Case Study: ‘Hometown’ Mini Residency with St Mary & St Giles School

Cultural Providers: Andrew Macdermott & Qemamu Mosaics

Head Teacher: Kieran Salter

While some young people are fortunate enough to enjoy regular trips to the theatre, a gallery, or museum, many aren’t. While some kids get to have a go at arts and crafts activities at home, or attend a drama club after school, plenty don’t. And for some, the idea of actually getting involved with something on the ‘creative’ spectrum can be seriously daunting as it’s just not what they’re used to. Our ‘Hometown’ mini residency, however, was designed for all the kids – that’s each and every one of the 186 young people – at St Mary & St Giles School in Stony Stratford, Milton Keynes.

Getting a whole school onboard a project is one serious undertaking, but that’s what our cultural providers, Andrew Macdermott and Dionne Ible (Qemamu Mosaics), achieved. When they joined forces with the young people and staff of this school, they worked to create two permanent artworks to celebrate and commemorate the place where they live, and to mark the #MK50 celebrations. Head Teacher, Kieran Salter said,

“The development of two permanent displays within the school, that both focus on the positives of the local area will increase the sense of belonging felt by the children in both the school and the area. It will improve the school environment and increase the skill levels of both students and teacher in visual arts.”

He added,

“By working intensively with two different creative professionals we hope to expose the learners to adult role models they might not have come across before, and creative career paths they may not have considered.”

Every young person from Reception all the way up to Year 6 participated in the Hometown Mini Residency – and plenty of the teachers got stuck in too (learning new skills and techniques to use again). With the assistance of ceramicist, Andrew Macdermott, each person created a leaf that depicted their favourite place in their hometown. The leaves were then glazed by the students, and Andrew fired them in his kiln. Finally, all the leaves were brought together to create a ceramic tree – a permanent piece of artwork that has been installed in their new school site, St Giles South.

You might think by now that the young folk of St Mary & St Giles School deserved a breather, but no – we knew they could achieve more. So it was mosaic artist, Dionne Ible’s, turn to get those kids who hadn’t had a chance to try their hands at ceramics, working towards creating a smaller-scale #MK50 – inspired mosaic piece that would also have a permanent home at the school.

Head Teacher, Keiran Salter, was suitably impressed with what the young people managed to achieve, and with the quality of work and input from Andrew and Dionne. He awarded 5/5 for overall quality, and 5/5 for suitability for the group, and had plenty of positive feedback to add…

“Both artists produced a very pleasing piece of art that will be valued by the school for years to come.”

He added that the children engaged –

“Very positively, even those children who do not see themselves as artistically gifted enjoyed producing the leaves.”

When we asked him if the children enjoyed the activity, he responded –

“Hugely – on the day and since when they saw the artwork going up.”

Kieran says he plans to use The Culture Challenge website in the future, and will do this by having an objective in place, so that he can research the cultural providers available, and ensure they can work to his required specification.

Photographs by Andrew Macdermott