This summer we have been busy working in partnership with Grace Mary to Lion Farm Big Local (GM2LF), Grace Mary Primary School, and St James’s CofE School on a new creative project exploring the local area and its rich history.
Led by artist Hannah Boyd and Blue and White Creative, the project worked with 35 pupils from both schools to develop a series of creative workshops and field trips to explore the photography collection of Jim Rippin and interpret the views from the Rowley Hills. Our aim was to explore how archive photographs and local knowledge can help young people see the area in which they live in new and exciting ways. As part of this we played with different approaches to drawing and painting and used a range of materials and styles as part of our creative investigations.
Hannah was supported by staff from both schools as well as Mike Poulton and Bob Duncan from the Friends of Rowley Hills. Mike and Bob shared their expert knowledge of the hills and how they have changed over the millennia as well as within our living memory. They also introduced us to the incredibly rich flora and fauna that thrive in around the hills and especially in the Rowey Hills Nature Reserve.
Below: two photographs from the collection of Jim Rippin together with his accompanying commentary.
Jim Rippin has been a keen photographer since the late 1940s and has built up a major photography collection. A frequent theme that runs through his collection is the changing views from the Rowley Hills. His collection spans over 60 years and they capture the ever-changing landscape of industry, housing and green spaces.
You can read more about the life and photographs of Jim Rippin on our website here.
The pupils spent two days working in the wonderful Rowley Hills Nature Reserve nestles the slopes of Portway Hill. We spent time learning about the area’s history, sketching and painting the views, as well as comparing and discussing archive photographs of the local landscapes.
In our digital age we are exposed to countless images virtually every day, and we ourselves can engage in taking countless photos using our smartphone and tablets as we try and capture an endless stream of passing moments. We wanted this project to create the space for the children that would encourage them to pause and reflect on archive photographs and reveal what they can tell us about our changing world. By looking at these archive photographs and then drawing and painting the living landscapes that they depict we started to see where we live in in a new way.
We asked some of the staff and pupils what they thought of the project. Here's what they said:
Mrs Wood (St Jame’s CofE School)
Watching the children explore the Rowley Hills area and engage with the activities was amazing! They were really engrossed and were fascinated by the talks they were given. It was a very enjoyable day and a wonderful experience for children and teachers alike.
Mrs Freeman (St Jame’s CofE School)
The day was filled with fabulous opportunities to learn new art techniques whilst experiencing the natural habitat in our local environment. The input from Hannah, Richard and Mike was excellent and we all learned a great deal about what the Rowley Hills have to offer!
I enjoyed everything but especially painting with sticks because I never knew you could do it! I loved learning about blue rock and I had a very great time doing it.
I particularly enjoyed the journey up to Blue Rock where the landscape of Oldbury looked beautiful. I loved the activity where we drew a picture of choice. I enjoyed every single bit of the day!
Mrs Aheer (Grace Mary Primary School )
The children were all excited to learn about the heritage of their area; they thoroughly enjoyed taking part in this interesting and exciting art project.
It was nice to be outside creating art and memories along with all the nature - flowers and trees. Painting with sticks and ink was something we hadn't done before but it was unusual and very creative.
The work produced from the project be exhibited in September 2019 as part of our local exhibition celebrating our work in the area that has been developed in partnerships with GM2LF Big Local and the Friends of Rowley Hills.
We want to say a very big thanks to Jim Rippin, Mike Poulton and Bob Duncan who spent significant time with us sharing many rich stories and historical facts that combined to help us understand the how the living landscape and the urban areas where we live are constantly changing.
We also want to thank Grace Mary Primary School and St Jame’s CofE School for being so enthusiastic to be involved in this project and to their commitment to making it happen.
The project was coordinated by Blue & White Creative.
Finally, we want to say a very big thank you to our artist Hannah Boyd whose many talents, hard work and boundless energy made this project come alive. Hannah is an artist and art tutor who specialises in working with adults and children to develop their creativity and artistic skills. She has a studio at Newhampton Arts Centre in Wolverhampton called the Art Room. She is also Artist in resident at Boundary Way Allotments and Community Gardens where she creates her own work inspired by the land.