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The School Residency
Hyde Park School Residency
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The film artist residency at the Hyde Park School consisted on three one week workshop each involving ten students from the third grade, aged between seven and eight years, using digital film making and involving them in creative and analytical thinking by looking at themselves and their surroundings through the eye of the lens. All the work was make and conducted within the school grounds mainly in the art room and when the weather allowed, outside in the courtyard. I was assisted by Anita Haywood, a member of the commissioning team, who help was greatly appreciated and valuable.
The residency was started off by Jo Loosemore from Plymouth City Museum, who gave a lecture involving all grade 3 students on a journey through the history and development of Mutley Plain. The children were listening and engaging in the history of their neighbourhood, shown photographs and objects from their past and taking part in small role plays involving buying land and trying on a pair of Victorian bloomers which cracked an excitement of laughter and very courageous clapping.
The workshops were designed around the following themes - self portrait, geographical surrounding, school history. During the one week period each group took part in one, making flick books and of course filming and acting in front of the camera. We looked at possibilities on how to regenerate the Plain, looking at its past and present life and discussing the future. Gazing at old school photographs from the beginning of the century looking for familiar faces, imagining their characters, emotions, likes and dislikes. We also talked about the children's personal backgrounds and history becoming aware of their immediate surrounding and history. As an anti-dote to the 'real', each group dressed up in character, which allowed them for some time to be transported into the world of their imagination.
This was the high moment of the residency as bewildered faces rumbled through the treasures of a battered red suitcase that was filled with drapes, clothes, wigs and other little surprises as well as numerous plastic bags brought back from home proudly showing its contents of tutus, a lion hat, and shoes too big and high to be seen in around town. As the characters emerged the room was transported into a fairground of witches, princesses, vampires, aliens, spies, cowboys, fairies and the odd robot, robber and ballerina. With the sound of the magic wand being thrown into the air we were all momentarily boarding a spacecraft flying above Mutley Plain and completely engaging in the surreal wonderland we had created - transforming the Hyde Park Pub into a Victorian castle with a King, Queen and a cat (totally logical at that moment), a couple of amorous aliens in a flying saucer, a robber that turned into a prince and a school that was made over to a pyramid with fairy lights and stained glass windows. We engaged change and possibilities that were loudly discussed and not always agreed on. There were moments of true democracy as each student would argue his or her point of view of how the story should be told - not everyone was convinced by the UFO landing on Mutley Plain.
At the start of each workshop, every child made a crown, which was personalised, to their aesthetic taste. The crowns were used to trigger a 'creative state' - this allowed the wearer of the crown to feel secure and limitless to what their imagination would bring them. I pointed out clearly that the crowns were to be used in a very personal frame of mind that you should only wear it when you felt like it. And truly so the chairs were pulled back and little feet would quietly wander off, returning to the drawing table was a crownless face that by this act of 'undressing' obviously didn't feel convinced with the task I had proposed. But more often than not, the room buzzed with crowns of different designs and colours potting away drawing, making, thinking and creating.
Most of the work we did were simple drawings as I wanted to make sure that what we were doing could be done anywhere with the right state of mind, imposing self confidence and strength to create. And each child surely showed their 'true colours' - often surprising me with their thinking, with and maturity which I was honoured to witness. And more than anything, I learnt from them and I would like to thank each of the thirty students that took part in the workshops as well as all the other students in the school who often greeted me with a smile and loud hello as I strolled through the corridors. I hope that you will be transfixed for a small moment in some of the work made during the residency and allow yourself to enjoy the project.
Adam, Alice, Bethan, Connie, Daniel, Jonathan, Megan, Nina, Ross, Samantha Alice, Amy, Azim, Daniel, Helen, Isabel, Jacob, Jack, Lauren, Tom Alex, Dominic, Emily, George, Hannah, Lougas, Madeleine, Nancy, Reice
I would also like to thank the following people for their support and assistance:
Anita Haywood, Jo Loosemore, Chris Robinson, Jane Banbury, Chris Vincent, Jane Guswell, Jean Aldersley, Elayne Hoskins, Mike and Rupert from The South Western Film Archive.
Lotta Petronella November 2001
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