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My second school is in a seaside town with very much an emerging arts scene. Seaside towns like St. Ives in Cornwall and Appledore amongst several in Devon have strong arts identities. Many seaside towns in Kent are striving for this kind of identity. We are working in an Infant school and I can’t help comparing it to schools in Devon where I worked in seaside towns on arts projects. The schools I worked in Devon seem more advanced in terms of arts and creativity, but then I only worked in a small number. There was an arts agency who had wide reaching connections and very good working relationships with all the schools in the region. Another arts project was welcomed and the schools were accustomed to fitting in the irregularity an arts project causes.

Perhaps I see Animate as an organisation at an earlier stage of development to Beaford Arts who have really become established and have invested time and resources into the exploration cultural heritage of North Devon. There is nothing quite like this in Kent, but Animate are working with the same kind of interest in creative development in schools.

Back to my seaside town. I have not worked with years 1 -2 -3 possibly even a few year R as well in there for a while. They are so young and I had forgotten just how young, and where they are in basic development. Using scissors, cutting Sellotape are major hurdles for the very young, skills I don’t think about like driving a car. The children are not good at listening too impatient to start making, they are not listening to information and instructions. Understandable.

I listen to children’s verbal descriptions of what they are making and I am seeing some very happy with their results, their expectations realised. I see a few wasting time unable to progress disappointed with the results. Their expectation not realised and no plans to move forward. Impasse. You suggest a way forward and in 60 seconds the child comes back saying ‘Yeh I have done that’. This repeats for as long as you let it while you rotate around the class dipping in and out of the other 25 children little creative worlds. Some really give you a running commentary and take you on a personal exploration of their ideas, while others work alone and they are easily missed and you don’t know what they have made.

A day is not long enough to foster and enable creativity.


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I have a very small rural primary school as my first school to start their own Big Build. They are very ambitious and completely embracing the ethos of more creativity and arts activities within their school. The children they have chosen as ‘Art Leaders’ are not the oldest in the school, this to make the most of their experience in taking part in this project. Their experiences will be required next year when the school repeats this June of creativity and their skill and knowledge called on again to help deliver the event.

This year the European elections we have just had, has had a big impact on my schools’ approach! The village hall is usually used as the polling station, but this year it is under repair. The solution was to close a near by school for the day to use that as the polling station. So my school has invited this homeless school over for the whole day to co-create a Woodland Scene inspired by The Lost Words book by Robert Macfarlane.

Two complete schools in one, making a cardboard installation to go in the communal School Yurt over one day of total creative output and team work.

So we devised a plan. The ‘Art Leaders’ (a class of 25) made a large model of the Yurt with the woodland display inside. This would then be shown to the rest of the school and the visiting school, showing what the idea was and what we are trying to achieve.

The idea then to create a scene or a landscape with trees, hills, water fall with rocks and a stream. All in a day with two schools. When the school returns after half term they will continue to populate the scene with flowers, animals and other details. This phase two being what they describe as ‘art week’ activity.

Cardboard has been collected by everyone far and wide and the school is inundated or awash with it. Enthusiasm and ambition very high.


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We’ve been nominated to enter the ‘Best Children’s Business 2019’ in Kent. If we get enough nominations by 8th May then we will be shortlisted  in to the finals for a big old public vote!

This is not something that we’d usually go for, given all the amazing companies out there, but as we are working towards an ambitious crowd-funding campaign in October to support year 2 of Art Builders, we thought this would be a perfect opportunity to raise our profile. Being a finalist, could help us to have a platform to shout out for arts in schools.

It’s completely free to nominate and only requires nominating our name (no form filling or questions!). So if you can help us, please do nominate us (and ask your colleagues/friends/family/pets).

https://kent.muddystilettos.co.uk/vote/ 


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Creative Blind Dates: Speaking from a personal perspective,  that’s the easiest way to describe phase two of the Art Builders.

The More official description might be each school which took part in the Big Build at Dreamland in Margate is now paired with two Animate artists to create a new installation on a subject and in a venue of the school’s choice. The ‘Art Leaders’ are the 25 children from each school who participated in the Big Build at Dreamland are now leading their own schools project. We are in the Easter Holidays so when they return, we will be looking to start hearing what the ideas each school has for their own Big Build, and the suggestions for where to build it?

The blind date bit is the pairing of artists together for delivery.

I will be working with Lucy Stockton-Smith with Ellington Infant School in Ramsgate and Esther Coombes with Hoath Primary School which is very rural in the Canterbury district.

A creative journey to unfold as I have never worked with either of these artists before so new friends and working relationships ahead. I have met both of them one or twice now in recent team building scenarios organised by Animate Arts. The last meeting, we were reminded of the Ted Talk given by Sir Ken Robison in 2006. This entertaining talk highlights that the current education system doesn’t enable creativity but somehow rather sadly manages to teach creativity out of children! I remember when this video came out in 2006 it was championed by many organisations I was working with.

See the link below to a youtube video of his address at a TED conference.

Sir Ken Robinson: Do Schools Kill Creativity

Thirteen years later I can’t see that his advice has been used much, if at all. His observations are just as relevant, if not more so now. So inspired by this video Animate Artists create a series of banners and placard’s advocating for more creativity in schools.


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So the big build was just over a week ago now, over two days eight schools in Kent travelled to Dreamland in Margate for The Big Build.

Here is a list of the participant schools.

Priory Infant School Ramsgate

St. Alphege Infant School Whitstable

Hoath Primary School Canterbury

Drapers Mill Primary School Broadstairs

Ellington Infant School Ramsgate

Petham Primary School Canterbury

St. Simon Catholic Primary School Ashford

Herne Bay Junior School Herne Bay

What was The Big Build? A lunar landscape complete with a moon buggy and rocket control console all made from cardboard. All the artists involved had made cardboard space helmets ready for the event and wore their space suits during the build.

My main responsibility was really to ensure the moon buggy was structurally sound as it would need to be picked up and moved across the newspaper lunar landscape in a stop motion animation process. I created a chassis from carpet tubes and axles which were pinned together with sticks of rolled up newspaper. These rolled tightly in a new mangle type machine to make sturdy rods, (very useful for the construction of ambitious creations at a later stage).

Things went well enough on creating the framework, I had children pushing rods through holes folding the ends over and taping things down.  Time was very short and I was under pressure. When things were complete I looked across to see if my instructions to the school had been carried out? I was very relieved to see one wheel completed with two almost finished and a forth with a lot to do. This wouldn’t take long and they slipped onto the axels like a smooth formula one tyre change. Other schools were tasked with all the rest of the lunar buggy details and it soon took shape.

The whole thing looked amazing as never at any point till the end when it was all assembled did anyone know what things would look like.  The whole thing filmed in 360 degree VR remember and when Tim has edited the video I will post the link. For here is the taster again, move the mouse across the screen for the full 360 effect.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rg3upI2RyEo&feature=youtu.be

Here is a little story about the most powerful memory of the whole build for me: While I was manning the ‘tool station’ this was where glue guns, sharp knives, saws and drills were used. Pupils came up to the tool station for more complex construction problems and us astronauts would fix it and pupils go back with the completed parts. Now it was like working in a pub on a very busy Friday night with clients 2-3 deep at the bar trying to get served, with quick exchanges/instructions taking place, followed by rapid making, cutting, gluing and sticking while you wait style. This is the moment that will probably always stay with me as a reminder of what art is and what working with other people is like!

A small quite boy waited patiently I could see him standing quietly  and thought it will take him along time to get served as he was not good at navigating the mele. I beckoned him over to me. He gave me an L shaped piece of very strong cardboard. This had likely been used to protect the edges of a flat screen TV while in transit. On it was drawn a small circle, I asked if he needed it cut out? ‘Yes Please’. I looked at the task and thought there is no way I am going to attempt this with a craft or Stanley knife the card is just too strong and it would take quite a while and have a low quality outcome. So I remembered I had brought with me a set of hole saws. I chose the smallest one 19mm. It was a perfect fit and I hadn’t used them yet and felt glad I had brought them now. I drilled a perfect sharp hole into the L shape card thinking I wonder what he can be making with this relatively complex part. I gave it back to him and he took it looking at me turned around and walked away. I was already on the next task. A minute or two later I saw the boy back in the que and beckoned him over as I thought he needed help and couldn’t get going on something and time was passing quickly. He gave me back the piece of card saying ‘ I wanted the other bit’!

 


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