Friday, 27 September 2013

Ignite Highlights

Photo: Hannah Webster
My year as Ignite artist at Yorkshire Sculpture Park has come to an end, but what an incredible year it has been! There were so many amazing moments as puppets came to life, stories were shared and gifts exchanged. Here are some of my highlights...

Year 5 children at All Saints CE Junior & Infant School in Featherstone created a storytelling event for Year 1 and Reception children.  It was fascinating to see how their storytelling skills developed when given the task of presenting their tales to a younger pupils. They became really focused on communicating the essence of the story and produced an enchanting event which delighted their young audience. 

“It’s made me realise how important it is to give children the opportunity to tell stories. We focus so much on writing all the time, but how can they be expected to write a good story if they have never learned to tell one? I’m going to change the way I do things with my new class in September, and we are going to start with storytelling.”   
Teacher All Saints CE J, I & N School 

Taking to the streets with students from Hemsworth Arts and Community College back in January took the project to a whole new level, experimenting with puppetry as a tool for social intervention and community engagement. The most striking thing for me was the way in which the young people embraced and developed the concept from the seeds I planted, sharing their observations and ideas on creating a sense of community in the town. From the initial debates came the solution of creating an event around which people in Hemsworth could connect. 

"If we do a puppet show it will be good for children, like toddlers who will come and watch and then the parents will get talking and meet new people...It will be like a little community with a puppet in the corner!" 

By the end of the week the students were performing street theatre and inviting members of the public to engage in conversation. In reflecting at the end of the week the young people were full of ideas on how to improve the experience for the public and keen to take what they had learned into planning more events. 

We were out and about again with Sandal Endowed Junior School, this time exploring and documenting a local landmark on their door step, Sandal Castle.  We used the experience as inspiration for puppet characters and stories, imagining the people who may have once inhabited the castle many centuries ago. 

My favourite moment was a conversation with one class at the end the day where the children were brimming with self belief and desire to share their skills...

"We could put a desk in the street and then people could come along and we'd show them how to make puppets"  

Ignite culminated with a week at Kettlethorpe High School working with Year 9 students. We explored the mining heritage of Wakefield, unearthing family connections to local collieries and telling stories of life in mining communities through the generations. We used the puppets to explore many forms of storytelling, with teams pursuing their own creative interests including some fantastic animation created using a smartphone app and live storytelling. 


I would like to offer a huge thank you to all the teachers, staff and young people who have helped made the Ignite programme a success. Thank you also to the Learning Team at Yorkshire Sculpture Park for their support throughout the year. I'm now passing on the baton to Sally Gilford Ignite Artist for 2013 -14 who will soon be off on her travels around Wakefield to share her passion for printmaking as the journey begins again. 

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