Marine Park School - A Cyclical Tale
“Creativity should be approached in the spirit of play, of foreplay, of dalliance, of doodling, messing around and then, bit by bit you somehow get deeper into the matter”
Ben Okri - A way of Being Free
I began working as an artist at Marine Park Primary School in January 2005 simply walking with children from different year groups. There was no plan of action other than to be with the children. From that time my notebook reads.........
“It strikes me that it is often the unintentional and the obvious that becomes exciting, engaging and creative. When walking with the children it was the sense of community, of sharing ideas and of noticing together that excited them. There’s an innocent curiosity about everything. When asked what they had particularly liked one child said “just going on the walk”
It’s been a great, unpressurised way to get to know the children and to share their mind space. Each child was given a notebook “Books, nice books to keep forever”. The books were a simple effective resource loved by children and staff alike! The delight of making your own mark shouldn’t be underestimated. The children frequently asked; What shall I write? Can I draw? Is it mine? Do we have to show you? Can I keep it?
Having permission to express yourself, to have ownership of your learning are crucial considerations. Does the curriculum negate the child’s natural impulse to ask, to suggest, and to have confidence in theorising about the mundane or the impossible? It’s important for children to know that ideas and suggestions are crucial and that they are listened to and validated.
As we walked, dances and movements arose from functional activities: waving at passing ships, signalling, calling, falling, laughing. The joy of just being is often overlooked, the joy of our being outside, in the elements, of the elements. Fresh faced they felt the breeze, smelt the air, were aware of their lungs, their breath. By walking, running, laughing. Form follows function. (End of my notebook entry)
Since then I have delivered hundreds of workshops in schools as a self-employed artist. My long standing much loved relationship with Marine Park Primary in South Shields has allowed me to develop my practice in a much more fulfilling and organic way. The invitation to participate in an experience is a key element rather than telling or directing a prescribed way with known answers or results. Importantly this invitation includes me and has allowed me to develop my work in surprising ways.
Regular and sustained contact with the school has allowed me to experience the school environment in a real way. From Breakfast Club to out of school activities I have been able to experience the rhythm of Marine Park and the incredible range of social, emotional and physical needs that the school tries to meet each day. It has radically changed my view about my role as artist. I have been much more comfortable joining in, becoming part of the fabric of the school and not as a privileged person set apart from it by my role as an artist.
I have gained valuable insights watching teachers at work, the endless demands that they manage daily from delivering the curriculum to looking for a lost packed lunch, comforting a distressed child, organising social opportunities for the children and constantly being told how to do their jobs from external official bodies. The work that I have undertaken at the school has I hope, tried to take this into account and I have sought to give children and staff that vital commodity they all need and that is often denied them - time.
Listening to children and to staff is central to working successfully in school. Constructive listening and valuing process based work underpins everything that I do. True partnership needs time and skilful, sensitive brokering.
Often the path forward isn’t straight and it is in the waiting or simply being phase of the work that directions become obvious. I see Marine Park’s journey as an on going adventure ...step by step, breath by breath
We continue to walk our collective experiences back into the fabric of the school and to embrace the moment.
“The imagination in its loyalty to possibility often takes the curved path rather than the linear way”