This is a project designed for upper primary schools – P6 & 7. The photographer and visual artist Leah Robb and I are working on it together, thanks to East Lothian’s Arts & Cultural Services Department and their Diversity Unit. It’s linked to Holocaust Memorial Day, which the school has already done work on for an assembly next Tuesday.
Leah will be showing the pupils how to take photographs that explore character, narrative, and surroundings, and I’ll be helping them to create writing – poems, diaries and fictions – based on their photos and other visual images.
Today’s session was the Icebreaker, where the children met us and we met them. We came in to the school teaching areas (it’s an open plan school) dressed up as particular characters, and asked the pupils to guess, from our appearance alone, what sort of music we liked, what instruments we played, what our religious beliefs might be, what sports we took part in or watched, and what our nationalities might be. Then we did a quick change into another character, and asked if they would have made different choices if they’d seen us looking like this. It was a good way of introducing the concept of prejudice based on appearances, and then together we explored other types of prejudice –racial, sectarian, ability differences and many others. For info, one of my costumes was as a hippy artist, with colourful waistcoat, beret, and a rubber band converting my full beard into a chin pigtail (if such a thing can be). My other outfit was a leather jacket, black fedora, shades, and black gloves – quite scary.
The final part of the sessions was to explore issues of personal prejudice. In both classes I was delighted by the level of participation and by the honesty of the children. It was lovely to see and hear the moment when the penny dropped during our dressing-up questions. “Oh, that’s what it’s about,” we heard from several quarters. Much more work to do in the next fortnight, and I’m greatly looking forward to it.