Art Week at Herne Bay Junior School!

Just recently, at Herne Bay Junior School, we discovered the perfect recipe for a most successful art week!

It all began around a table, when the Coastal Alliance Art Group were in discussion about potential links we could share within our chosen annual art theme of Line. A voice piped up, “There is a poem, Nation’s Ode to the Coast, commissioned this year by The National Trust. It is written by Dr John Cooper Clarke and includes words and lines depicting memories and reflections of the nation’s coast. People were invited to send in their thoughts and experiences of the coast.”

That was it. That’s all it took for a fountain of ideas, enthusiasm and activities! Each school took these away to share with their staff, along with a chosen verse from the poem. It was agreed that we would reconvene, at a chosen public and reputable exhibition space, with the resulting pieces that we hoped would evolve and grow from the words of Dr. John Cooper Clarke.

Many weeks later, post-SATS, Art Week on the horizon and a range of inspired cross-curricular plans forming amongst our creative staff, it took one simple catch-up conversation with head teacher, Frances Nation, a momentary drop in by Paula Amos Office Manager and PR for the school, for an explosion of inspired thinking and a mission for Paula Amos. We need Dr John Cooper Clarke…” stated Frances Nation. “You have a mission, Paula, to find him and persuade him to visit our school in two weeks – Art Week!”. 

Not only did Paula determinedly trace and chase Dr. John Cooper Clarke, she discovered the genius poet was to perform in Margate’s Theatre Royal during our Art Week. In her usual style, the chance to enjoy an evening of poetry and comedy in Margate was offered by Frances and of course accepted! Three tickets booked. Meanwhile, Johnny Green (manager to Dr John Cooper Clarke) and our PR Paula Amos conversed and twittered. Amazingly, it was agreed… Nation’s Ode to the Coast would be read to our children by Dr John Cooper Clarke,  in Art Week!

All across the school, children and adults explored the poem Nation’s Ode to the Coast, with inspired projects and trips springing from the lyrics and images. Children discovered a range of art, artists, skills and techniques. Year groups spent time on our local stretch of coast, observing, listening and creating works of art, capturing the spirit of the poem. 

We, myself, Frances and Deputy Head Mel Kingman had a brilliant evening at The Theatre Royal, (thoroughly recommend, moreover, recommend an evening with Dr John Cooper Clarke and friends performing – high giggle-factor!). 

The next day anticipation was high – the assembly was set, as were the children, guests from The Coastal Alliance and the BBC cameras. We all understood the enormity of this occasion; we just needed our guests, Johnny Green and Dr John Cooper Clarke to cement this. Like the wave of excitement of a Royal visit, the children sat waiting in the hall and Frances keenly watched the school entrance. No Rolls Royce or chauffer, but an ordinary and understated car parked alongside staff cars.

“How exciting! I can’t believe this is happening” Frances was heard to whisper before she welcomed the visitors.

What a delight! Dr John Cooper Clarke was the most dynamic and charismatic visitor to a school assembly one could wish for. He read his poem, that of some of our children’s, listened to performance poetry inspired by Nation’s Ode and answered a whole range of questions directed at him by children. 

These he answered thoughtfully, wittily and with an open honesty. He was fun, open, enthusiastic and more importantly, most inspiring to even the most reluctant poets in our school. He brought alive the meaning of that spirit and soul found in words and opened the minds of our children. Enriching their literary experience and for sure, there’s not a child in this school who does not at least easily recall the chorus line ‘That’s where the sea comes in…’.

This was one Art Week we won’t forget in a hurry, and like our previous, once again we raised the bar – where do we go from here?! Ah! I remember now! Early in the next academic year, we will be sharing that exhibition space with the schools across The Coastal Alliance, depicting each school’s outcomes and interpretation of the poem Nation’s Ode to the Coast. How exciting! I can, in my imagination, hear now Frances Nation wonder to herself “Shall we invite Dr. John Cooper Clarke to this event? We could also ask…” And so another adventure begins!

Comments are closed