Thursday, 28 July 2011

Out Of The Classroom And Into The County!

Just before the summer term drew to a close and classrooms up and down the country spilled out into the summer I took my characters out of the museum to into the community.  From Liverpool to Bolton, Middleton to Milnrow I had every area covered in my mission to mesmerise the people of Lancashire.
Year six pupils from schools across Liverpool took part in the fast paced performance ‘Oh What a Lovely War’.  They were evacuated, boarded a train, entered the dank and dingy atmosphere of the Anderson shelter, and even joined the home front, all without leaving the room.  

The Pupils adored meeting Margret the land girl, but when Mrs Dylan introduced them to local sheep farmer Mr Hingginsbottom, an evacuee host they were less than impressed.  Who wouldn’t want to spend sleepless nights slept on a hay stack at the back of a barn?  Kids, these days, they’ve got it made!  I took on each character making the pupils laugh, jump, cower and ‘pay attention’ in fine 1940s manner, even if all the characters looked peculiarly similar...

Back on the road again, another costume change and another character as I entertained Year Ten pupils taking part in a Further Education residential at Bolton University.  Elegantly dressed and simply eloquently spoken I played the part of Head of Music, wife to the murdered Head teacher at Hassalholf High School.  Cryptically guiding pupils (many a melodramatic hand to forehead and bemoaned sigh) through clues and information I helped them weave their fragments of knowledge together and find the dastardly culprit.  Lots of dramatic outburst, hot gossip and scandalous accusations rebounded through the day, proving just the right amount of entertainment to engage tired teenagers at the end of their four days away.

But it wasn’t just children and young people who took part in the dramatic events of June and July.  One blistering hot Sunday in early July, I polished my boots; I picked up my cane and scowled a sour glower as I went in search of communities to take part in the infamous ‘Miss Grim Victorian Schoolroom Experience’.
Running the session as part of a day of acting and celebration to mark Middleton’s New Heritage Trail  over 80 adults and children in total entered Middleton’s Old Grammar School.  Immediately they were escorted back in time as I ‘taught’ them the rules and practice of a Victorian classroom.  Even the Mayor was quaking in his boots as his idle chatter was met by an instantly silencing stare from Miss Grim.

Apprehension mounted as more ‘inadequate pupils’ failed to meet the  high standards of the classroom, the finger stocks and close proximity of the cane soon put heed to nervous laughter.  But, I’m told fun was to be had by all, and once the real ‘Miss Grim’ (or a far sunnier Cat) emerged at the end of the session the relief was palpable in the room!

So, Art.Works doesn’t just deal with pictures and painting (which I’ve also been doing with schools this term), and the characters may not just be kept closeted away in the classroom.  Be warned readers, next time you attend a heritage open day, the dunce hat might just be one you!