As part of the Immerse project, I spent four days in the P6 class at St Ninian’s Primary with two other artists - Lucas Chih Peng Kao and Connel Burnett. The three of us met up ahead of our visit to the school, and from our early conversations it quickly emerged that we all had a love of stories. We decided that this was what we wanted to explore with the class and set about thinking of all the different ways that we can engage with both the creation and the sharing of stories.
Something that we were keen to express to the class was our feeling that there isn’t one correct way to tell a story, and that the right to stories belongs to everyone. We settled on the idea of working with the class to build a library which would represent them and the stories that they wanted to tell.
We played around with different methods and forms: on our first day we explored poetry as a means of telling a story about our emotions. One the second day, we looked at the role of chance and imagination, by playing with story cubes and inventing characters. On the Wednesday we focused on sound: we made soundscapes that told the stories of different settings and situations, and then we created our own audiobook version of Little Red Riding Hood – complete with lots of dramatic sound effects.
Our final task as a group was to think about what kinds of stories were missing from our collective library, and to fill in those gaps – some people wrote adventure stories, others manuals, and some magazines. It was great to see them take ownership of this library and watch them come to understand that they had power in deciding how stories are told.
Working with this class reminded me of the importance of placing children at the centre of creative work - of giving them agency to make, invent, and write. I know from experience that the world of writing, and the arts more general, can feel like an elite and exclusive place, so it feels vital to welcome children into it at a young age and remind them that stories are for everyone.
Sometimes, working with children can feel like a daunting challenge. It’s easy to feel far removed from our own childhood experiences, or to convince ourselves as adults that our world is somehow much different to theirs. Immerse was a perfect and timely reminder for me that this is absolutely not the case. The project has given me so much confidence in terms of working with children again, which is something I hope to do much more of in the future.
With the support of Imaginate’s Jerwood fellowship, I’m currently in the research stages of a new project – a musical show about friendship for blind and visually impaired young people. Taking part in Immerse has undoubtedly had an impact on how I’m now going to approach this new work, and especially in terms of how I want to incorporate the voices and ideas of children throughout the creation process.