Tag Archives: Schools

‘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.     

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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.

_______________________________________________________

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.

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

Five Children in Wycoller

 Five Children is a wonderful response to a reading of the narrative poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in Wycoller Country Park.  The project involved 27 children across all ages from Roughlee Primary School and 27 children from a Year 2 class at Whitefield Infants in Nelson.  It reveals a real understanding of how alliteration works, the picaresque tradition in literature and a high quality response to the original.  It was created collaboratively by children working with their teachers, artist Gordon MacLellan, musician Hannah Jones and artist Ruth Evans.

It is long… but persevere, because it is a high quality piece of work which deserves to be read. Gawain  - Roughlee

Five Children

Part 1: The adventure begins

A cloudy, rainy, stormy morning

When only ducks and slugs are out,

Dripping rain, dripping children

Soaking through their shoes;

But on this day that hopes for rainbows,

Five children are walking to the village

Cheeky children who love

Chips and chicken and cheese.

Helpful and chatty,

They are bold, brave beggars,

Orphans looking for friends and family.

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 and the

Muddy stink of swamp.

At the edge of the village

Two big bloodhounds dribble,

Drooling onto the floor

Barking wildly, deeply, menacing. 

Part 2: The village

Families in the village

Hunting in the forest,

Cooking rabbit stew,

Tending the sheep,

Herding the cows,

Selling the milk,

Bending the bows,

Shooting the arrows,

Fighting the wolves,

Hiding in tree-houses.

But one woman stands quietly

Looking at her one precious thing,

A brooch Gawain gave her

When he was young and loved her

But the children run

Down to the river

That races and rushes and ripples,

Rolling over stones and sand,

Running over the ford and

Under the bridges

Full of fish,

And fishermen;

A broad broken bow of a bridge

Over the babbling water

A path to the forest

But guarded

 

Part 3: The Knuckleheaded Knights

Knucklehead knights

Strong and brave with sword and spear and shield,

Mighty, magnificent men-at-arms

With mace and mail and morning star,

With monkeys or mammoths on their shields,

Quiet as moths and mice and

Mean as midges,

They serve the King and Queen of the Woods,

And are not very bright.

“Halt!” they say.

“Stop!” they cry.

“There!” the children shout, pointing

“There! Gold! Gold!”

Sunlight on the sparkling river

Looks like gold to the treasure hunter,

Treasure-hungry soldier.

One knight leans, to look

a little too far and the children push!

He topples!

He falls!

He splashes!

His friend swings round to help him,

Reaching down,

A hand outstretched

Reach further, a little more,

A little more and

He overbalances and joins his friend in the pool

Naked, the knuckleheads leave their armour out to dry

And head home,

Sad and soggy,

Dripping all the way.

 

Part 4: Into the Woods 

Over the bridge,

The children run,

And across the grass,

And up the stairs.

The steep stairs,

Steep stairs,

Climbing those slow stairs,

Squashing slugs as they go.

Half-way up is a stone seat

Where queens and goblins rest

Up, and

Up, and

Up

Up to the seven slabstone, gravestone walls

And into the deep woods

Tall trees grow in these woods,

Towering, toppling, tumbling trees,

A tangle of leaves and branches and bark,

Old, old trees and new saplings

A world of green and brown

Gawain rode here once

Looking for the gallant Green Knight,

He is long gone

But his horse’ hoofprints are cut into the stones.

Now, there are children in those trees

They hid in the leaves

Under the leaves,

For so long, for too long

And they became green

And as secret and silent

As the trees themselves.

The woods are full of wildlife,

Beavers, bears, boars and badgers,

Slugs slide and snails slither,

Rabbits, raging rats and reindeer

Hairy horses, hares and hiccuping hedgehogs.

But there are bears too, and

Dark spotted jaguars.

A wise goblin lives

In a cave,

Where twisted twirly twigs

Are wrapped round rough rocks.

Red-eyes goggle in Gooby’s

Green skin and

Yellow teeth smile.

As tall, he is

As he is wide, and

He tells them a terrible tale

That fills them with hope.

Down in the ruins

On the edge of the woods

Where the water runs fast and quiet and deep

Under the bridges and over the stones

Is a square stone house

And a little old lady.

By day she is a kind and lovely Grandmother

But at night,

Victoria changes.

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.

She collects her petrified people at Pepper Hill Barn.

Ice servants to attend her or

Ice statues to decorate the highest ruins.

Ice forever, solid ice, always cold, never melting,

No thaw, no fire, no summer sun can save them.

And Gooby thinks, he knows, he’s not sure

But the children’s family

Their lost parents

Might stand in that frozen company

Unable to move, to speak, to think,

All they can do is dream,

Waiting for the people who can set them free.

But how to set the frozen free?

The Queen might know,

Beautiful Quire might help

And her Rainbow Mirror breaks magic

Ends spells and sorceries.

Part 5: The Dragon! 

So boldly the children set off through the wood

To find the Queen

But the path is long and they are hungry so

When they find an egg,

They stop to make a campfire and cook it.

What an egg! As big as a ball

As big as a bowl,

As big as a head.

A feast for all five of them,

All in one shell.

Crack it, shake it, scramble it, fry it!

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!

With their shouting

The children missed the slither at first

Hissing through the grass,

Sliding across bark,

Slipping along the path,

An angry dragon mother

Come for her egg.

Spears and spikes and a long pointed tail

No legs, no wings,

Just a smile wide enough to swallow

A child or two.

And angry as fire.

The children ran

Through the woods,

No horse could gallop

No cheetah could run

As fast as them.

But the dragon was faster.

She was

A charging rhino breaking trees,

An angry jaguar roaring like the wind;

She was a tornado.

Closer.

Closer!

Mouth wide.

Teeth waiting,

Tongue curling.

The trees ended suddenly

In a long falling slope

And the children fell,

Toppling and tumbling,

Slipping and sliding,

Through the grass,

All the way down

To splash into water

And sink into a smelly swamp,

Leaving the dragon disappointed

At the top of the hill.

Safe!

But sinking.

Part 6: The Swamp 

Slimy and stinking

The swamp was like a giant smelly, sweaty sock

And the children were

Shouting, screaming, yelling for help

And drowning deep,

Squelchy, soggy

And stuck

Their cries woke an unexpected friend

Who shook his head and unfolded his wings.

Willow-green and magnificent,

The Green Horse reared.

The amazing creature flew

As fast as a falcon to the smelly swamp

Not a moment too late

For just a minute more and

They’d have gone under

Sucked into the smelly, stinking, mouldy mud.

Down he swooped

He grasped and grabbed but slime-slippery children slid

From his teeth and hooves

And he could only carry them

One by one to safety

And the others waited

Mud-swimming, swamp-surfing,

Struggling while they waited their turn.

Then, dripping mud,

Cold and wet and miserable

The children stood

On the edge of a stream

Where one long stone crossed the river.

One long rock over

A waterfall like a mountain,

Deep, dirty and dark

Dashing down into danger

Part 7: Victoria 

One by one, over the bridge

And there is a bright door,

In a dark wall!

And a friendly old woman meets them.

Victoria welcomes them in,

Passes them socks and towels

And a pie, their favourite pie

Chicken, cheese and chips

With apple pie for afters

And the children sink to sleep

In her cosy, comfy treehouse.

But a noise wakes them.

In the dark middle of the night when

Bears and badgers and bats are out.

And Victoria is changing!

Her ears sink into her head.

Her nose stretches out, longer, pointier,

Dripping dirt.

Her skin grows green,

As green as grass and leaves and lizards

As crickets, chameleons and cucumbers.

Spots sprout on her hideous face:

Two, big and juicy as raspberries,

And smaller ones, as many and as red

As cherries on a tree.

Over her sensible, friendly skirt and blouse,

She wraps a long black cloak,

And stretches her fingers, with nails

Like knives, like thorns….

“Oh, no!” said the children

“Oh, no!

We’ll be dinner

And breakfast

And lunch

And picnics

And birthday cake.

Throw a stone!

Over there! Over there!”

Victoria looks, peering into the darkness

And the children creep away

And into the dark and dangerous night 

Part 8: The duckling and the swan 

Wearily the children wandered,

Wondering if their quest was hopeless,

Would they find their parents?

Would they find a family again?

Following the windy path from the witch’s house,

A tiny toad was dead, pancake squashed onto

The dusty, dirty stones.

A delicate duckling with a sore leg limped ahead of them

But they collected him into their caring hands

And carried him gently.

They climbed the path

Until bright buttercups stopped them,

Shining as bright as the stars

Twinkling in the sky above them,

The yellow flowers surrounded a

Comfortable, cosy cottage,

Made of piled branches it looked like

A beautiful bird’s nest,

Tiny in the massive, magnificent forest.

The wooden door opened,

Quietly creaking wide.

A sleek and slender swan stood there!

Her white wings guided the children into

The warmth of her home where

They laid the duckling to rest on soft, smooth sheets

By the fire, knowing he would be safe.

They stayed the rest of the long night with the swan

Snug as swanlings in a nest.

In the morning after fond farewells,

They stepped out into a

Morning full of new adventures

Part 9: The perilous forest

On into the forest,

Full of fear,

For this forest is different,

There are no friendly goblins here,

Or green children in the leaves.

Here,

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.

The children hear,

Dry rustling leaves,

And claws sharpened on tree trunks.

They hear

The roars of jaguars

And the snores of bears.

Trapped in cages to guard the path.

The animals see the children

And break free.

They shake their heads.

They stretch their claws.

They charge.

The children run

Pounding footsteps follow them,

Heavy feet drumming on the ground,

Giant feet following them.

Run! Run!

And then stop

And hide.

Curled up under their cloaks and under

Leaves and mud

The children wait

As the angry animals rush by.

Then along the path

Sneaking.

And there is the Palace at the Heart of the Wood!

Part 10: The Queen’s Palace

Deep in the woods,

There is a wonderful palace.

A wild, woven willow hall

With windows looking out onto the world,

Decorated with jewels and gems,

Beside a swamp where

The tadpoles wriggle and spotted frogs jump.

There is a magical throne there

Where the King and Queen of the Forest sit.

The stories tell us that

King Qasim is bad and Queen Quire is good;            

That he is bad-tempered

With brown beady eyes,

Hungry for treasure, looking always for new riches.

He will rob, and steal, and cheat.

He will pick your pocket, or

Break your home or

Destroy your castle for the sake of your gold.

But Quire with green glistening eyes,

Has never given up on her husband,

Where he is mean she is gentle,

Where he is cruel she is kind,

Where he steals, she gives.

Boldly the children walk forward,

Sure of a good welcome,

But some old enemies are waiting.

The Knucklehead Knights

Guard the door.

Their cloaks are deep sky blue

Or night sky black

Or green as soft mossy trees,

And their axes are sharp.

“This time,” they growl,

“This time, we’ll chop you,

We’ll snip you,

We’ll slice you.

This time,

We will kill you.”

“Oh, no!

Oh, no!

Look we have brought

You a present to say we’re sorry!”

An apple!

A shining beautiful apple

Quietly stolen from Victoria’s house.

But growling stops the conversation!

The hungry woodland horrors have found them!

Jaguars and bears come growling down the path.

Gawain with a sword

A knight on his horse with a lance

Might have helped.

But without looking twice

Those Knuckleheads Knights drop their axes,

And the knives from their pockets

And run into the Palace,

To guard the Royal Toy Cupboard,

From the inside.

The children run in too

But they shut the door

And outside,

The animals slip away to live in the wild wood

And never be trapped in cages again.

Queen Quire is there

In shimmering silver

And bright blue

With pretty princesses about her

And her rose-pink frog in her hand

Bow!

Bow!

Remember to bow. Nudge!

“Will you help us?

May we borrow your rainbow mirror?”

“No”

“Please?”

“No”

“Look, we have this wonderful apple.

One nibble, one slice will take you

Like a flying carpet to

Anywhere you want to go…”

(They don’t know if it will do this!

But our cheerful children are cheats, too

And will spin a story out of spiderwebs

And silver moonbeams!)

“No.”

Or.

“Maybe.”

“For this apple you could borrow my mirror

From now at sunset

Until sunrise and no more.

Then it must return

Or my Noble Knights

Will hunt you down.”

The children grabbed the mirror

And grabbed it again

As tall as someone’s Dad

And as wide as two children

It took 3 of them to carry it

But now they were ready.

And this path would take them to

Victoria’s Witch-house

 

Part 11: In the ruins 

The rugged rocky ruins,

Once happy, now a haunted house

Old, ancient and rough,

Thin windows, huge fireplace

That will hold

A whole company warm

Or roasting

Gawain rode here once

Hunting the Green Knight’s home,

He fought and feasted here

Before it was abandoned…

Carefully creeping, up precarious stairs,

Sneaking slowly past

Giant cobwebs and giant spiders,

And through

Smells of rotten eggs and old fish,

Blood and death.

It is cold.

Cold as ice on an Arctic winter’s day,

The children’s breath steams in misty clouds

Whispering, “Where’s the witch?”

No sign.

Just silence.

A red cat watches and leads the way

The children follow,

Up the stairs again

Higher and higher

“Don’t drop the mirror!”

Arms are aching

Hands are hurting

“Your turn!”

“It’s very heavy!”

“It’s not my turn!”

“Shhhhh!”

At the top of the stairs they stop

Before a door.

They push the smallest brother forward

And he stumbles

Into a ruined room where black rooks rustle

And a witch watches silently.

There are pots and pens and pennies,

Bottles for potions and lotions and poisons,

Skulls on shelves and bones in the biscuit tin,

A red pot for mixing blood drinks.

There is a copper kettle for carrot tea

And bowls of dead fish,

And pine cone toothbrushes,

And a stone bottle with stone water

There is a horn that blows silently and summons bats,

Ice diamonds, spelling crystals to freeze thieves,

A golden bracelet for trapping arms, squeezing tight, crushing bones.

Gathering anger,

Gathering spells,

Fingers flexing and filling with fierceness,

Victoria the Witch stands up,

Enchantments crackling and sparking

From hair and nose and fingertips.

But the children turn the mirror

And pull off its cover

A rainbow shines

And for the first time ever,

Victoria sees her own reflection,

Sees her own ghastly face looking back,

Sees the long nose and the red eyes,

Sees the spots and the broken teeth,

She smiles a terrible smile

How beautiful she is!

How wonderfully wicked!

How magnificently monstrous!

She sends spells like snakes, shooting across the room

The children hide!

Diving for cover under tables and chairs

Behind curtains and cloaks

There is an exciting explosion!

A thrilling thunder!

Clouds of dust and smoke!

And the rainbow mirror reflects

Victoria’s savage spells back on herself.

Freezing her.

And now she is ice.

A snow-witch.

And the mirror’s rainbow shines

Melting all the other ice

And all over the ruins people wake

Released at last from

Their perilous prisons.

The children find their parents!

The families in the village find lost friends!

Trolls find their children

And bears find their babies!

There is a feast in the woodland palace

and even Queen Quire and King Qasim

And the Knucklehead Knights are happy

But Wycoller’s watchful rooks

See and spy and sit on a cold shoulder

Telling stories to an old  ice-witch in a hidden room.

Changes afoot!

MPA Creative Director Nick Hunt reports on some big changes ahead for our busy Creative Learning team.

Change is in the air!  And change is good, of course, but sometimes it takes a little bit of getting used to.  At MPA our team is grappling with the implications of a quick-fire sequence of news items about individuals who have made themselves very important to us…

StephFirst, we would like to announce that our Programme Manager for Creative Learning, Dr Stephanie Hawke, will be moving on in September to a new, strategic role with our partners at Curious Minds.  Curious Minds is the Arts Council’s bridge organisation for the North West region, responsible for connecting young people with the arts.  Our team work regularly with them, delivering advisory and consultancy work, and this is a natural progression for Steph, and a new dimension for that partnership.  It’s a terrific opportunity and we are delighted for her.

Steph has spent three and a half years on the MPA team, but the connection goes back much further, to a work experience stint as a 16 year old!  Since our teenage volunteer reappeared she has made a vital contribution to our work.  Her academic background in museum education, and her doctoral specialisms in sense of place and the notion of the ecomuseum have brought new dimensions to our work and have underpinned some lovely projects.  We are glad Steph will still be just down the hill, and we are plotting to ensure that MPA continues to benefit from some of that arcane wisdom.

DavidAnd then there is David.  There has always been David, or so it seems to most of us.  But shortly after Steph’s news, David Smith let us know that he is ready to take the work out of the work/life balance.  Our Creative Learning Coordinator will be retiring at the end of October, and MPA will have to learn to get by without our spiritual guide.

David arrived in 1999 as our lottery funded Education Officer.  MPA’s work with schools took off, and developed exponentially.  Over 13 years he has built up an unmatched range of contacts with schools and teachers, and delivered some wonderful, inspirational creative projects.  Two years ago, David swapped jobs with Steph, in one of those rare examples of turkeys voting for Christmas.  Now he is taking the next step, and he will be very much missed.

This is a busy time for MPA, with a number of new projects in progress and in development.  Portraits of the Past will be connecting many young people with Gawthorpe Hall.  New music projects have been developed for young women of mixed cultures and early years pupils.  Our structured volunteering programme will signpost opportunities for Arts Awards and other qualifications.  Pennine Lancashire’s new canal partnership will add rich possibilities, as will our developing Contemporary Heritage series over the next couple of years.  Learning and engagement will be vital dimensions of all our projects, and so we will be recruiting shortly to renew our team’s skillset.  We are working now with our trustees on plans for that.

Meanwhile we will be saying bye and thanks to two brilliant contributors to MPA.  If you are one of the many people who have worked with David over the years, ask us for news of how we will be marking his departure.  Just don’t tell David!

Cast in Clay – The Iron Man

Isobel Roberts and Ben Sinnott-Roberts reflect on their school’s experience of The Iron Man

Todmorden C of E SchoolDuring the summer term, Todmorden C of E School has been learning about Ted Hughes and The Iron Man. We have been celebrating the links with local artists and authors.

We have read the book together and have created and finished different activities.

Reception class made a giant iron man model out of metal kitchen materials whilst Year Three put together a unique play with music.  They also made some models.  Year Four have recently reviewed the book and turned it into a play script.   Also they drew some detailed pictures.  Year Five continued a chapter of what they predicted would happen next in the story.

With local artist, Sarah Mc Dade, each class made a different creation and designed their own iron man sculpture.  When working with Year 5 Sarah helped to create a clay sculpture of The Iron Man’s head.  With Year 4, Sarah made tiles showing the scenes from The Iron Man.  When put together they created the whole story.  Some of these clay models will be on display in September for all to see in Todmorden Library.  We thought the experience was amazing, and loved working with an artist.  It was a very different experience to our teachers.

We really enjoyed the project and loved the book.  Other books by Ted Hughes are now in the school library for all the children to come and borrow.  We hope to do something like this again.

Written by: Isobel Roberts and Ben Sinnott-Roberts, Year 4 & 5

Todmorden C of E School