The upper part of Pennard Primary School’s sculpture is complete, cut into sections and drying. It has been a joy to build. The pupils panels and tiles for the lower half are drying beautifully. I’m putting together the Book now and it’s lovely to review the wonderful time we had with this fabulous group.
The Lead Creative Schools Scheme aims to promote new ways of working in schools, providing the opportunity to develop an innovative and bespoke programme of learning designed to improve the quality of teaching and learning.
It’s about the school and the particular learning challenges that it is facing. A Lead Creative School will have access to creative people, skills and resources to support them and to address these challenges.
Osprey Studios won a placement in the excellent Pennard Primary School.
Three Cliffs Bay, Southgate, Gower.
The planning meeting was the best I’ve ever been to: very positive, practical and down to earth. Our Area Lead Artist, Photographer Lee Aspland, Headmistress Ms Hanson and her lovely, thoughtful teachers were flexible, supportive, very kind and clearly up for something exciting and challenging. They set the bar high and their dedication is inspiring.
- Writer Daniel Archibald Buck has collaborated with Osprey Studios for years. Here he describes his 5 days of intense, immersive, and hugely enjoyable workshops:’On Thursday 2nd February year five set out on what many would consider a herculean task: To write and perform an epic tale, with no preparation or script, in just five days.
To put that in context, a two hour film can spend up to five years in production, and will likely focus on just a few characters at a time. This story would be much longer, and have as many as thirty three characters throughout – one for each member of the class.
On day one, the focus was clear, we were never going to all be on the same page unless we had a framework we could all share. So after some practice in the hall standing up and getting our brains in gear, we sat down to learn The Story Circle, based on Joseph Campbell’s text The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
This is a stripped-down version of a degree-level screenwriting technique.
Over the course of a day, we went from writing simple three line stories with just a beginning, middle and an end, toward struggles about heroes overcoming odds and clashing with difficult challenges.
On day two, it was time to decide who our heroes were, and why. We started to develop ideas about Character development in depth, both in performance and in writing. Creating a character on the fly on stage in front of a group is a very different challenge to writing out facts about a made up person on a piece of paper. The kids were challenged with portraying a character’s job and emotion with acting alone in front of the class, and then with putting those characters together into scenes in which invented problems forced them to question how a certain person may react in a strange situation.
I don’t know if you’ve ever stood up in front of a group of your peers and pretended to be in a crashing airplane with no script, but it can be daunting, not least because something funny is bound to happen, and it can be hard to delineate between those laughing with you, and those laughing at you. The enthusiasm on display was impressive.
From there, we sat down to create a character in depth. Each person got to invent their own person, with fears, and hopes and dreams and special powers if they wanted. these characters would go on to become the focus of our story in the next few days, so they had to rich and vibrant, and stand up to scrutiny. Here are a few (pulled at random):
Charlie, a Twelve Year-Old Orangutan from Vine Village, who wants to the King of the Jungle, but who is afraid of Tigers.
Flames Boy, a Thirty Year-old Businessman. He lives in an ordinary house and drives an ordinary Lamborghini. He’s a super hero in his spare time.
Dr. Pepper, who is from California and is afraid of children. His Nemesis is Pickled Onion (who is a Pickled Onion).
Next we set about making masks, to represent these characters, so it would be easier to tell when we were acting and when we weren’t. Of course, it can be hard to create a mask that accurately depicts a sentient pepper pot, so in most cases it was decided to settle on a colour or a theme for your character, and to make the mask represent that.These were then left to dry over the weekend.
When we got in on Monday morning, it was time to get down to business. We had three days left to create a satisfying narrative, to explore each of the characters we had made, and to make sure that everything was recorded and that all the ideas and themes we stumbled over on our journey were explored and understood.
After a warm up and some improv exercises in the hall, we ventured out into the grounds despite the cold and the wet, to stake a claim on this land for the characters who now lived there. It didn’t take long for our introductions to take a turn, and within the hour, spurred on by a vocal contingent of the group who advocated character-on-character violence, we had a succession of people standing up and delivering impassioned stump-speeches on the moral balance between violence and peace, good and evil.
But when there were no more words to utter, it became clear that there was only one recourse left by which this dispute may be settled. Those who advocated aggression saw that their counterparts for peace would not engage them on their terms unless a show of force was demonstrated. War was declared.
And so began the main chapter of our tale, which is now being chronicled and will be set into writing and told for seasons to come you can be sure. There was war, a bloody dictatorship, a desperate rebellion, economic prosperity in bleak times, devious subterfuge, assassination and resigned democracy. And in the end who can say whose side the historians will take?
Well, we can!
As the artists and historians of our own tale, it is now to the class to decide how the epic struggle will be remembered. Working with monument ceramicist Rebecca Buck, they are undertaking the construction of a great totem, to be erected as close as is practical, to the place where their characters first awoke.
It will take the form of an eternal throne, upon which you can depend many kings and orators and dictators and prophets will take their place, for it will stand for many centuries (indeed, it will likely outlive the school so long as it is not purposefully destroyed) and will we hope, not only affirm to generations as yet unborn that this school was lived in and played in before their time, but also that their struggles, their games, their questions are themselves eternal ones.
What is heroic? How can we be strong? What determines the right to lead? How do we shape our own lives, when there are always those who will try and shape them for us?
I, having had a chance to get to know them and work alongside them, am immensely proud of year five. They rose to the occasion admirably, and proved themselves capable of tackling ideas and problems above their regular curriculum. They created challenging and evocative ideas that broke the regular mold that is so often written off as ‘just kids stuff’.
If you as a parent want to get involved in the last stages of the project (particularly the Sculpture Installation), please get in touch with the school, and stay tuned for information on our grand unveiling over the next few months, where we will show off the monument to the world and were there will be a dramatic retelling of the tale we wrote.’
I sat in on these fantastic days to collect information for the sculpture and souvenir book for the school’s library. Occasionally a pupil would sit and draw with me if they needed a some perspective on the workshops but the vast majority of the time they were having far too much fun. They did give me lots of valuable feed-back on the ideas. It was wonderful to witness how deeply involved all the pupils were with the story they were creating. Miss Bygate, the very sensitive, gentle and inspiring form teacher, was there for her children giving encouragement and direction.
This process was, without doubt the best, most efficient and most productive form of ‘consultation’ I have ever had with a group.
We spent a lovely afternoon getting know the clay, Scarva ES50 Crank, and each other’s strengths in describing ideas with it.
We had a well earned 4 day break which I used to make the scale model. I had a lot of great material. At the very outset we had agreed that the pupil’s ideas were to be at the centre of everything. Discussions with the kids during breaks developed the perfect vehicle for memorialising their story and sharing it with everyone else in play-ground: a magnificent throne incorporating scenes from the story in relief. There would be tunnels in a dynamic shape that will inspire creative narrative play. Pennard’s dramatic history and landscape would be featured to high-light the story’s context and link the future play there.
The top half of the sculpture would be ceramic and the lower half the same golden cement over blocks I used on the Marking Time sculpture in Bronllys Hospital grounds. The colour and texture match is really good. Some of the ceramic panels and tiles will be set into the cement as well.
Ms Hanson joined me and the pupils to walk the wonderfully large play ground that has a choice of landscaped areas that lead imaginative play. It is small wonder that these children are so bright, forth coming, creative and ingenious: Every member of the staff are committed and dedicated to empowering all of their pupils and enriching their potential. The school has a fabulous team of Volunteers that help them get maximum value from their very tight budgets. It was an honour to be part of it frankly.
We talked health and safety, budgets, prior and future uses of each area, took some measurements and chose the perfect spot in the centre of a circle of young but well established deciduous trees near a big mound with a tunnel and castle fortifications. A wooden play structure on the spot needed removing so we could accommodate that in our budget. I love to see money working hard.
The next Monday everyone accepted the scale-model and we went ahead to make the relief panels that would be set into the sculpture. This a fab, very cost effective method for getting the hands-on art-work of people onto a large form.
The pupils worked incredibly hard for 2 solid days. Their panels are wonderfully varied and beautifully made. They helped and supported each other and me. And we had a lot of fun. Once their panel was completed a team formed to make a small name tile for each person involved in the project. Another team made round mini-tiles with a stem to anchor it securely into cement. These will set off the panels nicely across the form. Miss Bygate was a star and kept everyone going and even helped load up the van. She is amazing. I drove home on cloud nine. Excellent art-work, a perfect sculpture site, a budget that would be thoroughly squeezed dry and a scale model I knew was right because the consultation was so immersive and genuine.
Daniel had run a Workshop for parents and pupils so that they could get a feel of what their children were working on. I did one for them in using clay for learning and play. I was very pleased and not surprised to find that these parents were already well into doing stuff like that at home. Miss Bygate set out a lovely display of really good photos that she had taken all through the workshops. Then she gave them to us for the Book. Similarly my short workshop for the staff mostly confirmed what they were all ready doing. The post How to use clay in Primary Schools affordably will be useful.
This is the first half of the framework. The final piece will be 130cm high, 2 metres wide and 1 metre deep. Once the framework is complete, with the section cuts and firings planned, I can add on the pupil’s and my own art-work. This will develop the thickness and strength of the walls. The clay is Scarva ES50 Crank, the same clay the pupils used. It will be fired to 1260 degrees C and turn a soft golden yellow that matches the white cement/golden kiln dried sand that will be used for the lower section and all joins.
Up Is Down is a fascinating theme that is leading down all kinds of roads. Only time will tell how many of them are very bad….a percentage of my work is regularly too awful to fire – that’s the price of experimenting and taking risks.
I’m working for a very creative Company in the USA involving fire. And I have started a collaboration with Photographer Stephen Foote (see Links for his Web-site) Both of these projects are benefitting from the early work of Up Is Down and now they are leading it with the movement and pull of forces and the changes that leaves on a form.
Music is still key. A central space for Fire and the intension to have no
or little base is a starting
template for the clay-armatures.
Steve and I visited Bracelet Bay in the Mumbles, Swansea,one of the first of many spectacular beaches around the Gower Peninsula. It was a strange, foggy day, very atmospheric, with the Fog-horn sounding in the mist. The feeling of the draw and strength of tidal waters pulling through the forms of stone is accentuated by faces covered in barnacles and pebbles left behind.
The resulting Sculptures will then potentially inform his next set of Pictures. And so on until it runs out of steam.