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.


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’!



Preparation Day for The Big Build had many highlights and generally felt like having fun with friends. Started with loading up a van, fit to burst with cardboard as well as making new friends on the Animate Team. With the serious preparation for 8 primary schools arriving over the next two days all completed and ready. The underlaying vibe was let’s test out our costumes and see who looks the funniest? We posed for a NASA style group photo.

We went walkabout, this must have turned a few heads!

I have to mention that a really important part of this project is the documentation. This is pioneered by Timothy Leek using 360 virtual reality photography. The preparation day enabled a little experimentation with the equipment before the event and a few fun trail runs. The funniest was a small animated film (click on the link), titled Space Dance Timothy Leek where we all practiced our space walking. The youtube video is worth watching. If you watch on a phone you can move your finger across the screen and the 360 vision follows your movements. If your watching on a computer then the mouse movement will dictate the video view. Try it, it really works and is very amusing.

Photos on Instagram by Bethroo Photography also covered the day very well (click on the link) Bethroo Photography. who also took great head shot of me with my space helmet.

We did find time to prepare some of the build ready to save time as actual build time on the day was short. My main task will be to construct a lunar moon buggy. I did manage to construct the axels and find the right size cardboard tubes for the chassis.


Apart from the fact that I choked on a glass of water and had a coughing fit, the training day at Dreamland in Margate was great.  A really re-generating and moral boosting kind of day. The sort of day that Animate do so well (there are not enough of these days) where new members of the team are introduced and general project briefing takes place. It is combined with gentle humour, ridicules tasks and games, serious equipment instruction and communal making session  and general team building activities.

Or described another way, a laugh with friends.

The laugh with friends did get out of hand at one point while I choked during a recorded  improvisation sound piece. The idea was to create something using sound with random objects we picked up earlier. Stupidly I chose a half drunk glass of water and a knife with butter smeared over it. Initially I thought to make the glass rim ring with a wet finger, however, I was unable to make it work under pressure during the little jam thing going on. Instead I thought to gargle with the water at the back of my throat in a free form solo which I was going to base on a vocal solo I had heard from a track recorded by the muppets.  I actually blame Jo for the total breakdown of order which followed. Any cricket fans will remember the laughing fit on air by Johnathan Agnew and Brian Johnstone commentating on the 2nd test against the West Indies at Lords in August 1991 listen here, we kind of recreated that radio clip, with all 10 people in the room totally incapable of anything utterly consumed with laughter at my expense.

What happened was that Jo saw me pick up the glass and I think she realised I was going to gargle and started laughing at me just before I started my solo! It didn’t start well as began to laugh at the critical moment of gargling and I managed only few hysterical squeaks as I began choking . I thought I was going to pull out of it and things were going to be Ok, but couldn’t manage it and burst into a coughing fit. Everybody thought this was very funny and utter melt down came next!

Apart from that it went very well and the Pizza evening meal was great as well.




I have signed my contract, completed an invoice, signed the consent forms, read the risk assessment and printed off my insurance cert and DBS. This all ready for Thursday 20th the Artist Training Day in Dreamland.

I did sit down to look through the staff induction pack, didnt get far as the first page had a large photo on the front of an event I remember very well. It might have been the first big Animate event which was basically just a massive party! Lasted a day. It was a party made of cardboard.

It led onto to memories of other cardboard projects which I have taken part in for Animate. I started to think, what exactly have I made with cardboard? The list is very  very long and does wander into the surreal, but I have identified a special top five.

In reverse order:

No.5 A Rain Forest. It covered an entire school hall and you could walk amongst the trees with a friend. A teacher said to me I have never seen anything like this in 35 years of teaching!

No4. Signage for an entire festival site, including finger posts and a series of street names.

No.3 The Favela’s. There were hundreds of these, a shanty town with no crime or deprivation. Colourfull collection of tiny dolls houses. I had to install this installation in three different venues. Which was one of those jobs where you need three arms, but managed somehow with only two.

The memories are now beginning to cross that threshold into real special moments.

No.2 A 10m x 10m cardboard model of London with the River Thames running through the middle. Made with 650 members of the public in the centre of the Festival Hall on the South Bank. Things got off to a slow start where it took me half an hour to explain why I really really needed to use chalk on the floor to mark out ….well London. Managers were paged and consultations with rather a lot of staff members, and eventually we got the green light. But it was the sense of working in a team to create an amazing thing that alone would have been impossible. Achievement still glows out of me when I see photos of it. It was stunning.


No.1 A cardboard kitchen. The reason it is so powerful is because the chips were down, the sleeves rolled up with more to make than you can ever manage and the batteries running low. However, I spent an afternoon and evening with Jo the Director of Animate at the end of an exhausting week, making a modern domestic kitchen in a timber framed country house, this is cardboard remember we were in a giant cardboard dolls house. We made a cooker, fridge, sink with draining board, taps, cupboards, oven with gas hob. We worked so well together, high fives when the egg rack went in. The fridge had a hinged door that opened with milk trays as well, we were on fire, we had a chequered tiling scheme going on. A microwave with buttons, saucepans, blenders and even electric plugs and sockets. Just one of the best days ever. It was like being a real kitchen fitter on site with at work with his mates. Problem solving sharing knowledge and ideas. Exchanging concepts techniques. We were working on a building site. Just that it was cardboard.

Art Builders: does what it says on the tin.