THE POETICS OF ARCHITECTURE CELEBRATING NATIONAL ARCHITECTURE WEEK 12 -19 NOVEMBER: Three local schools will have an opportunity to take part in a unique creative writing project funded by the Poetry Society focusing on The New Art Gallery Walsall. As part of our special programme of events for Architecture Week, students from Manor Farm, Watling Street School and Blue Coat will be working with poets Roz Goddard and Dave Reeves to create poems and writing in response to the construction of The New Art Gallery.
The students, whose ages range from 8 to 13 will visit the current Museum and Art Gallery on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings in Lichfield Street to view the award winning Garman Ryan Collection and then on to The New Art Gallery site to view the building. Here students will be able to view the construction process and will learn how this unique and complex building is being created.
The main focus of the visit, which will be led jointly by gallery staff and the poets will be to respond to the environment of the building, focusing in particular on the mood and atmosphere of the different spaces and exploring imaginative responses to the site. The visits will be followed up at school with 2 half day poetry and writing workshops developing students' responses.
Site Poems at the New Art Gallery for Walsall Evaluation
The project 'Site Poems' involved three primary and secondary schools from across Walsall including; Whatling St. Junior, Manor Junior and secondary students from Blue Coat Comprehensive School.
The intention of the project was to enable the students to visit the New Art Gallery Walsall, currently a building site to see the construction process and to work alongside a poet to respond to the building, particularly the mood and atmosphere of the spaces and to explore their imaginative responses to the site.
Roz's project was based on the idea of an imaginary character inhabiting the building, to encourage the children to discuss their feelings and senses. The children collected 'treasures' from around the site which included; bottle tops, cigarette packets, foam pieces, tubing, metal brackets, etc, as evidence of the character who 'lived' in the building. After the site visit Roz followed up the project at school, encouraging the children to translate their experiences of the gallery into poetry, using different techniques including Dramatic Monologues, Cinquain, Nonsense Verse and Haiku.
Both schools are intending to use the project to develop further work, and both will be invited back to the gallery later in 1999 to see the development of the site.
Dave Reeves, who was working with year 8 students from Blue Coat Comprehensive took a different approach, focussing on the presence of words and phrases within and around the site, left by the builders or even the materials used by the construction staff. The students were asked to collect lists of words which they saw on their visit around the site and these were then used as the starting point for their work developed within school. Dave also introduced a number of concepts about the site encouraging the students to think more laterally. For example playing with the concept of the building being an intelligent building, the idea that there is not art (yet), but art is everywhere and the sense that the building is 'sculpted' out of space.
Whilst the students initially found such concepts hard to grasp and the approach of collecting lists of words initially difficult they soon lost their initial preconceptions and have created some very imaginative work.
The work carried out by Roz Goddard with the children of Watling Street JMI School has undoubtedly enriched the children's lives.
I was able to carry out work on poetry as part of the National Literacy Strategy to prepare the children for their partnership with Roz. The children began to take a special interest in poetry as they knew that they would soon be working with a real live poet.
The children still choose poetry books as part of their library sessions and constantly want to read to the rest of the class their latest favourite poem.
When the children visited the gallery and met Roz their imaginations were fired. Her idea of finding a letter from someone hiding in the gallery unleashed their imaginations and this openness and flights of fancy continued in the work carried out in the classroom.
As you can see from the "Before and After" comments on what they would find in their trip to the New Art Gallery, the children had no real concept that they would be in a building in a building as it was being created. Just as they came to feel part of the process of construction at the gallery, they developed the same commitment to poetry. Working with Roz they saw poetry being crafted and they felt that they could be part of it. They now feel ownership toward the New Art Gallery and ownership of poetry.
With Roz they were able to attempt new poetic forms and to have fun. They realised that poetry is not something "in a book", but an alive form of literature that can be created by them. Poets are not long dead men, but a warm, kind woman you can play games with at breaktime.
The whole of this project has helped me enormously in trying to empower the children by self-belief. I keep giving examples and telling them that they can do anything they want with their lives, that the only limitation is what they impose on themselves. Now having worked with a poet they know that the whole world of literature is open to them. They realise that they can, if they want, become writers. This awareness has provided a boost to their selfesteem that has enriched them in all their education with me.
The hollow cup made of china you drink from it
Big glass windows you see the Quasar Centre from there.
Text in papers and writing, you read it
Sand is like reddish dirt, makes things strong
Brown plan of wood, makes foundations for buildings
Wires are coloured, makes electricity
Greyish metal strips make metal bars
Empty things - rubbish - flies have a bath in it
Naked women on rude posters makes men amused
And the Gallery was grand as the grandest person in the world.
- Jacob Webster - Watling Street JMI
Wide flat glass windows seeing Walsall
Hard rough wood used to make useful things
- David Conway - Watling Street JMI
Electric lights lighting the place up
Yellow sand for making castles
Glass milk bottle to drink from
Green cage lifts up workmen
Grey colour metal helps the building stay together
- Sarah Kent - Watling Street JMI