Animate Arts Company website (click here)




Herne Bay Juniors is a Primary School in my home town. I don’t think I have run any workshops in there and my children did not go there, but none the less I was very interested to see what they had made. Particularly interested as I saw their work displayed at Beach Creative, an Arts Centre in the town. This earlier display was what you might describe as ‘teacher heavy’. It was mounted on several layers of coloured card, cropped very heavily and appeared very selective about what was displayed and how things related to other pieces. Well put together, or curated if you like, but  not much sense of children exploring anything. I am sure you know that 6 and 7 year olds do not ‘study pointillism’ and become ‘inspired by the brush work of Van Gogh’ as it says on the description next to their work. 6 – 7 year olds are perhaps, expressionistic, spontaneous, erratic and clumsy when using paints and I could not see so much of that going on. So that is why I was so interested to go and see their display in a local children’s bookshop called a Bundle of Books. They had created a large window display using the Lost Words book as a starting point just the same as I had with my school.

I think its an interesting question on how far to intervene with children’s artwork, or community artwork come to that. I know I’m being harsh on the Herne Bay Junior teachers for wanting their pupils work to look good.

The first thing I noticed was how colourful this was. Many of the pieces were covered in coloured tissue paper. Some even used paint, I don’t know why I am surprised, probably because I never use paint. Perhaps I’m austere and keep it puritanically cardboard? The bookshop owner was very keen to hear what I thought? It became apparent that she had no idea I was part of the wider project or had used the lost words book for two similar installations. It was a fly on the wall opportunity to hear what as a partner or stake holder she thought about the project. As a children’s bookshop schools were her target audience and welcomed any opportunity to work closely with them on any kind of cultural project. She thought the whole thing was great and caringly replaced items that sagged where gravity had taken over. She said the physcodelic hedgehog was her favourite.

My favourite the birds nest or the fox, I have a soft spot for foxes.




Below is a leaflet showing the Art Builders activities over the month of June. All eight schools produced work for these public displays.

A very busy time with a lot to organise. I was interested to see how the others projects had come out and what they had created.

See the Heron Video made with St. Alphage school

Heron video click here


I got a text saying ‘are you coming to meeting?’ …….. 5.13pm.

At 6.25 pm …………. I read it and replied saying what meeting was that then and where was it?

As things became clearer on social media over the course of the evening and the next day it turns out it wasn’t really a meeting as such, more like a ‘Party’. A picture of a birthday cake with my name on appeared with a caption sorry you missed the party….er meeting!

This was a shame as it was clearly a team strengthening event with the virtual reality 3D film being previewed by all the artists involved in the project. Jolly photos of everyone wearing head sets exploring the moon landscape we had created in Dreamland in Margate with 8 Kent Primary Schools. It would have been great to see everyone exchange stories about the Art Builder installations we had just made in museums, galleries, bookshops, libraries, cafes, social clubs and churches and other public spaces across Canterbury, Ashford and Thanet. All eight schools creating a temporary installation open to the public. Art Builders everywhere.

I totally missed this, probably deleted the email with the invitation or just missed it altogether. I am sorry I missed the change to see everyone and hear what is happening next. I know there will be an Art Builders conference event at Turner Contemporary in Margate in the autumn and I missed the planning session and my role within it.

I expect I’ll get the chance to catch up. I have just had too many plates spinning at the same time and dropped this one. Actually, it never had a plate in the first place I didn’t know I’d dropped it.



Is it co-curating or is it co-creating! Or is it putting up a small display in a glass cabinet? Any one of those would describe my morning at the Beaney Museum and Art Gallery in Canterbury, with the arts lead teacher from Hoath Primary School.

We had pre selected artworks made by pupils, taken from a huge cardboard installation undertaken by the school. We creamed off a couple of small boxes full of card and paper sculptures which we showcased in the Museum in Canterbury.

What was interesting about this is that it had to be spontaneous and the layout arrived at quickly. No clues no plans, just like an executive team building game on an away day. Who’s ideas, what level of finesse or finish, how do we agree what to make and with awkward access in small tight cabinet, where personal space is clearly going to be encroached upon. It was reality TV, but without TV.

All was well except my interpretation of a pupils sculpture of a flying bird. I suggested it was a salmon leaping up the water fall we had created, ‘a salmom ladder’ I said. Then I detected a slight note of surprise in her voice, ‘I thought it was a bird’. She was obviously right once I looked with a little more closely. I nearly replied, ‘I could cut the beak off’, but decided better not. I think the real idea was that this piece needed to be somehow airborne, suspended in space, bird or fish as long as it was in the air. We suspended it using fishing line in the upper story of our two layered display. We had some yellow paper, I thought it could really create a focal point, I didn’t know how, but suggested we use it somewhere. Children always have that quadrant sun in the corner of the paper, that is where I was starting from. She said, ‘The sun…What like the hole at the top of the yurt?’ The yurt was the mother display and this was just a small satellite and I thought that was actually an interesting suggestion. I sensed apprehension or somehow she couldn’t progress with the idea. We were so nearly done and it looked fine. It had been easier than I thought and I wasn’t going to make a song and dance about a yellow detail right at the end. I thought we worked together without any sticky moments and it was actually exceeded expectations. It is interesting being thrown together and how do you get to an unknown finish line.

A micro detail from the larger display ‘The Woodland’ inspired by the Lost Words book.










So: Our brief is to make an art installation with the whole school. We inspire a class of 25 pupils, who pass on enthusiasm and skills to the rest of the school who all contribute to a final work. This installation should ‘pop up’ in a public place and be more of a staged event (not the school hall). When I say we, I am paired with another artist. In this case it is an illustrator, a new member of the of the Animate team.

Our external venue is St. Laurence Church in Ramsgate. Ellington Infant School have been working on elements of the installation for two weeks. We have a day to install the final show with the children in the church. The parish administrator has been very helpful allowing access, things being moved around the church and generally being very accommodating. For 3 days in a row the church hosted our show ‘The Woodland’ inspired by the Lost Words, a book taking root in schools all over the country.

It was a full on day and working with my new partner I can see how patient she is with the children, how accommodating and generally enables them to achieve. She is also a team player and at the end of the day she is really up for the last lap which is to get this ready for viewing, and by 5.30pm we are out. Its refreshing working with new people as inevitably we approach things differently. I would describe our working relationship as chalk and cheese. Our cardboard walk through woodland seems to genuinely surprise visitors to the church as much more than a display made by school children. Feed back comments included ‘get it into Tate Modern’, which made me smile. The children were very excited to see their work and how it all came together. Another neighbouring school brought all their pupils to the church to see the work.

From a personal perspective I feel satisfaction in knowing this show has exceeded expectations from all those involved. The viewers, the schools, the church, the teachers and the pupils. I hope stake holders and funders can see the value of what #artbuilders is achieving. This description is only one of eight art events being delivered in Kent (particularly Thanet) Schools in June.

Today I spent the morning alone in the church and dismantled the whole thing. As I started removing each flower, each bird, each animal. As I took the branches off the trees I could see every leaf, seeing the work in a new way I was reminded of an observation by my partner on this project Esther Coombes which seemed particularly relevant – and she is right to say that it’s the detail. Every element has been created and there are countless dozens, hundreds of examples of little successes, little construction and design problems solved, visions in the minds eye made real. Ideas transformed into tangible models and representations. Little creative journeys depicting things we all know, but they come out with characteristics and quirks that make so many of them charming.