a visit to Lillian de Lissa Children’s Centre

This is reposted from Louisa Penfold’s PhD blog Art. Play. Children. Pedagogy.

We live in a world of great cultural, social and political diversity. Recent politically-motivated attacks have led to increasing concern, fear and distrust between members of our community. Yet the central pillar of a democratic society lies in a nation’s ability to value the richness of diversity and to allow its citizens to express their beliefs and opinions through various means.

Within an early years education setting, designing for flexibility allows children to encounter educational experiences from diverse levels of knowledge, backgrounds and interests. This then paves the way for the possibility of collaborative learning, understanding, respect and friendship between people.


This week I spent two days at the Lillian de Lissa Children’s Centre in Birmingham (UK) working alongside their artist-in-residence, Lorna Rose. 90% of the children attending the nursery are from an ethnic minority, over half speak English as a second language and among the 90 children in attendance, 28 languages are spoken. The ultimate goal of the nursery is for the children to leave with a sense of curiosity about the world.

Lorna has been working as the ‘atelierista’ (an artist who works in an education setting) at the centre for over 10 years. This post features an interview with Lorna in which she discusses her approach towards designing creative experiences for children – one that is built upon child-centred practice, flexibility and collaborative reflection.

Further Information

Bragg, S & Manchester, H 2011, Creativity, School Ethos and the Creative Partnerships Programme Final Report, The Open University , UK.
Lorna Rose website (2016), http://lornarose.co.uk, viewed March 16 2016.
Plant, S (2009). A Celebration: Creative Childhood Project 2009-2010. Lillian de Lissa and Belgravia Children’s Centre, Birmingham, UK.
Rose, L 2009, Strength in Diversity, EYE – Early Years Educator, Vo. 11 (1), pp. 36038.
Rose, L & Carlin, A 2011, action creativity – working with boys in ‘.’ In: Elkington, R (ed.) Turning pupils onto learning: Creative classrooms Routledge, Oxon. pp. 39-51.
Thomson, P & Rose, L 2010. ‘When only the visual will do.’ In: Thomson, P & Sefton-Green J (eds.) Researching Creative Learning: Methods and Issues. Routledge. Oxon.
Thomson, P & Rose, L 2011. ‘Creative Learning in an Inner-city Primary School (England).’ In: Wrigley, T; Thomson, P & Lingard, B. Changing Schools – Alternative ways to make a world of difference, Routledge, Oxon.
Vecci, V (2010). Art and Creativity in Reggio Emilia: Exploring the Role and Potential of Ateliers in Early Childhood Education, Routledge, London.

cultural education partnership


On Thursday Chris, Pat and Jo attended a half day workshop to discuss the emerging Nottingham Cultural Education Partnership. The workshop was convened by the city’s Creative Quarter and held in the Galleries of Justice (pictured above).

The workshop was a response to the Arts Council’s Cultural Education Challenge. The Arts Council  will fund 50 new cultural education partnerships across the country in areas deemed most in need of arts and cultural provision. The initiative follows a pilot scheme that saw cultural education partnerships established in Great Yarmouth, Bristol and Barking and Dagenham. The new partnerships will be initiated by ACE’s network of Bridge organisations – in the East Midlands this is The Mighty Creatives – whose remit is to connect schools, children and young people with arts and cultural activity.

The workshop aimed

  • To create a better understanding of Nottingham CEP and what it’s there to do
  • To enable partners to understand the current landscape of engagement by children and young people with culture in the city
  • To explore and determine a proposed model for the CEP

The workshop was first addressed by Paul Roberts OBE who urged us to consider how the city arts programmes could produce creative citizens. Pat reported on the mapping data that was collected from six key organisations during the Bubble project.

After a series of four provocations the workshop participants discussed the possible plan for a city specific youth programme. Four groups also discussed:

  1. Achieving an effective structure for decision-making (especially where multiple partners are involved)
  1. Maintaining partners’ commitment and involvement – partnerships need to sustain impetus, provide leadership and direction, respond flexibly to changing needs, and make sure the partnership is achieving its aims;
  1. Committing adequate resources – partnerships require sufficient resources to facilitate meetings and other communication, apart from the funding required for specific partnership activities;
  1. Gathering data & Demonstrating impact – ultimately, partnerships should be able to provide evidence on the difference they make to their intended beneficiaries.

We look forward to being involved further with the CEP.




On Monday 16th March Pat, Nicky and Louisa attended a seminar held by the Tate Learning Research Centre at Tate – it focused on the interconnections between the ethics of research based participatory art, arts based participatory research and participatory research in the arts.

Pat co-hosted the event with Emily Pringle, and she had the job of keeping a public running record of the events.

We are now thinking about what kind of publication might follow on from this event. There is not a lot already available which students might use, and we are sure there is both room and a need for something which addresses this particular nexus of fields and practices.


Pat attended the first seminar of the BERA Commission on STEAM education, held at Aberdeen University.

The focus of this commission is to explore, analyze and collate new understandings of science, how these relate and interface with changes in education and how this might enrich current debates. Reconceptualising school science has crucial implications for pedagogic practices. Specifically the commission will explore:

  • the changing conceptualization of science and arts, and the implications for science education;
  • the relationship between formal school science as it is currently taught and the differential access to science knowledge affecting groups inside and outside schools;
  • the potential of arts-based, creative pedagogies to foster inclusive, participatory and interdisciplinary learning in science.

One of the tasks of the Commission is to develop a literature review and much of this first seminar was taken up with discussion how this might be achieved, and what had been done to date.

We also engaged in an arts based activity, working with clay to make a hand – with our eyes closed. Our inability use the usual ‘seeing’ mode of knowing/working meant that we had to pay attention to our sense of touch – this made us all very focused on what we were doing in the moment. We were only thinking forward as far as imagining the finished product. This of course aroused quite a bit of anxiety for most of us, as we were all afraid about what the final product might look like! We were in what our ‘teacher’ Jan van Boeckel * described as a liminal, becoming space.

Jan then invited us to collectively reflect on our experiences and to develop our thoughts into insights about our ,and potentially other people’s, learning practices and the implications for pedagogy. And how, we asked ourselves, might this experience help us understand the potential of STEAM education?


The Commission has  twitter account @steamresearch and is planning a regular blog.

  • Jan is an anthropologist, artist-educator and film-maker; he has made his PhD on  environmental art practices available to download.

creativity in classrooms



On Thursday 11 February CRACL hosted a public seminar by Paul Collard, the Chief Executive of the education charity Creativity, Culture and Education. Paul is also a Special Professor in CRACL. Around sixty people – teachers, researchers, local artists, students – attended. Paul talked about the work of Creative Partnerships (2003-2011) and the ways in which CCE is now taking this work further in many other locations, including Wales, Scotland, Pakistan, Hungary, Austria, Norway and Germany.


Paul reported research undertaken in Hungary where three groups of students had very different responses to questions about how much they needed to be interested in something to learn it. The poorer the students, the more they said they only learnt when they were interested. The implications of this research present a challenge to teachers; we must think about how to make topics interesting for students, at the same time as getting them more accustomed to learning things that are not initially of interest, but may nevertheless be important.


Paul told the audience that CCE has developed a research informed heuristic for professional development activities with artists and teachers. The heuristic highlights the differences between ‘high and low functioning’ classrooms. High functioning classrooms are where teachers for example: offer challenging activities; have a flexible use of time; approach and manage the classroom as a workshop;  and focus their pedagogy on building self-managing student practice.

We did record the lecture and this is an unedited version of it – note that it needs a quicktime plugin. The sound quality is pretty variable, but you can see the slides and video clips, and listen to Pauls’ two hour seminar.



PhD studentship working with Nottingham Contemporary

We are now advertising a studentship for three or four years to research  the learning that occurs in Nottingham Contemporary education programmes. 

The ad reads:

The place of learning: teachers, artists and young people at Nottingham Contemporary

The University of Nottingham and the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) Doctoral Training Centre (DTC) are offering a fully-funded PhD studentship in collaboration with Nottingham Contemporary.

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Nottingham Contemporary has a strong commitment to ensuring that young people in the city, many of whom are from families struggling to get by, have access to meaningful visual art experiences and offers both formal and informal opportunities for learning, in the galleries, through public events, through family and young people’s programmes and through programmes in schools.

While there are regular evaluations conducted of the Nottingham Contemporary educational programmes, there has not yet been any in depth longitudinal research of the benefits that those engaged in school programmes get from their gallery engagements. The gallery is increasingly asked for evidence of the value of its programmes. This project will provide the first robust examination of the NC learning programmes and as such, it will inform future developments at Nottingham Contemporary, but will also be of significant interest to partner regional contemporary art galleries (the Plus Tate network).

First Supervisor: Professor Pat Thomson
Second Supervisor: Professor Christine Hall

Portland.jpgThe project examines the learning affordances of the Nottingham Contemporary Learning Programmes for teachers, students and artists. The researcher will be based in the school’s Centre for Research in Arts, Creativity and Literacy and will undertake an ethnographic study of the NC learning programme and examine the different ‘impacts’ of NC’s programmes for students aged 5-16, their teachers and the artists who work with them.

Specifically, the researcher will, over a nine-month period (a school year including school holidays), undertake ethnographic research in the gallery – observe young people, their teachers and artists who participate in school programmes; interview teachers and students in ten city schools; and administer a cultural participation survey to young people.

The full time studentship provides funding for three or four years (PhD/MA+PhD) to start on 1 October 2016. The award will cover full PhD fees and provide a tax-free stipend for UK candidates (£14,057 p.a. in 2015), or fees only for EU candidates.

Candidates should have a masters degree in Education, Anthropology, Sociology or a related Social Science or cognate discipline such as Art History or Fine Arts. Prior experience in qualitative research is highly desirable.

The application process and further information is online. 

Closing date: 21 February 2016 (noon).

Creative Learning – should England be ashamed of itself?

Thursday 11th February 2016, 4.30-7.30pm

Room A32, Dearing Building, Jubilee Campus


Presented by Paul Collard, Chief Executive of Creativity, Culture and Education (CCE)

Creative Partnerships ran from 2003-2011, funding artists to work with teachers and schools across England. At the same time as the English government abandoned its commitment to creativity, other countries took it up. Creativity Culture and Education continued this work in Wales, Scotland, Lithuania, Norway, Germany Czech Republic, Hungary, Pakistan and Chile, and with the OECD. Their goal is to continue to build experience and evidence of the benefits of creative learning, a typology of creative interventions, and measures of progress in creativity. Paul Collard, the Chief Executive of CCE will discuss this work and raise questions about what England and English educators might learn from this recent work.

About Paul

Paul Collard is the Chief Executive of Creativity, Culture and Education (CCE) an international foundation dedicated to unlocking the creativity of children and young people in and out of formal education. CCE was originally established to design and support the delivery of the Creative Partnerships programme in England which ran from 2002 to 2011. With a budget of around €50 million each year, it was able over the period to work with over 5000 schools, well over a million young people and around 90,000 teachers. The success and impact of the programme attracted considerable international attention and CCE now supports the delivery of programmes modelled on Creative Partnerships across a wide range of European countries including Norway, Lithuania, Holland, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Hungary.

Within the United Kingdom, it is advising the Arts Council of Wales and the Welsh Government on a £20 million Arts and Creative Learning Plan which was launched in the Spring of 2015, and is delivering training, seminars and workshops in most local authorities in Scotland on behalf of the Government agencies Education Scotland and Creative Scotland. At a European Level, it has worked closely with the EU Commission on a range of issues and has just delivered a report for the influential private German Foundation Mercator, on developing a European strategy for Creative and Cultural Education. Beyond Europe, CCE ran a Creative Partnerships programme in Karachi, which is now running in Lahore, Pakistan and has provided training for teachers and artists in countries as diverse as Taiwan, Vietnam, Western Australia, Qatar, Tunisia and Thailand. In 2011, CCE was the recipient of the World Innovation Summit on Education (WISE) award for its outstanding contribution to innovation in world education.

Paul is a Special Professor in the School of Education, attached to CRACL.

Book via Eventbrite.

special issue call – the arts and ethnography


Special Issue Call for Ethnography and Education Journal (to be published in 2018)

Guest Editors:
Pat Thomson, The University of Nottingham, UK

David Poveda, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain

Ligia Ferro, Universidade do Porto, Portugal

droppedImageThis special issue brings together detailed ethnographic studies of social practice and action in a variety of social contexts where the arts and aesthetic concerns are central. We seek studies reporting research that focuses on: performing arts (music, theatre), plastic arts (photography, painting, sculpture), literature (narrative and poetry), other forms of contemporary, traditional and vernacular artistic expressions and practices. Studies may be situated in a variety of educational contexts – schools, colleges and universities; community organizations or art institutions; open spaces, etc. as well as emerging collectivities and sites (including virtual spaces) for artistic and expressive practice. We are particularly interested in papers that reflect international scholarship, a diversity of socio-cultural settings and research stemming from a variety of disciplinary traditions (Anthropology, Education, Psychology, Sociology, Linguistics, Fine Arts, Folklore, among others).

While our call for invitations is broad in terms of scope and analytical focus, proposals must be centrally grounded in the main concerns of the journal:

(1) Papers must report expertly conducted ethnographic research. We understand ethnography and ethnographic research can be defined in a number of ways and has been taken up in distinct ways by various disciplines but preference will be given to proposals reporting sustained fieldwork in a particular setting/site (however defined) drawing on multiple forms of data.

(2) Papers must focus on educational processes broadly defined, which may include, among other dimensions, interactions between “teachers” and “learners”, learning artistic practices, changes in participants’ identities and subjectivities, apprenticeship and guided participation or learning through intent observation or encounter.

(3) Additionally, papers may explore the place of the arts and artistic practices in fostering “social change”, defined within any scale (individual emancipation, transformations in the community, wider institutional-policy effects, etc.) and/or focused on a variety of social dynamics (emancipation, empowerment, resistance, subversion, etc.)

Preference will be given to manuscripts reporting empirical findings stemming from research built on the principles described above, rather than theoretical essays or critical reviews. Studies of the arts in and as practice may incorporate and critically reflect on attempts to expand how ethnographic research is conducted and reported and draw from “artistic resources” to do so, such as innovative forms of collaborative research, multimodal and multisensorial artifact co-production, visual forms of data representation and analysis, use of digital media and social media, etc.

For questions and submission of abstracts within the timetable set below, please contact Patricia Thomson (patricia.thomson@nottingham.ac.uk) or David Poveda (david.poveda@uam.es)

Instructions and timetable

December 2015 – Special Issue call for papers announcement.

29 February 2016 – Abstract submission deadline. Send 300-500 word abstracts to the special issue editors detailing: (a) goals of the study, (b) methodology and research design, (c) main conclusions.

31 March 2016 – Abstract selection and invitation to submit full papers.

31 July 2016 – Full paper submission deadline, following Ethnography and Education instructions for authors.

August 2016 – January 2017 – External review and submission of final manuscripts.

2018 – Special Issue publication.

Green Shoots, place and an inspirational centre in Boston

Jo McIntyre reports:

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the cultural offer for young people especially in cities with designated spaces for arts and culture such as the creative quarter of Nottingham. It seems to me that it is becoming increasingly important for organisations within these spaces to engage with young people as some schools are forced to squeeze arts and creative subjects out of the curriculum especially at the upper end of secondary education.

Over the past few years I have been tracking the work of Greenshoots  as they have worked with young people on a range of creative projects. Most recently from their new base The Lofthouse, a former lace making warehouse, in the creative quarter, I have watched how they have worked with young people to devise a performance which focuses on the history of lace making within Nottingham City. I talk a little about how I have theorised the processes and practices I have observed in this short film:

Recently Becky Parry and I went to the Media Education Summit in Boston. Through talking about the work of Greenshoots I was fortunate enough to be given an introduction to Susan Rodgerson who has founded an amazing organization in Boston,  Artists for Humanity. A colleague from Bournemouth University, Michelle Cannon and I were invited to visit.

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The AFH building in Boston.

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Rob, one of the original first students to work with Susan and Free one of the mentors on their way in from a visit to a high school where they have been asked to design some mural work.

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One of the artist mentors sets to work on a former billboard. Imagine the space with 200 easels and 200 teenagers being paid to paint three evenings a week alongside their mentors.


AFH is an inspirational venture and one I have enjoyed talking to Greenshoots about. As I continue to think about how young people in one city in England engages with creative and cultural organisations I am sure I shall return to my notes and photographs from the trip to AFH.

engage conference

Louisa Penfold and Nicky Sim attended the recent engage conference in Glasgow. Nicky Sim ran a workshop in collaboration with practitioners from the Whitworth, Manchester. The Whitworth are part of Circuit, which is the research context for Nicola’s PhD on partnerships between galleries and youth organisations. Nicky posted a storify about the workshop on the Circuit website. Louisa writes about her conference experience here.

Peer-led. Disadvantaged. Youth. Collaboration. Co-production. Participation. Partnership, Engagement. Experiential. Unlearning. Agency. Flicking through the conference brochure, the key themes of the 2015 Engage conference were immediately apparent.

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The scene was set in the opening speech: the growth in diversity in communities across the UK has come at a time of increased funding cuts to arts organizations across the sector. This has resulted in many arts organizations and galleries struggling to incorporate the broad demographics that reflect the diverse communities in which we live. The arts have been increasingly marginalized in the school curriculum meaning that sites of informal learning, such as art museums, need to play an increasingly important role in providing arts education in the community. As a doctoral student who has recently relocated from Australia to the UK, my interest in the attending the conference lay not so much in hearing about the dire state of youth and funding in the arts, but about what individuals and organisations were actively doing to address these complex concerns.

Central questions presented to attendees included: how can organisations make equitable relationships with youth that authentically project their voices through partnerships and programs? Is it young people or institutions that benefit from such peer-led programs? How does involvement in arts organizations help youth make decisions outside of these institutions?

Key-note speaker Darren O’Donnell, Artistic Director of Mammalian Diving Reflex, presented on the company’s human-centred threatre/activism/arts performance projects. Boarding on the line of utopianism, O’Donnell advocates for breaking the cycle of social concern leading to excessive precautioning and safeguarding of children. These result in a standardized formatting of what children and youth are able to do in society. Learning is the result of different people coming together and creating new knowledge. The solution being children’s and youth programs to be built upon a framework of human-centred experience. Projects O’Donnell discussed included Haircuts for Children, a performance piece in which children are paid to run a hair salon in which they give free haircuts to the public. Through the design of the performance, the relationships between children and adults is reformatted, creating a new social space and dynamic between individuals.

I found the findings of Dr. Esther Sayers’ doctoral research into youth programs at Tate in the mid-2000’s particularly noteworthy and slightly disheartening. Her research found that much of peer-led programming excludes youth voices and rarely diversifies gallery audiences. Dr. Sayers’ pointed out the complex challenge of creating equitable relationships between youth and art galleries as a result of hierarchical structures within institutions and amongst peer groups. In order to genuinely integrate youth voices into institutions, alternate hierarchies that place youth as an integral part of the structure need to be put in place. Such fundamental reconstruction of institutional hierarchy calls for a need of support from directors. I couldn’t help but notice the lack of gallery directors attending the conference.

However perhaps the most substantial and detailed research on the experience of youth and arts institutions is yet to come. Dr Roz Hall presented on her research on the experiences of those working on the Circuit program. She called for the need to incorporate the evaluation process of youth programs from the conception of the project and not just a ‘tag-on’ at the end. Such research requires the involvement of everyone working within the project (managers, junior staff, artists, youth, directors, audiences) and not just those with the ‘loudest voices.’ Evaluation does not need to assess the outcomes and impact of a project against specific criteria but rather seek to identify what we know about youth work and how we know it. The dissemination of findings amongst the broader community is crucial to help inform the programming of other institutions in the future. As a sector we need to work collaboratively to share our challenges, experiences and successes in order to make relationships between youth and organisations more authentic, ethical and meaningful for the community that they aspire to serve.