Where do I start… well to be very precise, the story started for us on the 29th March 2018. This is my reflection and a timeline of our project. I hope that it shares our work and gives you a better understanding of how we get from a dream to achieving!
It was the morning after our current Year 6’s had performed in their Y5, working as artists, Opera. A spectacular performance: written, sound-tracked and staged by the children. It was a huge show and the audience was blown away… we had musicians and stage directors; actors and costume designers. It was a truly collaborative project – it brought together school and families.
We sat in the staff room and listened to Duncan talk about the next idea from The Common Lot – Stories from Stump Cross. This original working title was given to us and the concept was the retelling stories of this historic area of Norwich. I’ll be honest, it didn’t fill me with enthusiasm. In fact, I thought we couldn’t possibly do something like that as it just wouldn’t capture the interest of the children.
Fast forward to the Autumn Term. A more focused planning meeting with Duncan, Louise, Pete, Alix and I – now with the renamed title Anglia Square – a love story firmly on the table. We mapped out our Spring term with Anglia Square as the historical focus for the work that we were going to complete. We planned in core texts and we discussed the key partners we were going to be working with. It was starting to shape up as an exciting project. I was still apprehensive that we would find aspects of this difficult to fit in with the workload of Year 6. We prepared for our two-day Romance Event: day one involving a site familiarisation visit, initial photography and a walk around the area; day two looking at the maps, project overview with Duncan and how to carry out successful research. All of this whilst planning to successful continue our learning in maths and reading.
Our first day back and the first day of our Working as Historians project started with a field trip to Anglia Square. We walked the surrounding areas, we took initial photographs and we learnt about some of the history of the area. It was a simple familiarisation visit – one that didn’t give the children any bias – just a chance to see the area with fresh eyes.
The next day back at school we met Duncan and Jeannette. They shared the vision of the project – A story retelling the history of Anglia Square and the North side of the river.
Over the coming weeks we completed timelines, historical map analysis and story writing. This was complimented by workshops delivered by photographer and teacher Sam Robbins. He worked with both Year 6 classes to look at the way we can make our photography better. Pattern, texture, repetition and viewpoint. These four aspects of photography were to become integral to our next visit to Anglia Square.
After having our original date postponed for our second visit to Anglia Square we visited again early in the month. Three groups of children and three tasks. Photograph Anglia Square using the newly learned photography skills, conduct interviews with members of the public, and follow a historical tour of the area with Simon Floyd and Duncan. During the day the children carried out some amazing work. They took professional photographs using the ipads, carried out over 100 interviews that would form part of the research for the script writers of the show, as well as learning lots about the local history and industries.
Having taken a range of photographs the children were then tasked with editing and selecting their best images. These images were then sent over the local art and design group – Print to the People. They set to work turning the pictures into screens ready for our screen printing workshop.
Over two days at the start of March we saw 4 groups of children working tirelessly with the workforce from Print to the People. The children reflected on their views of Anglia Square to create collages that showed their feelings and the atmosphere in the area.
Alongside this, children were able to learn about, and create their own screen prints using the photographs taken in February. An array of colours, designs and creativity saw some excellent work.
March also saw us work with BBC Voices to learn about interview techniques. The workshop saw children familiarise themselves with the digital voice recorders and practice with their friends in preparation for interviews with Daniel Swift-Gibbs, Reg Walker and Eric Kirk in the next few weeks.
Alix and I also got to make our first radio appearance as part of the BBC Radio Norfolk coverage of the Anglia Square – A love story project. We were so lucky to get to talk about the children’s work and what it meant for us!
Interviewing. Our classes worked together to create a series of questions to ask our interviewees. Reg Walker was our first visitor. An ex HMSO employee, local resident and grandparent of past Wensum pupils. He spoke about the development of Sovereign House, how he moved to Norwich to work for HMSO and the demise of HMSO and Sovereign House in the early 2000’s. You can listen to clips from his interview here..
Later that week we were able to interview Daniel Swift-Gibbs, a local architect and resident in the Anglia Square area. He spoke about his vision for the area and how it could look in the future. He spoke about what it was like to be an architect and how he viewed the area of Anglia Square. You can listen to clips from his interview here.
Finally, we interviewed Eric Kirk. Eric is the Manager for the Square. During our interview Eric spoke about the life and timeline of the square, his role and how he has seen the area change for better, and for worse.
The end of March saw Wensum host its first Working as Historians research conference. With all the year groups bringing together their research from the term to present in a range of different ways.
In year 6 we hosted a showcase of our creative work and the history of Anglia Square. We had listening stations to share the interviews and in Sycamore class we hosted a live debate about the future of Anglia Square. The event was attended by parents, pupils from Avenue Junior along with members of the public that we had involved in our project. It was an amazing opportunity for the children to share their hard work with such a wide audience.
This also signalled the end of our historical and research part of our project. The next phase of project was to start in June when we would be completing our creative part and composing a song to fit into the final production of Anglia Square – A love story.
At the start of June, we worked with Duncan to think creatively about Anglia Square. We conducted drama workshops thinking about what Anglia Square meant to us. We then picked out words, phrases and sentences that were to begin to form our song. These were then taken to Charlie Cain – our lyrical genius – who over the next three days helped to turn these into a song. All of the work was completed by the children in our classes and the children worked incredible hard to make this come together.
Over the next few weeks, children rehearsed the song and prepared for the shows. The first show came the day after the Lord Mayor’s celebration. Children were part of the show from the first scene in The Garth. Moving from the Garth to St George’s Green where we listened and learned more about the history of the North Side of the river.
Finally, came our moment. All the children were singing the song that they wrote and composed in front of crowds of up to 50 people a go. They sang with passion and pride. They sang and shared they feelings for Anglia Square. This was incredible to see our children as part of such an amazing spectacle. Shows performed to over 300 people each night. A show that perfectly encapsulated the history of our wonderful city and more specifically the area North of the River.
My final thoughts
As someone that grew up in and around the area of Anglia Square – North of the river – it felt as though it was more than just teaching our children new skills. We were investing time in our local history and sharing it far and wide.
We have a year group full of amazing children who have been: historians, artists, photographers, interviews, researchers, song writers, composers, performers, geographers and much more. Our children will look back at 2019 and remember when we shared the history of Anglia Square: with our school; with our local community and the City of Norwich. I am so incredibly proud to have been part of this – As I know the rest of our team and school are too.
Thanks must go to the many people that have made this possible:
Duncan Joseph, Simon Floyd, Charlie Cain, Jacqui Mackay and The Common Lot – You have supported, guided and made us and our children feel like a real part of this show. Hearing lines in the show that were from our children’s research was such an amazing moment.
Dr Jeannette Baxter – Thank you for teaching our children how to research, how to interview and helping us bring everything together for our History Research Conference
BBC Voices – Thanks to Gary and team for helping our children to learn how to use the equipment that we needed to carry out our interviews. Also, thank you for inviting us in to talk on the radio about our part in the project – that was a highlight for me!!
Reg Walker, Daniel Swift-Gibbs and Erik Kirk – Thank you for letting us interview you. The children were very grateful and you really engaged with them and gave us honest, thoughtful and sensitive answers to the children’s thought provoking questions.
Sam Robbins – The delivery of workshops with the classes to develop their photographic skills brought responses that we could never have dreamed of. The pictures that children captured were amazing. They were able to capture the many angles of Anglia Square and your guidance was very much a part of that.
Print to the People – Taking the children’s photographs and turning them into art! Asking the thought provoking questions that allowed the children to create collages that expressed their opinions about Anglia Square.
Pete and Victoria – Thank you for accommodating our ideas! We couldn’t have done it without you support and allowing us the freedom to teach such an amazing curriculum to our children!
All of our children and families – This project has been one that has truly captured you. It has made us all reflect on what the local area around us means to each and every one of us. Some of us want change, some of us don’t. But we know that our opinions are all valued whatever they may be. You made sure the children were in right places
None of this would have been possible without the support from:
The Norwich Freemen’s Charity, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, and many more.
“Over the water, not under the thumb!”