Partnering with the Church Conservation Trust to support young people in creating their own artwork inspired by church artefacts

Carol contacted her local HLO who suggested combining children's study of the artefacts inside local ancient churches with the creation of their own piece of art.  She knew the head teacher, Julie Barke, of St. James' Primary School, a school of great diversity in central Northampton was keen to create a reflection garden to mark the school's 150th anniversary.

Working within a budget agreed by Carol and the Heritage Learning Officer from CCT, a ceramicist was found who had experience working with children and schools. A meeting was arranged at the school between Julie the head teacher, the HLO, the ceramicist Nita Nathwani, NDFAS Chair Mrs Sam Smart, and Dianne Hodson of the YA team. This team saw the (empty) garden space, then visited the nearby St. Peter's redundant CCT Church to see its many treasures.

13 pupils were chosen from across the school whom it was felt would bring most and benefit best from the experience and a couple of weeks later these pupils visited St Peter’s to have their first sighting of the church interior. The Heritage Learning Officer had cleverly prepared little visual puzzles and seek-and-find questions about what was inside. The children, armed with sketch pads and pencils, set about drawing and copying whatever took their interest. They were each encouraged to do at least 3 or 4 images, including rubbings of stonework patterns and textures.  Inevitably the bolder ones took to the gargoyles and frightening-looking beasts, while the more timid ones loved the depictions of angels and familiar animals, flowers and foliage!

Two workshops were then scheduled at the school, firstly to get the young people used to handling and working with the clay, and secondly to help them transcribe their images on to some pre-cut clay tiles the ceramist had prepared. Once these were completed, the tiles were dried and fired by the ceramist at her workshop. They were then returned to the school ready for mounting on the wooden cross made by the school's gardener/handyman that he then fixed to the wall in the garden.

The local press (Northampton Chronicle and Echo) and BBC Radio Northampton ran pieces on the project. Unbelievably, this project was accomplished between January when the initial meeting was held at the school to July when the Cross was unveiled.  Working with another national charity to bring about something of benefit for present and future school children has been enormously gratifying for all – and the school has gained a piece of lasting artwork made by their pupils. It has to be win-win all round!


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