thought this was true of dancers also. Everyone in the dance community strives for perfection, however small the performance and even just in rehearsals, but not many people get to see this side of it all. John’s photographs not only show the pretty costumes and outstanding performance but the blood, sweat, tears and hard-work that goes on behind the scenes to create the picture that the outside world gets to see.

When setting up the MPA50 exhibition at Radio Lancashire, I discovered an extraordin60ary and beautiful project from the 1990’s. This was the Mughal Tent or the Shamiana – groups of local women joined together to create a banner, along with lots of other groups from around the UK, and the finished banners were put together in a tent at the Victoria and Albert museum in London. The finished product is exquisite and the level of hard work and attention to detail is obvious.  In May 1996, there was a performance from the Abasindi Dancers and Drummers, they performed songs and dances 1990's collage.jpgfrom East, South and West Africa. From searching through the archive, I get the impression that the 90’s was a real decade of world culture for Mid Pennine Arts as it is the first time I can see events from around the globe and from people from different backgrounds and cultures.

In the 2000’s MPA launched its largest project to date – Panopticons. Before, I arrived at the start of this two weeks, this project was the one I knew most about, as I have visited three of them on numerous occasions but still I decided to do a bit more research on them. The project got its name from the word ‘Panopticon’ which means structure, space or device providing a comprehensive or panoramic view, all of the four Panopticons are placed high up, and the aim was to get people out into the countryside so that they could see the stunning views. Throughout the building of these, MPA managed to keep the community spirit alive by involving local people, schools and organisations as well as creating jobs and supporting businesses. One thing that definitepanopticons-collagely shines through in all the projects is the community ethos of the company.

The Singing Ringing Tree is made from pipes of steel stacked in layers to make the shape of a tree in the wind; the wind blows across these tuned pipes to create a low, almost humming like song.

The Atom is located in historic Wycoller which can be dated back to 1000BC, the structure is constructed of Ferro-cement with a coating of metal-based paint. It can provide shelter but the circular cut outs also make great viewing spots for the surrounding scenery.

The Halo is a steel lattice structure suspended five metres above the ground on a steel tripod. It is situated above Haslingden on an old quarry and former landfill site. The Halo is lit at night and glows a dark blue colour, this makes it appear to be hovering over Lancashire and is clearly visible for miles around.

Colourfields is the only Panopticon that I have not visited, so I wanted to find out some more about this one. It is a transformation of the cannon battery that was installed for the park’s opening in 1857 to house two Russian cannons captured during the Crimean War. Colourfields was built here to incorporate this piece of history, rather than it being dismantled and lost forever. It adds new dimensions of shape, height and colour to Blackburn’s Corporation Park and has fantastic views over to Lytham, Southport and Fleetwood.

Before I arrived I was given some publications to read, one of which was about a project in 2014 called Truce. After reading about it, I was keen to find out more; Truce was all about commemorating the First World War, a topic I know quite a lot about through History and English. The project included: a performance about the Christmas Day truce from a local man’s perspective, a choir, made up of local volTruce collage.jpgunteers, who sang songs just like the soldiers did on Christmas Day, a textile piece made up of poppies made by local people and a young people’s football tournament- to commemorate the football game in No-Man’s Land. Again, this project involves all kinds of people and really brought people together to celebrate something that happened 100 years ago.

 

Completely bycopy 150.JPG chance, I found out that MPA was involved with tbest11smhe redevelopment of the Coppice in Accrington; I’ve lived in Accrington virtually all my life and never knew who and what had actually gone onOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA. There were talks and workshops in the allotments for the public and local primary school; a chance to think and put forward ideas for the further development of the area in the future and the Avenue Parade entrance to the park was completely restored by artist Michael Scheuermann along with the steps leading up to the monument at the top.practical-comp-4-5-12-007

Projects are constantly going on, sometimes right underneath our noses that we don’t know about or get involved in. I think this should be a lesson learnt to everyone that you should find out what’s happening and get involved in some fun activities and projects in your local area!

 

 

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Thoughts from the Singing Ringing Tree – Zoe Greenhalgh

Music Leader from the Songs from the Singing Ringing Tree, Zoe Greenhalgh, recalls her experience…

Relationships

For me, the joy of working on projects such as this, is the wonderful human connections with the very young that are born out of musical play and exploration, without any need for speech.  Singing is such a wonderful medium; no right or wrong, just variations which have infinite potential for development in a whole new direction.

In the settings the day comprised of working with all children in the nursery in small groups of 6-10 each supported by a member of the nursery staff which allowed the children and myself to become well acquainted and build a good relationship. It also enabled me to learn something of the children as individuals; how confident they were, their readiness to sing and make music, their ideas and interests, quirks and foibles.  In these small groups I became familiar to them and they to me, meaning that I could structure my teaching to support their individual needs whether musical or otherwise.  Progress and participation was good and much enjoyment was evident.

The Singing Tent

In one setting I came to know the children over a number of weeks working with small group and their key worker before creating and opening the “singing tent” for business. The groups were predominantly adult led so the tent was intended to redress the balance by offering the children the opportunity to initiate and lead the musical activities, for me to join in with their play.

The “singing tent” was constructed from a clotheshorse and some music printed fabric held together with clothes pegs.  This was intentionally only large enough for me and two children to occupy at any one time thus maintaining a sense of intimacy that might elicit the engagement of even the most timid of children.  Sometimes it was situated inside in the nursery, sometimes outside in the garden.  I stayed in the tent with my ukulele and the children came and joined me as and when they liked.  The ukulele turned out to be a good provocation for the children to respond to: they were attracted to the sound and wanted to play it, but were inclined to play with some delicacy, either listening intently to the sounds they produced or strum it as an accompaniment to their singing. It was often not played at all.

I had tried different instruments for variety – a small number of quality percussion instruments and chime bars – but whilst the children enjoyed exploring these, as a joint interactive activity it was not very fruitful.  Likewise, me sitting in the tent just singing with no instruments was not as attractive, possibly because the sound of a singing voice is a familiar one in the setting.

Within the intimate, private space of the tent, these children recognised me as a play partner and offered me the crown jewels – magical musical connections with voice, sound and rhythm, spontaneous original song improvisations, musical play of all shapes and sizes.  What an honour and infinite pleasure to be so accepted and trusted with their precious offerings.

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Inspiration visit to the Singing Ringing Tree

Ways of working…

During this project I have worked in a more formal, adult-led manner with small groups of children as well as in a more informal, “free flow” way. Both are valuable in their own right but I believe that the impact is greater than the sum of its parts when the two approaches are combined.  How important then that educators within the setting have the musical confidence and skill to scaffold and support children’s musical creativity and development, and that staff development is built into the project in a workable manner.

From my experience; Thoughts on project planning and delivery

All projects of this sort give a cohort of children access to musical experiences beyond those normally available in the setting; musical exposure and engagement that without the project they would not have had.  Fantastic!  What is more difficult is to build in longer term legacy for the settings in subsequent years.

I believe the most crucial and detailed part of all projects is the planning stage.  There is this great idea to run a project doing “X” which would work really well with these leaders in this location and we could build in “Y” and “Z” – wow, how exciting!  This is perhaps the easy bit.  What follows is the contacting of settings and individuals involved to gain interest in being involved which is relatively straightforward, particularly where relationships already exist.

Then comes the nitty gritty of how it will work on the ground, what it will look like in reality, firm commitment to dates, time, staff availability, trips out, available physical space, parental/photo permissions, etc. etc.  This is the really tricky bit.  It is so important that all parties “buy in” to the concept and that the finer detail is worked out collaboratively with all partners at the earliest stage of planning, especially those involved in the day to day delivery.  Settings are very busy with many demands upon their time and energies making this level of detail sometimes hard to sort out, but it is precisely this, along with the ongoing communication between the visiting music practitioner and the setting staff, that turns an ordinary project into an extraordinary one that leaves behind it something truly worth having.  This collaborative, committed relationship means that the project activity is more than just a “bolt on” extra, that it is integrated into the setting beyond the allotted project time, extending reach to more children and developing staff confidence, knowledge and skill and impacting positively on practise within the setting and the experiences of its children.

Songs from the Singing Ringing Tree from Mid Pennine Arts on Vimeo.

‘My Brothers and Sisters’

Another in the series from our roving arts reporter, David Smith.

“Is it easier this way? Is it? Blame someone else because you didn’t have a clue what was happening…does it make you feel better to blame someone else?”

brothers and sisters 1

I was in London earlier this month and saw a piece of Theatre in Education written for 16-19 year-olds in Further Education presented by a professional company: Mad ‘Ed Theatre.

The play opens on a bare stage with six chairs as props. You now have no option but to focus on the actors and their words without distraction. The 55 minute production is emotionally charged, moving, and totally engaging. It focuses on a single Muslim family over a period of 48 hours.

Two strong female characters emerge: a teenager, Shamilla and her mother played brilliantly by the same actor, Alexandra D’Sa. Rupinder Nagra as the father, provides a mature strong acting presence deeply troubled by what he learns, by what he should have known. Rishi Nair, Shamilla’s confident boyfriend, slowly learns truths about himself he has failed to recognise. Hayley Powell as a solicitor and the troubled teenager Aisha successfully captures two hugely contrasting characters.

It opens with two police officers visiting the household. The parents think that the visit is in response to their earlier report that their 15 year-old daughter Shamilla is missing. The police have, in fact, come about another matter. Their son, believed by his parents to be on a package holiday, has posted an on-line message from Syria. The parents, hard-working, long-standing members of the community have no understanding about what is happening around them within their own family. Their daughter Shamilla, has spent the last 24 hours with an older boyfriend who, when he realises what has happened to her brother, takes her home.

Mother:           Our children are not our children. Not anymore.

                          We do not know our own children. Nobody does.    

The play is multi-layered. The characters: Shamilla, her parents, her boyfriend, police officers, a solicitor and a troubled teenager, act out a range of views on radicalisation, racism, attitudes to young people, sexism, immigration and the value of our education system. But the large question which dominates is the issue of responsibility. Each character is forced to ask: ‘What has been my contribution to what has transpired?’‘Could I have done more to prevent it?’

The emotionally charged scenes between mother and father show a couple learning not only about what has been happening around them but also about their own relationship. But it is also true that the interaction between all the characters shows each one gradually coming to a deeper, and at times a painful understanding of themselves.

brothers and sisters 2

The final scenes show the daughter Shamilla made a Ward of Court and removed from the family home to ‘a place of safety’ – a hostel – where she shares a room with a deeply troubled girl, Aisha. After a strong exchange between the two girls as they talk about why they are in this place, the play ends with:

Aisha:              Your brother…did you tell someone?

                          A moment of silence..then…

Shamilla:         I do know about this. I do know about this.

                           The girls hold each other’s hand.

Shamilla:         So. Will we? Tell?

 

As an excellent piece of theatre in education the play does not offer any answers but offers enough for an audience to debate the issues involved.

The play, My Brothers and Sisters, was not paid for by the ‘Prevent’ programme. It was  commissioned and paid for by City of Westminster College in London as a part of its response to the ‘Prevent’ Strategy. I congratulate the College on the way that the play has been compulsory viewing for all full-time students and not been limited to drama groups. It has been seen by all 5,000 of their students over two weeks and has included two evening performances for other interested theatre goers.

After each performance, a series of resources has enabled tutors to lead discussions of the issues raised, issues identified by their students, in their tutor groups. This is no “love ’em and leave ’em” approach; it is the way theatre in education should work – best practice.

(The play is available to tour by contacting Mad ‘Ed directly.)

Shamilla:         Bad people get good people to do bad things.     

Todmorden Artist’s Tour 2014

For the 10th year Mid Pennine Arts, funded by Todmorden Town Council, has commissioned an artist to provide a theme based workshop to all seven primary schools in Todmorden.  This year the art form was visual art and the theme was Environment.   Mid Pennine Arts and all the schools involved are very grateful to Todmorden Town Council for their financial support in making these wonderful workshops happen.

Tod 2014 - collage 1

What follows are extracts from the project evaluation:

Before his retired in October 2013, MPA’s David Smith discussed the theme of the 2014 tour with Maria Cooper, head teacher at St Joseph’s RC Primary.  Maria emphasised how involved all the schools are with environmental issues, as is Todmorden as a whole.   The theme of environment would allow the artist some scope to adapt the theme for each school based on the particular topics they were addressing. As always with the artist tour the primary aims are that the workshops are enjoyed by the schools and that they will make an effective contribution to the children’s learning.

Once the theme was approved by the Town Council, MPA knew just which artist to work with. Cath Ford is a very experienced and versatile community artist who has worked with MPA on several projects and has the issue of environment at the core of her own practice.

Cath planned three activities from which each school could choose their preferred option. She would spend a day at each of the seven schools and run a two-hour workshop in the morning and afternoon. The school could choose whether to have two separate groups or one group doing both sessions. Each workshop focussed on work at Key Stage 2 which allowed the schools the choice of involving children from Year 3, 4, 5 or 6.

The overwhelmingly popular choice of activity was Eco Totem in a Day with six of the seven schools choosing it. Ferney Lee was the exception, choosing instead Scrap Sculpture and Assemblage/Trash to Treasure.

Eco Totem: Along the north-western coast of North America (America and Canada), some Native Americans create totem poles. Depicting people and animals, totems are used for different reasons in different tribes, but often tell stories, family histories or are used for protection. Totems can be used to make a statement, to tell the story of a family or group (the word originates from a word meaning ‘his kinship’) and to communicate an idea.

In this workshop pupils explored the idea of totems and how they are used to tell stories and make community statements. The class worked on faces, animals and symbols which make a powerful statement about their attitudes to the environment and to creating a more environmentally friendly world. The resulting 6 foot plus totem was then displayed in school.

Scrap Sculpture and Assemblage/Trash to Treasure: Artists throughout history have used found objects and other people’s trash to create unique and expressive art works. Artists often look differently at the world, seeing beauty in places, people and objects discarded by society. Trained artists and outsider artists create magic worlds from rubbish that enrich our world and ask questions about what is trash and what is treasure.

In this workshop pupils created temporary sculptures from scrap materials, experimenting with design and form during a series of group challenges before looking at the work of artists who create assemblage sculpture from scrap objects. Using the learning from the first challenges and looking at artists’ work, each pupil created their own piece of assemblage in the form of a face/human.

Tod 2014 - collage 2

Outcomes: Cath encouraged the children to consider their own response to environmental issues throughout the workshops, discussing how their choices impacted on the environment and pollution through, for example, recycling. All the materials were sourced from a specialist scrap store, so that the children could see how items could be reused and not discarded.  The children had to work in small groups and cooperate to create the final pieces, enhancing their team building and communication skills.

Facts and Figures

Schools:

  • Castle Hill Primary
  • Cornholme Primary
  • Ferny Lee Primary
  • Shade Primary
  • St Joseph’s RC Primary
  • Todmorden Junior School
  • Walsden St Peter

Participants:

  • Classes = 9
  • Girls = 114
  • Boys = 123
  • Total = 237

Teacher Feedback:

  • It was a very rewarding experience for the children. They learnt a lot, reinforced learning from other areas of the curriculum and produced a beautiful piece of art communally at the end. It also necessitated working cooperatively, solving problems and discussing solutions together.
  • It was interesting to observe how to use other areas of the curriculum to inspire and create such a good piece of art that the children can be proud of.
  • It was an excellent day, full of creativity, team work and ideas. I would highly recommend it.
  • A fabulous job […] well timed and organised, the children had plenty of time to think and work, good balance.
  • I liked the use of all the different materials and how all the parts came together to create a larger object.
  • The children learnt about the benefits of recycling and how it can change the environment for the better.
  • The children had to work together in small groups and cooperate to make the final product. So team work, listening and taking turns was a vital part of the project.
  • Very good at raising awareness of environmental issues – ideas of being green.
  • Children enjoyed group work and working as a team.
  • Artist very knowledgeable and interacted with children.
  • Good to see a day long workshop and how something can be taught and created in a day – good for teaching isolated topics.
  • Artist was really child friendly and approachable.
  • Very impressed with final product.
  • Children really enjoyed the workshop.

Tod 2014 - collage 3

Pupil Feedback:

  • It felt like it meant something.
  • It felt good to work as a team.
  • It was really fun and creative and tells a good story.
  • A super workshops and I would like to do it again.
  • I liked how we used rubbish which was going to [be] thrown and we made something good out of it.
  • Nice to share all our ideas with the group.
  • I really liked how we had to think about which material would look the best.
  • I thought it was a really creative idea.
  • I like having the choice to make what I wanted.
  • Was pleased to be part of the team.
  • Really enjoyed working with the different materials […] enjoyed the free choice.
  • I thought it was creative of Cath to get some junk and make a totem pole with [it].

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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.

Portraits of the Past

Starting in the summer this project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, has been exploring Gawthorpe Hall through oral history, photography and the creative arts, in a project we’re calling Portraits of the Past.

Gawthorpe Hall is much loved by the Padiham and Burnley community who surround it.  The historic property also currently hosts Catherine Bertola’s contribution to our Contemporary Heritage series, entitled Flicker.  We asked for people to share their photographs of Gawthorpe to develop an online archive, and to let us record their memories of time spent there to create oral histories that will be stored at the North West Sound Archive.  The project is ongoing with schools’ work starting later in the autumn but we had some fabulous days in August and September that we’d like to tell you about.

In August we had two days of family friendly activities on the lawn outside the Gawthorpe Hall entrance.  On both occasions we were joined by David and Andrew from the sound archive who eagerly recorded visitors to the event.  We were also pleased to have members of Padiham & District Photographic Society with us, who introduced visitors to their work as well as some fantastic antique cameras kindly loaned by the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester.     PoP day - 21.8.13 5

To encourage the budding photographers of tomorrow (and their parents), on the 21st artist Cath Ford ran a workshop making miniature cameras out of scrap materials which went down a storm.  All afternoon you could see children wandering around the grounds proudly wearing or pretending to take Image by C Ford - participant in activity day - 21.8.13 - 2pictures with their matchbox creations.  There were also photo scavenger hunts for those with a working camera or camera phone!

On the 28th artist Caroline Eccles held a mask making workshop as well as providing a huge dressing up box which young and not so young couldn’t resist, the fake moustaches were particularly popular!  Once the masks and costumes were on everyone had a lot of fun posing for pictures in front of the hall.  Joss joined us for the day as a volunteer and took some wonderful pictures of the action.

Image by C Eccles - participant in activity day - 28.8.13 IMG_0518

In September we had a wonderful day at Padiham Library and Gawthorpe Hall concentrating on collecting oral histories.  Once again David and Andrew from NW Sound Archive joined us and were kept busy recording memories, new and old, of times spent at the Hall.  In the morning Alison and Carole Alison and Carole - Padiham Libraryat the library organised a coffee morning and were so welcoming to us and all those who visited, we lost count of how many brews they made!  They had been very busy persuading library users to visit on the day and tell us their stories.  Most people were rather bashful at the idea; we heard many times that, ‘you won’t be interested in me’.  But they were wrong and once Melanie and Dom had enticed them with cakes and a brew they all relaxed enough to make a recording.  We were also made very welcome Bob - Padiham Libraryby Ann and Bob at the Padiham Archive which, along with the library, is part of the town hall.  They are custodians of a huge number of artefacts ranging from the everyday to items of important historical significance.  If you’re interested in the history of Padiham you should pay them a visit, there isn’t anything about the town that they don’t know!

In the afternoon David Smith joined Dom, Andrew and David at Gawthorpe Hall for the Heritage Open Day.  It was an extremely busy afternoon at Gawthorpe and Rachel and her team very kindly set us up in the Dining Hall where we were perfectly placed to draw in visitors who had tales to share.  Of the stories we’ve recorded so far some cover every day uses of the hall and grounds as a place to walk the dog or picnic with the family, others recall working there when it was a family home and others of childhood encounters with Lady Shuttleworth.  They are all fascinating and equally worthy of a place in the Portraits of the Past oral history collection.

Thank you to everyone who has participated so far.  You can add your own photographs to the online archive here or get in touch with us if you need help doing that.  If you have any memories of Gawthorpe Hall you want preserved get in touch with us and we’ll send the boys from NW Sound Archive round!

There’s a lot more to come as artists work with schools this autumn term, so look out for further blogs.  In the meanwhile huge thanks to the North West Sound Archive, Gawthorpe Hall, Padiham Library, Padiham & District Photographic Society, Padiham Archives, MOSI and of course our funders, the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Image by C Ford - participant in activity day - 21.8.13

Gawain and the Green Knight – Evaluation

From the 23 May to 16 July 2013 the Gawain and the Green Knight project took place, partly funded by the Clore Foundation.  Below are extracts from David Smith’s evaluation.

“I feel I enjoyed every bit of the experience.”   Dylan

Two Lancashire schools were involved in the programme supported by three creative practitioners, storyteller Creeping Toad, musician Hannah Jones, artist Ruth Evans and Mid Pennine Arts.

–          Roughlee, a rural primary school with 27 pupils in the whole school.  All the children were included in the programme. 2 teachers + 2 classroom assistants.

–          Whitefield, an urban infant school with 100% of pupils of south asian heritage.  1 teacher + 3 classroom assistants and 27 Year 2 pupils

Process:

David  attended planning meetings with staff from both schools in which it was agreed on the kind of art forms to be used in the programme and a lead arts practitioner.  After a planning meeting with Gordon MacLellan from Creeping Toad, it was agreed to employ two further practitioners: musician Hannah Jones and artist Ruth Evans.  Further planning meetings took place between the practitioners.  Gordon MacLellan, lead artist, liaised with the project manager, David Smith, and both schools.

Five preparation days were shared between the practitioners.  Eleven practitioner days were spent in school workshops or working with children in the country park at Wycoller.   The project concluded with a celebration day in the Park where children retold the narrative through storytelling, poetry, song and tapestry.

Reflection:

Aim 1: to widen children’s experience of reading and understanding of alliterative verse; offer development of vocabulary and language in their writing and speaking and listening skills 

“I’ve learnt to be more imaginative about storytelling.  I’ve had more ideas for my stories.”      Melissa 

The practitioners were briefed from the beginning of the project that the development of children’s language was to underpin the programme.  This was particularly necessary for the children from Whitefield for whom English is a second language.  Children were meeting the narrative poem Gawain and the Green Knight for the first time – an experience of literature of the highest quality.

Evidence of success can be found in the alternative Gawain poem created collaboratively by the children.  Its heroes are five children on a quest to find their parents frozen by the wicked witch, Victoria.  This alternative poem reveals a real understanding of how alliteration works, the picaresque tradition in literature and a high quality response to the original:

She becomes

A wild wicked witch turning water into ice

Freezing the splashing stream

So that carriages skid and people plunge

And in the ice

They freeze. 

There is also evidence of a feeling for how rhythm works in poetry which is seen in their rhetorical use of repetition.  These are quite sophisticated techniques for young children to have grasped: 

But when they tried to break it, it wouldn’t crack.

When they tried to smash it, it wouldn’t budge.

And when they tried to roast it whole

It bounced back out of the fire again.

In and out,

In and out,

In and out! 

Teachers were introduced to new ways of presenting literature and strategies for creative writing in their own classrooms; techniques which they agreed they will be able replicate in future terms applying them to other work.

Teachers planned and delivered the programme in an effective partnership with the practitioners.  They saw how a storyteller was able to abridge and rework more difficult parts of the text.  They worked with him to check children’s understanding with children working collaboratively to dramatise pieces of text.  Our musician showed how simple percussion instruments – all available in school – could be used to evoke the mood and rhythm of the poem with the children composing which sounds were most appropriate for the moment.  She also showed how the understanding of alliteration could be reinforced through the composition of new songs.

Our textile artist showed how a simple felt tapestry with moveable figures could be used as a storyboarding technique.  Teachers grasped how this was relevant both for checking understanding of the narrative but also as a tool for the development of ideas for creative writing.

 

Aim 2: to stimulate children’s creative imagination by working in      exciting outdoor settings

Taking the children to a country park with a ruined hall was inspirational for the generation of enthusiasm, the creation of ideas and the development of language.

“The visits to Wycoller were brilliant!   We heard magic sounds, saw creepy ruins and smelled different smells which made me feel that the story we made was real.”    Imogen 

Children were encouraged to see the visits as an exploration, as an adventure, as a journey just like the one taken by Gawain!

“I felt amazed when we went to Wycoller because we were able to go in the ruins, up to the forest, over a “one slab of stone” bridge and walked under the willow arch.  Working with Toad I’ve learnt to make better characters for my stories.”         Francesca

There are pieces of the children’s poem which allow you to identify exactly where in Wycoller the ideas have come from.  A clear description of the clapper bridge over the river: 

On the edge of a stream

Where one long stone crossed the river

One long rock over

A waterfall like a mountain.             

The following all relate directly to things the children experienced in the country park:

A delicate duckling with a sore leg limped ahead of them

 

(she) …stretches her fingers, with nails

Like knives, like thorns….

 

Even the trees are mean,

Watching with fiery yellow eyes,

And grabbing at the children as they pass,

Scratching and scraping with twigs like claws

On branches as strong as a giant’s arms.

  

As they walk,

They hear water crashing against the rocks,

A big black slug slithers through the long grass,

A heron circles overhead.

Ducks are paddling and quacking in the stream,

Buttercups, dandelions and wild purple onions flower,

And they can smell

Tall grass by the stream 

Yet, at the same time, the children’s home experience was valued in the collection of ideas:

And a pie, their favourite pie

Chicken, cheese and chips

With apple pie for afters

Aim 3: to establish a model of good practice for teaching and      learning in school.

Teachers agreed that they had worked with a good model of sustainable practice which had the following ingredients:

–          accepting and building on children’s ideas

–          using an outdoor journey to emphasise a sensuous response: observation, smell, movement, touch…

–          accepting and developing probing questioning as a means of developing ideas

–          developing collaborative learning as a ‘practice’ for children to develop, expand and test ideas and try out newly acquired language.

–          using quite different art forms to find new approaches to literature and creative writing: storytelling, drama, drawing & painting, song and music composition, collage, textiles….

Evidence of impact of the project on  children participating

“I think the Sir Gawain Project has helped me to be more confident and has made me more responsible in what I do.”   Lilly

The programme offered children from totally different backgrounds the opportunity not only to mix socially as they picnicked together but to work together in a number of collaborative and constructive ways.

“The Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Project has made me read aloud more.   The next time when I do a project I’ll be really confident at reading to other people.”  Luke

They created new stories, shared and tested ideas through discussion, drama, music-making.  Teachers reported increased motivation for learning as they encountered new practitioners and new strategies for learning. Evidence for this is found not only in the quality of the work produced, the high quality support provided by teachers at the end of a long hot term but in the children wanting their families to make the journey to attend the final celebration in the country park.

“I learnt lots of interesting things from the Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Project –  about musical instruments that sounded like creatures, instruments I hadn’t heard before.  I’m more confident now I have done all the things we did together.”    George.

Evidence  of the impact of the project on the whole school

Most productive was the school’s introduction to different ways of working.  Working closely in planning and delivery with another school was a new and valued experience for both:

“The project helped me take part with other schools.”   Skye

Teachers in both schools were impressed by what can be achieved through partnership working: teachers and practitioner planning and delivering activity together.  They valued the involvement of a project manager and a lead artist to take some of the administrative burden away from them:  researching artists, contracting, negotiating and booking venues and transport, budget management, evaluation etc….

The programme was constructed so that teachers can introduce many of its components into the school curriculum in the future.  The musician and artist showed how a story board of composed songs or a tapestry recording of the children’s response to literature can test their understanding of text; provide a catalyst for creative writing as well as a legacy for future work.

The project also allowed both schools to use valuable resources outside the school grounds for learning:  Wycoller Country Park with its dedicated educational facilities, Lancashire County Council’s Countryside Services and in particular, access to park rangers.

In the autumn term both schools will report back to their whole staff and to the individual school networks they belong to describing the success and impact of the work.

“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was a great story.   I enjoyed making music.  

When we visited Wycoller I enjoyed exploring the ruins. 

It was like being in a castle.”  Isabella