Case Study: Stewartby Brickworks Project with Marston Vale Middle School

Cultural Providers: The Higgins (The Higgins Bedford), Adventures in Time (Bedfordshire Archives & Records Service) & ceramic artist, Amanda Silk

Teacher: Daron Hutchinson

In September and October 2017, The Culture Challenge providers, The Higgins, Adventures in Time, and Amanda Silk, took part in a three-week project with Marston Vale Middle School on the Stewartby Brickworks. The project included a trip to The Higgins museum in Bedford, a visit to the Bedfordshire Archives, and two full-day ceramic sessions with artist, Amanda Silk. 28 Year 8 students got involved and explored the history of the Stewartby Brickworks – that they can see from their school site – and produced ceramic books depicting what they learned from the workshops.

Clare Rogers from The Higgins introduces students to the history of Stewartby Brickworks. Image courtesy of Cat Lane.
Clare Rogers from The Higgins introduces students to the history of Stewartby Brickworks. Image courtesy of Cat Lane.

We were lucky to receive plenty of feedback about these workshops – from both teacher, Daron Hutchinson, and the young people who took part. We’ll start with what Daron had to say…

“Excellent provision from both Amanda Silk and The Higgins.”

Ceramic artist Amanda Silk demonstrates glazing techniques
Ceramic artist Amanda Silk demonstrates glazing techniques

When asked if the activity was successful in meeting his aims, Daron said, “Yes – it all tied in very nicely”, the children enjoyed the activity “incredibly”, and they were “very interactive and sustained interest”. Daron was also suitably impressed with the end results, and when asked if there were any unexpected outcomes, replied – “Amazing work, given age – using complex ceramic techniques.”

Daron ended by saying, “Thank you. It was amazing to be funded this way – makes a huge
difference to our cohort.”

Some of the finished ceramic books. Image courtesy of Cat Lane
Some of the finished ceramic books. Image courtesy of Cat Lane

So, we think you’ll agree, that’s a whole lot of positive feedback from the teacher. But what about those people who have a real habit of telling it like it is? Yep, the kids who took part…

We asked them what their favourite part of the three sessions was and why.
Here are a few of their answers…

“The workshop because you had the chance to try new things and get a little bit messy”
“I liked doing work with Amanda Silk because it was fun and I learnt about the history of Stewartby”
“I really enjoyed all of it but my favourite was making the clay book with Amanda Silk”

In response to their day trip to The Higgins, the clay workshop, and quiz, we received feedback such as:

“It was really fun and interesting because we had a lot of fun looking at the artefacts and it was interesting because we found out a lot”
“Informative, interesting, fascinating”

Making bricks at Stewartby, Bedford
Making bricks at Stewartby, Bedford

We also asked them to give us some feedback on the archives workshop they had with Adventures in Time (Bedfordshire Archives). The children said –
“It was interesting finding out where our cultures are from and what happened before we were alive”
“I found out lots of new facts and that there used to be a swimming pool in Stewartby.”

The kids had plenty to say about the ceramics workshops they took part in with Amanda Silk. Here are a few of the feedback comments they gave us –
“The workshops were really fun and pleasing to see how they came out.”
“I really enjoyed working with Amanda Silk and really proud of my clay book.”
“I enjoyed this the most because we found out how to make the books and lots of techniques and tools”

15 of the students felt that these sessions had helped them feel more about their local history. They said –

“Because if the London Brickworks get knocked down then people would get upset. And also it helps us realise what work was like back when they were open.”
“Because I never knew a lot about Marston Mortaine but now I know nearly everything.”
“I thought that the brickworks meant nothing, but I’ve learnt a lot about them”

Lastly, we asked the young people if they had anything else they wanted to say about their The Culture Challenge experience. They said:
“I am really grateful I got the chance to be able to learn and take part in the art award. I have learnt a lot and I would like to do the other awards.”
“I’d love to do something like this again.”
“After this art trip/sessions I would love to try similar things”

It was great to get such positive feedback from both the children and the teacher, and we’re pleased that everyone got to try new things, learn about their local history, and had such a great time whilst doing it all. This is just the sort of feedback we love to receive at The Culture Challenge, and we hope Marston Vale Middle School will come back and engage with our creative and cultural providers again soon.