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Karen Thomas

Kettle’s Yard and the Grove Primary School in north Cambridge were one of only three recipients of the inaugural Max Reinheardt Literary Award.  The award supports schools and galleries to work together with creative writers and develop new programmes dedicated to creative writing.

Writer Claire Collison worked with year 3 pupils from the Grove Primary on a six week project entitled Making Conversation.

The pupils’ first visit explored the maritime themes found across the collection at Kettle’s Yard.  After initially exploring Kettle’s Yard house by thinking about how individual objects ‘make conversation’ with each other, pupils then worked with Claire and the Kettle’s Yard team to fill their ‘imagination tanks’ by really investigating five artworks depicting maritime life.

Claire then visited the pupils at school where they created a flotilla of origami boats each filled with ideas and stories inspired by the works explored at Kettle’s Yard.  Suddenly, Claire announced that they had been shipwrecked and their only hope was to send a plea for help as a message in a bottle.  The children each wrote a detailed and gripping account of who they were, where they were headed, what they had salvaged and what help they needed.

For the pupils’ next visit to Kettle’s Yard they were welcome to invite a family member with them and introduce them the house.  The children acted as guides for their relatives and together they explored how Jim and Helen Ede developed their collection of objects and artworks and discovered that Jim would loan artworks to students.  Together they wrote letters to Jim and Helen explaining which objects they might like to borrow from the house and what they would loan in their place.  Popular selections included the pianos, the Gregorio Vardenega Disc and a glass paperweight. The imagined loans were amazingly diverse from a pair of Arabian slippers, to paintings created by the children themselves, from special musical instruments to a collection of seashells from a holiday in Spain.

For the final visit, pupils explored the temporary exhibition of works by Ian Hamilton-Finlay.  They thought about the visual impact of the written word and created their own sea and sky of words.  All of their works were then installed for a celebration event back at school where they could show their families all they had achieved.  Some of the pupils shared their messages in bottles and letters to Jim and Helen. You can listen to and see some of the pictures captured during the sessions in the video above.

The pupils experiences will be developed into a resource to support other schools and families to use Kettle’s Yard as a source of inspiration for creative writing.  Making Conversation has been funded by the inaugural Max Reinheardt Literary Award which is supported by the Max Reinhardt Charitable Trust, the National Association for Writers in Education (NAWE), and engage, the National Association for Gallery Education.  Kettle’s Yard would like to also thank the Grove Primary School for their support.