Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Expert Explainers Project

'Expert Explainers' was an after school Arts Award project for selected primary school children from  the Headington partnership at the Pitt Rivers and the Museum of Natural History. Over a couple of months pupils worked with museum staff to develop and deliver an interactive guided tour of these local museums to their peers and families. The project aimed to increase access to the collections from non-visiting local children and to develop a sense of ownership and belonging in pupils regarding their local museums.  The fabulous turn out for the family tour on a Saturday morning showed the pupils had truly invested in the project, and as Chris Jarvis, Education Officer at the Museum of Natural History stated: "I was really impressed with how much effort the children put into their final tours and also how much support they got from their families on the day as it's hit and miss as to how many people will give up their time on a Saturday to get into town".

Two pupils stand in front of a coat on dislay giving a talk
Pupils give guided tours at the Pitt Rivers
 © Pitt Rivers Museum

Pupils stand in front of a case of butterflies
Guided tours at the Museum of Natural History © Pitt Rivers Museum

The project started with a lunchtime outreach session where Year 5 and 6 pupils selected from Wood Farm, Bayards Hill, St Andrews C of E and Windmill Primary encountered each other, lots of objects from the museums and the project leads - Chris Jarvis, Education Officer at the Museum of Natural History and Becca McVean, Education Officer at the Pitt Rivers.  Pupils started to think about what museums are and how we can learn through objects - they certainly enjoyed handling the coprolite, otherwise known as dinosaur poo!

The next step was to introduce pupils to the museums and 4 after school sessions followed in the Pitt Rivers and the Museum of Natural History which share the same site. The visits were facilitated by Lesley Williams, Headington Partnership Co-ordinator, who was also our fabulous minibus driver, collecting and delivering pupils to and from their respective schools each week. We were also supported by Teaching Assistants from Wood Farm and St Andrews C of E Primary School.

We began by familiarising pupils with the museums, helping them to understand how the collections are organised.  Challenged to find a wide array of artefacts and specimens, pupils went on a treasure hunt recording their finds on i-pads.  Once confident in their navigation and understanding of the museums we introduced the pupils to the concept of becoming a tour guide.  They were very excited at the prospect of being the leaders and that the museums became their space to showcase.  In pairs pupils were allocated an object or specimen from each museum which would have to feature in their guided tour.

Two pupils stand in front of a large white cowskin hanging on the wall which has paintings on it of people riding horses
Native American Many Shots Robe 1895.61.1
 - a Pitt Rivers Tour Highlight © Pitt Rivers Museum
Over the next few weeks we introduced pupils to some of the different ways you might engage an audience.  This ranged from handling objects, creating quizzes, crafting butterflies, creating their own story robes, estimating the height and weight of objects and so much more!  Creative and curious minds got into action!

A group of people look upwards as they are looking to the top of the totem pole to estimate its height
Estimating the height of the totem pole © Pitt Rivers Museum

A boy draws ona piece of paper
Creating a personal story robe © Pitt Rivers Museum

We also helped pupils develop their presentation skills, looking at the ways to communicate effectively with an audience.  Independent research skills were fostered and one pair became experts on crocodiles!

Two boys talk beside a large stuffed crocodile
Crocodile Experts © Pitt Rivers Museum
The project culminated with a guided tour delivered first to the whole group and then finally to their families. 9 pupils took part in the project, leading to Discover Arts Award, and 19 family members attended the Saturday morning tour, including toddlers, teenagers, parents and grandparents.  One of the Teaching Assistants commented on how great it was 'to see the children grow in confidence and curiosity' and this was obvious to see. I loved the fact that one of the participants requested I bring chocolate cake for our celebration event after the family guided tour - they wanted to mark this as a special occasion.

What would we do differently?  Evaluation and observation indicated that we could have given pupils more freedom over who they worked with and more choice over the objects to include in their guided tours.  This learning was immediately integrated into the next project at the History of Science Museum where a different cohort of pupils from Headington Partnership became 'Expert Explainers'.  We are delighted the model is spreading and has been taken up as part of a national programme at Science Oxford where Year 5/6 pupils from Headington Partnership who qualify for Pupil Premium funding will develop their own tour of the Science Oxford Centre and its woodland surrounding.  Giving a voice to children to frame a space for themselves encourages ownership and opens up access to our amazing local collections whether they be Museums of Anthropology and Archaeology, Natural History or Science Centres!

Becca McVean
Deputy Head of Learning and Participation and Primary specialist

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Creative Writing at the Pitt Rivers

I wanted to share some fabulous poems which were generated in response to a creative writing session run at the Pitt Rivers earlier this year.

It all started when I was approached by the lovely Kathryn Bevis, a teacher at the International Studies Centre at Yarnton Manor.  She runs a class of English and Creative Writing and was keen to bring her students to do a workshop at the Pitt Rivers.  With stories as her theme for the term what better place to come than the Pitt Rivers where there are so many objects with amazing stories linked to them.  Sometimes objects have stories literally carved/etched/painted onto them, sometimes they are used to tell stories and sometimes they have the most amazing stories behind them.

In a bespoke workshop students looked at objects which record stories in detail and handled some objects to inspire their creative responses.  They also had fun bringing objects to life, thinking carefully about characteristaion and about the conversations the objects might have with each other!

In class Kathryn and her pupils developed their creative responses and I was lucky enough to have these poems drop into my inbox one day.

The Call of the Raven by Alexia Oerter

The raven calls into the night to me,
An unkindness is in the sky awaiting:
They dare me with their cries to fly free.

Their claim ruffles through my body
As I lay down with the stars.  I keep hiding from
The raven's call into the night to me.

I walk along the gravelled path and see
Black wings flapping behind me, following
To see if I would dare to fly free.
Wind waving feathers, a lonsome plea; I answer with my arms opening
The raven calling into the night to me.

Claws cluster my bare neck and a sea
Of black soaks my skin and soul, shadows fading
For wings to open and try to fly free.

I battle under the black birds' cries to find the key
Allowing the embrace of the feathers growing;
As I am the raven calling into the night to me,
I join the unkindness, opening my wings to fly free.

This poem was inspired by looking at objects made by the Haida people in the collection such as the Eagle Transformation mask which is used to tell a story about mischevious raven.

Mask depicting a ravens head with a long black beak
Eagle Transformation Mask Closed 1891.49.8 © Pitt Rivers Museum

The beak on the mask opens out to reveal the face of a beautifulHaida  princess
Eagle Transformation Mask Opened 1891.49.8 © Pitt Rivers Museum

The Monster with the East Wind by Lisa Duderstadt

Monster with the East wind
they call me, I am, I always was
but you, my only heart, never seem to mind.

For Them I'm the beast which will terrify mankind,
moving my slow thighs, bringing night
always the Monster with the East wind.

But you are a flower, kissed by the sun and kind,
which argues with Them because you believe otherwise.
You, my only heart, never seem to mind.

Even when I played the devil's game you did not resign
being happy to peel another layer from
the monster with the East wind.

As an onion these skins fall one by one
but instead of bright the inside made you cry
because you, my only heart, never have seemed to mind
that I am indeed the monster with the East wind.

This poem was inspired by an African tourist mask which was handled during the session.

They Do Say by Kathryn Bevis

"They do say there be a witch in it, and if you let un out there'll be a peck o'trouble"

Turn me once and turn me double;
My mouth is stopped, a witch inside -
Don't let her loose or there'll be trouble.
Tight as a fist, bright as a bubble,
Here she'll stop now she's been tried.
Turn me once and turn me double.

In the night she curses, grunbles;
In the day she leaps and rides.
She conjures evil, stirs up trouble.

I hear her chant, I feel her chuckle,
mine to cherish, mine to hide.
Turn me once and turn me double.

Clasped together, always coupled -
She's my girl, my fire, my bride.
Don't let her loose or there'll be trouble.

Don't let me drop or I will topple,
Shattering swiftly, scattering wide.
Turn on me and I'll turn double:
When she gets free then you're in trouble.

The final poem was created by the tutor herself in response to the 'witch in a bottle' which is currently on display at the Ashmolean in the special exhibition Spellbound.  This glass flask is reputed to contain a witch and has inspired many creative musings.

A silver curvy bottle with a stopper
Witch in a bottle 1926.6.1 © Pitt Rivers Museum

It's great to work in partnership with a tutor who believes in getting 'hands-on' with the messy business of words.  It was a great experience and hopefully one to be repeated.  I'll end this with a note from Kathryn:
"Thank you so much for the wonderful workshop you delivered for my Creative Writing students a few weeks back.  I thought I'd share with you some of the poems that they and I produced as a result.  You said you don't often get to see the fruits of your work, I hope you like these!

I hope I will be able to bring more writing students with me next academic year.  Until then, all best wishes
Kathryn Bevis"

Blog post witten by Becca McVean
Education Officer
Pitt Rivers Museum
(ex secondary school English teacher!)

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

New Maya Primary School Workshop launched

A new Key Stage 2 Maya workshop was launched as part of the primary school programme earlier this year.  It was developed in response to the growing number of teachers approaching the Pitt Rivers Museum for help in delivering the Non-European Study of Mayan civilization c.AD900 in KS2 History. Luckily our new Director, Dr Laura van Broekhoven, happens to be a Maya specialist and helped to craft the new session.  Not only did she help to acquire contemporary Maya artefacts for the permanent collections but she also asked her husband, Dr Alexander Geurds, to do some shopping on a work trip to Mexico.  This means we have a fabulous handling collection to support this session which ranges from cactus fibre bags to cocoa beans to jade earrings.

Girl holds up green jade ear plug to ear
Trying out jade ear plugs © Pitt Rivers Museum

During the session pupils get the opportunity to handle real artefacts as they build up a picture of what life was like for the Maya people around AD900. The session  also touches on how the modern Maya carry on many of the traditions established in the Classic period AD300-900.

Girl wears a brightly coloured woven tunic
Modelling a Huipil © Pitt Rivers Museum
Girl holds a cocoa pod and a corn on the cob in her hand, sitting infront of a metate (a grinder)
Maize and cocoa are still staple foods of the Maya
© Pitt Rivers Museum

What to expect in a workshop? 

The 75 minute workshop starts with a mystery object game where pupils use their senses to work out what objects have been used for.  Pupils are then taken on a guided tour round the Museum looking at Maya objects in small groups. This helps them to develop a good understanding of the materials, designs, foods and animals which have been important to the Maya people.

The final activity sees the pupils design a headdress for a Maya person drawing on the inspiration they have gained from handling and looking at Maya artefacts in the Museum.

Girl looking at case of textiles, holding up a huipil (a woven tunic top)
Looking at Maya artefacts in the Museum
 © Pitt Rivers Museum

Rave Feedback

The session has received very positive feedback with 100% of participants giving it full marks with a rating of ‘excellent’. Here are a few comments about the session:

‘Fascinating – children got so much from touching and talking about the objects. We could not offer this at school.’

‘Clear delivery, excellent information and questioning. Really enjoyable and valuable session. We’ve all learnt a lot about Ancient Maya and absolutely loved it! Thank you!'

 'Excellent session. Children were really enthused and enlightened by handling and 'decoding' artefacts. Highly recommended'.

How to book

To book a session contact or call 01865 613 031.

To find out more about the Maya session take a look at our Teacher Information Sheet.

To find out more about our wider offer take a look at the Primary School Brochure 2018-19.

Becca McVean
Primary School Education Officer
Pitt Rivers Museum

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Museum as meeting place - Multaka-Oxford

In March 2018 we started a project funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Collections Fund called 'Multaka-Oxford' here at the Pitt Rivers and at the Museum of History of Science. You can read more about Multaka on the Pitt Rivers website. The aim of the project is to create volunteer opportunities based around the museum and its collections.

We had a busy first few months doing outreach and building networks with some brilliant organisations who are working with us and supporting volunteers into the project. They include Connections, RefugeeResource, Asylum Welcome and Sanctuary Hosting. We are also greatly benefiting from the expertise of one of the museum’s ‘Community Ambassadors’ Nuha Abdo. There are now 13 active volunteers on the project who have given an amazing 164 hours of their time. 

Group photo of Multaka-Oxford team
Photo of team of Multaka-Oxford volunteers and staff in the Research Room
© Tammam Aboukerech

It is really important that the volunteers find roles in the museum that play to their strengths, skills and interests. The museum provides a really unique place for people to come and learn, engage with heritage and meet other people, whilst also gaining useful work experience and transferable skills. These first volunteers through the door have been incredibly patient with us as we have tried to get this right. In fact, last week we held the first Multaka Advisory Panel where we are seeking help from the volunteers and community partners to improve what we are doing.

One of the roles that volunteers have been doing is helping with collections research and documentation. We are in a unique situation that the items of textiles from the Middle East we are working on are newly gifted to the Museum by textiles collector Jenny Balfour Paul, and have not been accessioned yet. Volunteers are being involved from the very start of welcoming these objects into the museum. For example, Mohamed has been volunteering alongside Abigael to measure items and describe them as she enters these into the database.

Laying out textiles to be measured for database.
Dress from Bethlehem (2018.37.18) ©Pitt Rivers Museum

Tammam has been learning new skills in museum inventory photographs - learning how to take photos of the textiles to go into the database. He is also taking lots of wonderful photos of the project unfolding and beautiful close-up photos of objects he loves.You can see some more of Tammam's photos on the Multaka-Oxford tumblr site.

close up of embroidery on chest panel from dress from Bethlehem
Close up of silk embroidery on chest panel of dress from Bethlehem (2018.37.18)
© Tammam Aboukerech

A number of volunteers have been doing research on the collections. Abdullah has been focusing on some items from Damascus and Aleppo to find out more about silk production in Syria. His research will be entered into the museum database to ‘enhance’ the object record. Niveen has also been finding out about a collection of face masks from Oman. You can read some of her research in her blog.

Dark blue face mask from Sultanate of Oman
Face mask from Sultanate of Oman (2018.37.22) 
© Pitt Rivers Museum 

We have also been running monthly ‘Collections Workshops’ for volunteers and staff. At these sessions we bring out items of the collections and a big group sits around the table in the research room and discusses them. It is a social event and a chance for everyone to get up close to objects. The museum also gains some amazing insights and knowledge during these sessions.

Workshop with volunteers and staff discussing items in the collection.
Here we are looking at a silk ikat coat from Aleppo in Syria (2018.37.2).
© Tammam Aboukerech.

And with all this knowledge and personal experience being shared here inside the museum, we are also finding ways to get this all out to a wider audience. We had a stall at Oxford Mela where volunteers talked with people about the objects. You can read Mohamed's blog about the experience on our tumblr site

The Multaka-Oxford stall at Oxford Mela 2018
 ©Pitt Rivers Museum

We also held an event in June during 'PittFest' where volunteers spoke with lots of people about some of the textile pieces they had been looking at.

Abdullah talks with visitors about a Syrian dress
during an event in June 2018 ©Pitt Rivers Museum

Volunteers have also been busy writing and uploading blogs, photos and – shortly – audio about the project on our tumblr page and tweeting on #MultakaOxford.

Our next steps will be training up volunteers as tour guides, creating a display of the textiles, running more events and building up the skills and capacity of the volunteer team. 

Next year we will be running a sharing event and symposium for museums people and other relevant sectors.  

Blog written by Rachel Harrison
Multaka Community Engagement and Volunteer Officer
Pitt Rivers Museum and Museum of the History of Science

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Messy Realities: The Secret Life of Technology

Messy Realities: The Secret Life of Technology is a Public Engagement with Research project at the Pitt Rivers Museum, funded by the Wellcome Trust. Led by project researcher, Gemma Hughes, from the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, the project was delivered in collaboration with me and Jozie Kettle, the Pitt Rivers Museum Public Engagement with Research Officer.

The team includes researchers, Museum staff, designers from Rycotewood, people living with long-term health needs, their family and friends. As a group we shared stories about the role technology has in our everyday lives. These conversations were stimulated  by handling UK medical technologies and worldwide objects from the Museum collections that show how cultures from across the world have developed objects to support their health needs. By placing diverse types of objects together we were able to see how museum objects could be reinterpreted as assisted living technologies. 

A collection of objects, a medicine box made from a nut from India, an Inro from Japan and Tupperware bought in the UK
Medicine Box made from a Nut, India, [1893.5.5]
Inro for Medicine, Japan [1920.16.2.1], Sistema Tupperware, UK,
 © Pitt Rivers Museum/Nuffield Dept of Primary Care Health Sciences
We started by talking about the central role Tupperware has in many of our lives, from keeping left over food edible and safe from bacteria, to making taking our pills a simpler task.  We looked at how wearable technologies such as a leopard claw amulet from
Ghana protects against drowning, in the same way a pendant alarm from the UK protects against falls, and the crucial role human belief and interaction has in these technologies working. 

Walking frames from the UK and two knobkerries used as walking sticks from South Africa
Walking frames and sticks, UK, with carved Knobkerries,
South Africa
©  Pitt Rivers Museum/Nuffield Dept of Primary Care Health Sciences

We thought about how technologies from across the world hold meaning, are personalised and adapted, and how technology can support individuals as their long-term health needs progress. This can be exemplified by the metal walking frames, traditionally given out in the UK,  which are generic and can be seen as lowering the status of their user, next to Knobkerries from South Africa which are crafted as hunting weapons and transformed in later life in to walking sticks that demonstrate the user's community status as an elder.

Nico shows the group an Inro from Japan, used as a medicine box [1920.16.2.1]
Nico shows the group an Inro from Japan, used as a medicine box [1920.16.2.1]
© Pitt Rivers Museum/Nuffield Dept of Primary Care Health Sciences
The group visited behind-the-scenes of the Museum, including meeting Nico from Collections in the research space to view collection objects; and visiting Jem and Andrew in the conservation lab to see how progression in objects is diagnosed and treated.

Andrew shows the group an object he is conserving in the Conservation lab
Andrew shows the Messy Realities Group an object he is conserving
in the Conservation Lab
© Pitt Rivers Museum/Nuffield Dept of Primary Care Health Sciences

Jean and Paro, the Robotic Seal, meet each other
Jean and Paro, the Robotic Seal, meet each other
© Pitt Rivers Museum/Nuffield Dept of Primary Care Health Sciences
We also had a visit from Paro, a robotic seal, and handler, Professor George Leeson, Director of the Oxford Institute for Population Ageing,  who talked about how Paro, which can respond to human interactions has supported people living with Dementia.

Our four weeks of conversations led us to believe that technologies can exist in isolation of people but work better when they are person-centred and their use is supported by community and human interaction.  This led designers, Michael and Phil to work on person-centred design with Sheila, Phil and Isla to imagine new technologies that would better support their lives. 

The group visited behind-the-scenes of the Museum, including meeting Nico from Collections in the research space to view collection objects; and visiting Jem and Andrew in the conservation lab to see how progression in objects is diagnosed and treated.

Messy Realities exhibition with visitor comments
Messy Realities Exhibition with Visitor Comments
© Pitt Rivers Museum

On 23rd July 2018, we launched our co-produced display, Messy RealitiesThe Secret Life of Technology which brings together our four weeks of conversations and comments. We are hoping to collect visitor ideas of what Technology means to them to continue the conversation with Museum visitors. The display is up from now until the 28th September, so please come and add your comments. 

Messy Realities Launch Event, July 2018
© Pitt Rivers Museum

Messy Realities has transformed my practice and has made me rethink the way I engage with communities across the programmes I support. By bringing together people from a  range of backgrounds and experiences we were able to have new conversations, outside of our bubbles of influence which have contributed to new ideas for research, to everyone’s confidence in the importance of our opinions, and to developing new ways of working in the Museum. 

If anything reminds me to continue this new model of practice, this email from Jean, one of our group members, will be it:

‘I asked Sheila for your email address so that l could say a really big THANKYOU for the Pitt Rivers sessions. 

As you can see l am taking advantage of the little bit of IT technology l have managed to acquire.

I have enjoyed them very much indeed. It felt like being a student again. I wasn’t a teacher, wife, mother, helper, carer etc, responsible for others, but just ME.

I don’t know what came over me on Monday. I have never spoken out like that in my life. I was the one who sat at the back and let others hold forth. I hope l was not too inarticulate.

I have never taken recreational drugs but l was on such a ‘high’ after Monday’s session l imagine that’s what it is like.’

Beth McDougall
Families and Communities Officer

Monday, 16 July 2018

West Oxford School find out about Nigeria in Take One... Country

The country selected by West Oxford Community Primary School for the focus of their annual Take One project was Nigeria and what better place to come to than the Pitt Rivers Museum? Over two weeks every class from Reception to Year 6 visited the Pitt Rivers Museum to handle and look at Nigerian artefacts.  These visits inspired art and craft work which culminated in the summer art exhibition open to parents and the local community.  I was lucky enough to visit this fabulous exhibition at the start of July and was overwhelmed by the creative, colourful and diverse responses to the Nigerian collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum.

Photo of a large school hall displaying masks, pictures and sculptures
Take One.. Country Exhibition at West Oxford Primary School © Pitt Rivers Museum

During their 90 minute visit to the Pitt Rivers pupils looked closely at Nigerian masks, exploring the concept of masquerade where there is an attempt to make contact with village ancestors through costumed dance and song. They also had a chance to handle and test out talking drums, dance anklets and masks. To find out more about masquerades read our West Africa Masks and Carving Factsheet or visit our fabulous displays!  Pupils also looked at ways status can be conveyed through looking closely at the Benin Court Art display as the Kingdom of Benin is in southern Nigeria.  They discovered that a leopard is a sign of royal power and that in the seventeenth century the Oba (King) walked tame leopards round the city on a lead!

Photo of a leopard brass mask - the spots of the leopard are raised from the surface
Leopard Brass Mask 1965.9.1 B © Pitt Rivers Museum
A photo of a clay mask made by a Year 6 pupil painted in a bronze colour
Year 6 Clay Leopard Mask © Pitt Rivers Museum

A self-guided trail around the Pitt Rivers also enabled pupils to discover the wide range of arts and crafts generated within Nigeria.  Pupils loved tracking down the objects, highlighted with a Nigerian flag sticker, and saw fabulous objects such as leather riding boots made by the Hausa people from Northern Nigeria or beaded fans made by Yoruba artists in Western Nigeria.  Pupils also looked at a Yoruba wooden sculpture of Queen Victoria, touching on the colonial history of Nigeria.

A pair of high leather boots coloured red, light and dark brown rising well above the knee
Hausa Riding Boots 1904.54.24.1
© Pitt Rivers Museum
Photo of round fan covered in brightly coloured beads in a pattern featuring two human faces
Yoruba Beaded Fan 1965.12.45 © Pitt Rivers Museum

Pupils used what they had seen as a creative springboard to produce a wide range of art and craft work ranging from beaded fans, masquerade masks, tie-dye T-shirts, fabric designs, embroidered animals to leopard sculptures!  This encapsulates the approach of the National Gallery's Take One... brand which encourages schools to take one picture or object, and use it to foster pupils' critical and creative thinking. West Oxford Community Primary School have enterprisingly extended this concept to include Take One Country, focussing on India at The Ashmolean last year and now Nigeria at the Pitt Rivers Museum.  I'm looking forward to finding out where we might be travelling to next year!

Two fans made from black cardboard with beads stuck on the top
Beaded Fan made by Reception pupil © Pitt Rivers Museum

Indigo coloured T-shirts pegged up on a line in a school hall
Tie dye T-shirt inspired by indigo dyed Adire Cloth © Pitt Rivers Museum

On a table there are several leopard box sculptures with a photo of the original leopard box from the Pitt Rivers
Leopard Sculptures inspired by a Yoruba Leopard Box 1919.10.1 © Pitt Rivers Museum

If you would like to find out more about the project, develop you own Take One experience or book existing Take One sessions then please contact
Staff INSET can be delivered as part of project work.

If you are studying Benin or are interested in finding out more about the masquerade masks then consider booking our Guided trail - Africa, highlighting Benin.

As you can see the stimulus of the collections here produce some amazing creative results!  As a teacher from West Oxford Primary School stated:
"This was a class act - well presented, great resources and good communication beforehand.  Great balance - pupils were able to touch and hold objects, discuss, listen, look at cabinets.'

Becca McVean
Primary School Education Officer
Pitt Rivers Museum

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

The Pitt Rivers Kicks Arts again!

Hello! I'm Kelly and I am the maternity cover for the Secondary Education, Further Education and Young People role here at the Pitt Rivers Museum during 2018. I am very lucky to have been part of a brilliant, dynamic project called Kick Arts, which has just finished under its HLF funding.
Preparing for the celebration event © Pitt Rivers Museum

The Kick Arts Flexi School programme has run for three years, in a partnership between the OYAP Trust, and the Pitt Rivers Museum. Both organisations are passionate about working with local young people to make a real change in their lives, and the Kick Arts programme has been really successful at bringing together a new concept and making a tangible difference to the lives of everyone involved. 

Preparing the animation scene © Pitt Rivers Museum

Kick Arts offers a whole day alternative to a classroom setting. It targets young people who may not be reaching their full potential in a classroom setting, for various reasons. The sessions are totally bespoke, responding to the energy, interests and dynamics of each individual in the room. Charlie Henry, who heads up the sessions, is a trained Psychotherapist and multi-platform artist. She holds intuitive qualities of working with young people to support and nurture an environment where young people are free to express themselves through producing artwork. In 2018, she was supported by Beth McDougall from the Pitt Rivers Museum. Beth offered a sensitive approach for young people to engage with the Museums vast collections. Her knowledge and enthusiasm for the collection allowed for a diverse range of interests to emerge from the young people during the 10-week programme. Young people created unique responses to the collections, including animations, rap music tracks, felt working, lantern building, photography, splatter painting, and even sock painting (!).

Celebrating the participants success © Pitt Rivers Museum
In each session, the young people arrive to a series of quick-fire warm up activities. As a group, they decide and write up a plan for the day, and then they get exploring! Small groups can wander into the Pitt Rivers Museum with Beth to find inspiration, some stay in the Museum annexe, where they explore artforms, and other curiosities. Each young person has a tailored programme, including varying levels of structure and outputs. During their 10 week session, young people get to complete an Arts Award. Most have achieved a Bronze Award, but one young person has used her Kick Arts work towards a Gold Arts Award. The award is administered by Carmen Hoepper, who works as the project Manager for Kick Arts on the OYAP Trust side. 

The Project has been funded under the HLF Young Roots grant for the past three years. In this time, there have been three, different, but equally amazing programmes. On March 26th 2018, the final programme came to a close with a celebration event. This was a chance for friends, family members, and participating young people to reflect on the amazing work they achieved. Here are some of the comments from the event....

Please continue, please expand. This work is invaluable to children who are talented and amazing, yet don’t always fit the box of the mainstream

Thank you for believing in x. thank you for showing her she can be herself and thrive. Thank you for a lovely social environment in which to learn and give.

She has a depth of talent and imagination that as I parent I did not have the skill to help her with. She has been inspired and liberated.

Xxxx is proud of his artwork and believes he can do- and that it is important HE is pleased with his work and feeling valued. 
Socks and friendship © Pitt Rivers Museum

Over 50 people attended this celebration event, including stakeholders from the wider sector (Oxford University Museums, GLAM partners, Oxford City Council, County Council, Arts Council England and HLF representatives). The young people had worked with Modern Art Oxford Curator Emma Ridgway to present their final artworks in a thoughtful and artfully constructed space. VIP guests to the celebration event could then view this artwork as part of the celebration event. Beth, Carmen, Charlie and other organisers gave short speeches on the importance of this work, and the digital pieces of art were shown to the attendees on a projector. 

The celebration event received press coverage by the local BBC Regional news, and a piece was aired on the 6 O’Clock news on the 27th March. 

Participant talking to the director of the museum about the inspiration for his work
© Pitt Rivers Museum
A unique aspect to the Kick Arts programme are the opportunities for emerging artists and art educators. Every session involved local young Artists (18-25) who want to gain experience in participatory arts projects like this, so they have the experience and skills to take forwards in their chosen career path. The young artists are also closer in age to the young people, demonstrating an achievable and aspirational angle for young people who are inspired to do work in the Arts sector. The high ratio of artists, facilitators, young artists also means the participants often get 1:1 support during the day. 

Charlie Henry talking to the BBC © Pitt Rivers Museum
Another highly successful aspect was the flexibility with which the sessions were run. The young people were able to follow their own interests, and take control over their own learning. This sense of empowerment was important for these young people, as they gained confidence to take on new challenges and be inspired by what they could achieve. This resulted from the high ratio of staff to young people, and also due to the flexibility and responsiveness of the way each session was run. 

The Kick Arts concept was incredibly successful. Its strengths were in its leadership, its staffing, its bespoke approach, and its legacy.

Kick Arts may have completed its last session under the HLF funding, but its future is still looking bright. The Pitt Youth Action Team is another feeder outlet for young people who have completed the Kick Arts programme and still want to continue a relationship with the museum. The Kick Arts concept will continue in the future, with both OYAP and the Pitt Rivers keen to maintain and progress their relationship and partnerships. The Pitt Rivers Director, Laura Van Brockhoeven is hugely supportive of continuing this important work with young people in the future.

I am really pleased that the momentum built during the Kick Arts programmes is still continuing, and that the Pitt Rivers Museum is sustaining its relationship with OYAP Trust, and supporting the running of this amazing project.

Kelly Smith
Secondary, Further Education and Young People Officer