Written by Carrie Philip, Ripon Museum Trust
We are very fortunate at Ripon Museum Trust that Arts Award provision is supported by Arts Council England (ACE) as part of our National Portfolio Organisation (NPO), which allows us to offer the opportunity to children whose families would never be able to afford to do so independently.
Holy Trinity Juniors is a local primary school with a dynamic headteacher and staff and historic links to Ripon Workhouse. As it is close to the barracks, a significant proportion of pupils come from service families. The headteacher was concerned that due to disrupted schooling and lockdowns during the pandemic, children’s ability to work together in groups had become compromised, and the richness and quality of their vocabulary had diminished.
With this in mind we organized a trip for the year 6 cohort to the workhouse museum with a local poet, and organizer of Ripon Poetry Festival, Andy Croft together with Dawn Feather, a video artist and animator. The year group were particularly drawn to the feelings that Victorian child-paupers would have felt, coming into the workhouse and chose to focus on that aspect. They worked with Andy in four groups to produce a poem per group that had the power to replicate these feelings.
The poem titles were “Fear”, “Dread”, “Grief” and “Nothing”. With Dawn they looked around the workhouse buildings and grounds, recording sounds and taking pictures of patterns and objects that would amplify their words. In the following weeks Dawn and Andy went into school to facilitate the children as they produced chalk drawing animations to illustrate their words and recorded their voices narrating the poems, sometimes layering the soundtrack with sound effects to add emotional depth of feeling.
It became clear that the fear and uncertainty the children had experienced during the past two years of Covid-19 helped them to identify with child inmates in the Victorian workhouse. They produced beautiful and compelling pieces of creative writing as an emotional response to experiencing the workhouse.
Talking to the class and finding out about their arts inspirations, most students had not been to art exhibitions, but a significant number followed online artists with manga aesthetics. As a result of the range of skills the children acquired or improved and the extended exposure to creative arts over the period of the Arts Awards, the year group’s confidence improved and children started to believe in the possibility of following a creative career.
“I would like to become a poet.”
“I’ve learned to use my imagination and not overthink”
“I enjoyed working with Andy to make a great poem of “Grief” because I liked exchanging ideas with people.”
“I want to animate!”
Holy Trinity headteacher Mr Paul Bowlas said: “Holy Trinity were thrilled to work in conjunction with Ripon Museums to provide a broad and creative experience for the children of our school. Working together on the Arts Award provided a much-needed experience which not only helped children educationally but was also very good for their health and wellbeing.”
Moderation judgement feedback: “A well thought-through project successfully providing supportive creative opportunities for young people to work with different artists in poetry, willow-work, animation and voice recording, as well as visiting their local museum site of a Victorian workhouse. The project has provided a well-needed opportunity for young people to address parallel issues from their own experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic. Some excellent animated spoken poetry created.”
The Arts Award project ran from May to August 2021 and delivered 51 Bronze Arts Awards.
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