I recently visited the Southbank Centre’s celebration of the 1951 Festival of Britain for the launch of its Schools of Creativity Pavilion.

The original Festival of Britain heralded the dawn of a new age of optimism. The post war era was a boom time for creativity, innovation and
idealism defined by the Declaration of Human Rights which stated ‘everyone has the right to freely participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in the scientific advancements and its benefits.’

The Festival of Britain embodied these values with culture clearly identified as the fabric of civilised society. It was described as a ‘tonic for
the nation’ and after the Blitz and years of rationing British people were given the opportunity to celebrate their freedom uniting across class divides. The site itself was chosen to bridge the affluent areas North of the River Thames with the slums of the North symbolizing a ‘practical utopia.’

The more I read about the 1951 Festival of Britain, the more I wonder if it was like visiting the future. The sprawling site whose modernist
architecture was inspired by the Bauhaus principle of form following function was intended to present a new urban landscape. It included a dome of discovery with an ‘escalator to outer space and sky’ and its symbol, the Skylon, levitated in the air with no visible means of support.

Navigation was by foot and although the visitor could expect to see 50 murals and 30 sculptures by British artists including Barbara
Hepworth’s first public commission ‘Contrapuntal forms,’ they were just as likely to encounter a herd of jersey cows! I would heartily recommend a visit to the Museum of 51 at Royal Festival Hall to discover more.

The Southbank’s 60th anniversary of the Festival celebrates the exuberance and optimism of the original site. There is so much that I enjoyed from the urban sea side and its customised beach huts and bunting to the emotive voices of the Lion and Unicorn installation. I have captured my
best bits here in photographs.

The primary reason for my visit was to attend the launch of the Schools of Creativity Pavilion. The 1951 Festival had a series of ‘Pavilions’ celebrating all aspects of British achievement from agriculture and engineering through to education. The aspiration expressed in the New Schools pavilion was for all children to access the latest resources needed to learn. The Schools of Creativity Pavilion celebrates this legacy showcasing the positive impact of creative teaching and learning in British Schools.

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I am thrilled as Fulbridge School’s Creative Agent to have six of my photographs included in the exhibition which document our seaside project developed to encourage a life-long love of writing. 42 schools have been selected to show work and each presents
exemplary practice which is unique to the challenges of each setting.

Since visiting the Pavilion I have spent time reflecting on the future of creativity in English schools. The English education system is currently facing austerity and the Coalition Government will not be funding the Creative Partnerships programme beyond this academic year. The programme has worked with nearly 1.4 million children and over 125,000 teachers, delivering more than 8,500 projects in 5,800 schools which have involved nearly 9000 creative practitioners and arts organisations in England since 2002. Its positive impact on the UK economy, attainment and attendance in schools and parental engagement has been well documented.

My initial thought was to question whether we are celebrating the end of an era rather than looking towards an idealistic future. I may be naive but I don’t believe this to be true; as a Creative Agent the impact of the programme on my own professional development has been huge and just writing this blog is a result of CPD from CCE. I feel well equipped to face the future and I know that there is a critical mass of people including teachers, creative practitioners and young people who have embedded sustainable creative teaching and learning into their school’s curriculums and lives and will not be turning back.

The loss of CreativePartnerships will present a considerable challenge but will be the catalyst for many to develop more creative ways of being creative which has certainly been the case for me! I am passionate about learning, participation and the creative use of technology and have been liberated by the latter to explore new models of engagement.

Scan me!

My recent involvement in the QR-3D project is an example of this. The brief was intended for individual artists to create a 3D textiles QR code but I instantly saw the potential for a crowd sourced collaborative project. I chose to invest my time not in making but facilitating, engaging over 200 people in the effort.

I used the resources available to me; Matthew Brown a CP practitioner, gave up his time to help me create an instructional film with my Fulbridge School Mini-Agents. Individuals could watch the film online and make a postal contribution and schools and groups took part in session that I led. The piece involved making 1089 felt balls which would probably have taken me over 100 hours as an individual. I invested the same amount of time in the group effort but was able to promote the creative use of technology, teach felt-making skills and highlight the possibilities of collaborative working. I also enjoyed the process of creating the piece far more.

The future for creative teaching and learning in schools is going to be tough; there is no doubt about that. Maybe the key is to be open to, and seek out opportunities to collaborate through networks which engage and mobilize people into action. I have not worked out how to pay my bills and
feed my children yet but am excited by the new direction in my creative journey!