Details of both our current and recent events and workshops:
What makes a place?
Artists Hilary Cox Condron, Helen Stratford and Sally Todd worked with 118 Artscapers from Shirley Community Primary and North Cambridge Academy on an invitation from TOWN and U+I to imagine the future for a new area just on their doorsteps during spring 2022. This short film made by Sally Todd captures a flavour of the process and some of their wonderful ideas:
This commission took as its starting point what is currently called the ‘Core Site’ - an area now mainly occupied by the Anglian Water’s Water Waste Treatment Plant and close to Cambridge North Station. Working with landowners Cambridge City Council and Anglian Water, master-developers U+I and TOWN are developing a vision for a new urban quarter in Cambridge. At the heart of the planned new district of North East Cambridge, the Core Site development will include approximately 5,600 homes, shops, workplaces, education, community and leisure facilities, and open spaces .
Planning the development, which is likely to take until sometime in the 2040’s to be completed, comes at a time when we are being asked by the climate emergency and the biodiversity crisis to re-imagine not just development but how we live. Children and young people are often so much better than adults at imagining a different future. Frances Wright, TOWN.
From its outset the entire project was grounded in inviting new ways to re-imagine how communities can live alongside each other and the natural world. Working with children aged 8 to 10 at Shirley Community Primary and Arts Ambassadors aged 13 to 14 at North Cambridge Academy, each time we began with an aerial view of the ‘Core Site’ and asked them to draw what they’d like to place there:
At Shirley Community Primary the ‘Core site’ became populated with a school, library, art gallery, pet shelter, animal cafe, football stadium, rugby pitch, museum with WW2 bunker, small farm, strawberry hut, dinosaur museum, animal forest, woods, trees, pond, hot air balloons, eco-friendly planes and kites, wind mill and dog park, supermarket, skate park, botanic gardens and underground exhibition, nature areas and grass, homeless shelter and movie theatre, hospital, pool, zoo and vet, a viewing platform in the trees and a place for fun among many other ideas. While the older students at NCA filled it with forests and paths through woods on the way with a friend, climbing trees or simply losing yourself in the sights, sounds and smells of the city.
We thought about all the different communities that might share this place, not only human but animal, insect, and plant life too, and played games of ‘exquisite corpse’ (a collaborative drawing game enjoyed by everyone). Incredible hybrid characters of the future emerged which were ‘all lovely and weird in their own way’ the younger artscapers explained.
At Shirley, working in pairs, groups and with older children leading workshops for younger children, we built wonderful large 3D installations that offered fantastical places. While at NCA a ‘creative site survey’ in nearby Arbury Court and library garden prompted immersive drawings and paintings of serene landscapes, woods with swings and pathways, parks filled with trees as benches, alongside vivid townscapes that looked backwards to past architectures as well as to the future.
Other ideas included, fairgrounds , forests, Crazy Land Hill and giant flying libraries delivering books to tree houses.
What is public space? What can you do there? What can’t you do there? These questions dominated our discussions. In both schools, these intense sessions of drawing and making, generated reflective spaces to consider in what ways our current built and unbuilt environment might be different. Children from the nearby traveller community who attend Shirley Primary School spoke from many personal experiences on this in particular.
It doesn’t seem fair – nature was there first and the trees can’t fight back.
Some places are public but we know they aren’t public to us.
It might say public but not all public can go there – maybe because of race or gender, maybe because they can't afford to.
Do we get discount on the housing there if we do this?
It’s going to become a no place…It will be built on and they’ll be nothing there..
As in the drawing and making, in these profound thoughts we noticed recurring themes and expressions of protection and care, especially for animals. At the same time, questions and concerns around ownership and responsibility returned in role-play around an impromptu ‘government’ licensing agency set up to decide which constructions stay and which are destroyed, skilfully evaded by a flying cloud house. For the all-female group at NCA, safety was critical, discussing skate parks, ‘toxic masculinity’ and how to make inclusive public spaces with art that celebrated role models including chemist Rosalind Franklin and former slave and anti-slavery campaigner Olaudah Equiano.
To conclude the project, these themes and thoughts of play, of nature, and of public space, alongside innovative responsible materials were collectively curated into ‘stations’ for a final exhibition, to which the developers, architects, and those involved in the city’s public space planning and production were invited. Hosted in Shirley school hall, the exhibition included canapés by Cambridge Sustainable Food, a participatory manifesto for the future and a screening of the film documenting the project by Sally Todd, all accompanied by piano music by one NCA student.
Critically, the exhibition provided a backdrop for a final group discussion in which artscapers and adults engaged in an equal and rigorous conversation around safety, locked or unlocked public spaces, animal corridors and wild nature spaces. A parting phrase from one of the developers seemed to sum up both the aspirations and the success of the project: ‘This is our brief now.’ Not only had the project invited new ways to re-imagine how to live together but also, over its 12 weeks, had itself created a fragile and future space; a collective space of imagining that enabled these young inhabitants of the city to articulate their concerns and wishes for its future.
Artist Sally Todd has been working with old and new artscapers recently to create pocket adventures cards for families. A group of nursery, reception and year five children from Shirley Community Primary School shared sessions of wonderful adventuring in the early spring of 2022, visiting the local nature reserve just a few minutes walk away. They spent time there in all weathers, exploring the woodland, pathways and wildlife in Bramblefields, slowing down to listen and discover and imagine as they respond to the ever-changing space of nature…from an icy pond to the first snowdrops to slumbering slugs in the rain.
'The children described it as the forest, bramblefields, hairy fields, strawberry fields, tweety fields, bramble bush….brambleforest ! It has 1000 trees, a jungle swing, the boot eater tree, the unicorn boat house tree, heart shaped leaves, furry leaves, spiky leaves, stripy leaves, a secret tunnel…and a bear cave.
And noticed how they heard a seagull, woodpecker, bees, flies, goats, a werewolf, bear, reindeer, the wind….and ice breaking
And saw green sticks, bramblesticks, porridge sticks, sticky sticks, black earth, snowdrops, pearly worms and purple flowers.
And noticed how they had climbed trees, collected nature colours, made maps, drew brambleforest, looked for bears, broke ice, dug for treasure…and found stories in the woods.'
Inspired by their findings and experiences, Sally worked with the children’s ideas and artist Hilary Cox Condron to design a pocket sized set of five adventures. Despite the very heavy rain at the celebratory launch in late March, the woods were filled with families eager to explore this inspiring and beautiful ‘pocket of nature’ in the city.
Thanks to the educators at Shirley Community Primary School and wonderful CCI volunteers Amanda Morris-Drake and Nomisha Kurian for their support on our journey.
The project was funded by the Talking Together team at Cambridgeshire County Council. These cards are part of the 50 things to do before you’ve five app, a free resource to help parents develop their home learning environment. It shares a wide range of low-cost and no-cost local activities.
The cards are free to download (see links below) to print or play with at home or send an email to request copies to be posted (we just ask for postage to be covered).
We received a Magic Little Grant through the partnership between Localgiving and Postcode Places Trust. Postcode Places Trust is a grant-giving charity funded by players of the People's Postcode Lottery. Localgiving is the UK’s leading membership and support network for local charities and community groups. Our project received funds to support us to share this resource with more groups and families across the city and beyond.
Seeking new Trustees
Are you looking for an exciting new way to have impact, develop yourself and do something meaningful beyond work?
We are looking to welcome new trustees to our board to help to set the direction of the charity and ensure that it is operating well. This is an exciting time to join the board at a critical point in the development of our strategic direction and growth.
Who we need
We have identified some skills gaps on our board and we are particularly looking for the following skills, knowledge and experience (we don’t expect to find all of these skills in one person):
- Management-level experience in a charity, commercial or public sector organisation
- Business development experience in a charity or public sector organisation
- Expertise in marketing
- Expertise in fundraising
You don’t need to have previous board/trustee experience, as support will be provided. These positions could therefore suit individuals taking their first steps to develop wider board level and governance experience.
If you don’t have these skills but are passionate about wanting to actively support CCI and believe that your experience or expertise could be useful to the charity’s board, please do get in touch. We are an equal opportunities employer, and we aim to have a diverse mix of skills and backgrounds amongst the members of the Board of Trustees. We therefore welcome and encourage applicants from all backgrounds.
Please note trustees are unpaid.
We meet quarterly for two hours in Cambridge (currently weekdays, early evening) and have an informal monthly meeting for an hour (often on zoom). The estimated time commitment is 2-4 hours per month.
How to apply
Review of CCI’s year 2020-21
there can be no better time to imagine how things could be different. Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination is an inspiring example, showing that learning and teaching can be re-imagined and that the next generation is not bound to repeat the mistakes of the past.
Daniel Zeichner MP, 2021
Shared here are the highlights from our last reporting year - August 2020 to July 2021, It includes an overview of the work undertaken by the extraordinary artists who make our work possible and the many partners who connect us to their communities. Our Chair Richard McClean also offers his highlights:
Several times through the year I’ve been in awe of what CCI does and how it does it. These are a few of the moments that have particularly stood out for me personally and that I recall in admiration:
- I didn’t know if it would be possible, but, against the odds, CCI completed the school-based projects in the ‘Eco-Capabilities’ programme with Anglia Ruskin University, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), enabling children aged 7 to 9 to (re)connect with each other and with nature and exploring how creativity and the outdoors impacts on children’s well-being.
- Walking through the Forest of Imagination in Wandlebury country park was a magical experience that I and 100s of other people shared. It was a huge collective artwork that prompted the imagination and fostered the connectedness with nature that is so important for our wellbeing.
- Reading the inspiring ‘Call for Spaces of Liberated Learning’, which invites us to consider what children’s education and learning could be like if we open our imagination, immediately struck a chord with me and spurred me on.
- Watching how the Creative Care programme has grown and, through connections with other charities, has enabled CCI’s work and ethos to touch new groups of people; the co-created packages brought relief and creativity to people in a time when face-to-face interactions were not allowed.
- Hearing stories of how the Artscapers projects supported communities to connect creatively with the world on their doorsteps
A Call for Being Together Differently
Step in/try out/open up
Adventure takes hold
Playful magic sparks joy
Vulnerability to value-ability
(word fragments from A Call for Being Together Differently)
We have been working with PHACE (the local cultural education partnership for Peterborough) as part of Fullscope’s Creative Care project, sharing resources and thinking for developing their Creative Parenting Programme. Two pilot projects led by PHACE, and working with artist Susanne Jasilek, supported colleagues from schools and educational settings to work creatively with families during 2020/21. The many rich threads of learning from these projects - including reflections from participants, data from school, feedback from families, and observations from colleagues - were shared with researchers Gabby Arenge and Emily Dowdeswell as material from which to create a new CCI ‘artput’. The process was beautifully supported by artist Susanne Jasilek, who helped realise their ideas in a sculptural form.
Unlike reports or presentations, with their tendency to not quite convey the power of the work plus their propensity to gather dust, we wanted an output from this work that sparked new conversations and continued to open up these new way so working for colleagues.
I got a lot from this work. I felt like we were really caring for families, not just showing them a website or putting them on waiting list. Lynda
Fullscope is committed to finding new ways to improve the system for supporting children and young people’s mental health and well-being. This initiative brilliantly illustrates how collaborative working across sectors and organisations can develop new ideas. It’s early days for this new resource but feedback from our Fullscope partners meeting and with Peterborough colleagues confirm our commitment to this innovative approach.
It was the perfect messaging and activity for a first F2F meeting back (for me).
Fiona Brice, Funding Officer, National Lottery
This has helped me to take a moment for myself. Jade
This is magic & important & really made me quite emotional. Rachel
Watch this short film, made for the Power of Partnerships 2022 event, which introduced colleagues to the call which formed the opening invitation for the gathering. We’d like to share it with other colleagues too so do please email if there’s a group you are working with who might be interested in these ideas.
Creative Care in 2021
Being invited to be part of this project made me feel less alone…..you don’t have to be good at art, you can just play around with materials…..I got given a choice about what I could do. I’m normally the person who asks ‘what am I meant to be doing? but with the creative care box you’re told you can do what you want with it…..I felt I could be my own person and do what I wanted. I will carry on using the box…I literally have a space in my drawer for the box of materials and will take it out whenever I’m stressed or if I feel creative. Feedback from young people at Centre 33
Creative Care is developing partnerships and resources that encourage a creative way of being in the world to support our mental health and well-being. These focus on exploring ways to reconnect with all our senses and with the pleasures of noticing, listening, making and shaping in order to express our own ideas.
Launched in April 2020 in response to lockdown, the programme is hosted by Fullscope, a new collaboration between seven leading organisations that support the mental wellbeing of children and young people in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
Explore here the resources developed to date, all free to download, both those created by artists in the CCI and Arts and Minds networks (a Fullscope partner) and those co-produced with young artists from The Kite Trust and Cambs Youth Panel. Many have short films for sharing alongside to help support people to access the invitations. Where possible these have been delivered as part of ‘creative care packs’ to children and young people who need them. Most recent partners include: Anglia Ruskin University, Centre 33, Cambs Youth Panel, The Kite Trust, and PHACE (Peterborough local cultural education partnership) with colleagues in Early Help at Peterborough County Council and Greenwood Academies Trust.
CCI is working closely with PHACE during 2021/22 to develop their new Creative Parenting course for educators working with vulnerable families, commissioned by and run in partnership with Peterborough City College.
The commitment to co-creation is key to this programme:
I wanted to get involved in this project as I find art to be incredibly therapeutic and hoped my contribution could help others explore their queerness through art. I’ve had lots of fun coming up with my offer and thinking about how nature supports us in our day-to-day life. Noah, The Kite Trust
This project has given us a way to provide activities for some of our younger service users at a time when we can’t get together face to face for games, art and discussions like we have previously. Being able to have these activities shaped by some of their older peers creates meaningful connections between different age groups of young people at The Kite Trust and a chance for young adults to develop their artistic practice. Pip Gardener, Chief Executive of The Kite Trust
Four young members of Cambs Youth Panel – Mimie, Ayra, Hannah and Ollie – met online with artists Hilary Cox Condron and Sally Todd to co-create the new resource for Creative Care – The Piece of Mind Box – which has been shared with young people at three local village colleges; Ely, Cambourne and Linton. Funded by The Evelyn Trust, this is part of the Cambridge 2030 campaign. Feedback from this programme indicate clearly how the work has impacted both on the students who co-created the box and the students who received them:
I loved all of it if I’m honest. I think this really helped to develop my ability to talk and present to new people, this is something that I do not normally do and I don’t particularly enjoy doing, but within this project I had many opportunities to do so and I think this has helped to develop my presentation skills making me more confident in presenting to new people.
I found having something to concentrate on other than just online school really boosted my mental health. It really helped to be talking to new people too especially in such a strange time when I found out about my exams being cancelled and not going back to school. It was a really great thing to focus on and forget my worries for a bit. Cambs Youth Panel member
This is the hardest I’ve seen any school try so far…. It’s actually an activity that might make someone feel a little better….it’s actually cute that the school cares…all I get is detention…I like the effort and a lot stuff was good…where’s ours?...honestly it’s a good box…A+ for effort…I wish my school did that…Ooh I wish I had this. Feedback via TikTok from students reviewing the Piece of Mind Box
A short summary from FullScope of this work is here.
Staff at Centre 33 have described how this emphasis on creativity and creative practice has helped them think about their own well-being in new ways as well as offering them another focus for their conversations with the young people they are working with: We speak with young people really struggling to cope. This project is a great way for them to engage in an activity which helps them to focus on their wellbeing in an enjoyable and creative way. It can also be a really helpful tool to help us to engage with them whilst they are awaiting further interventions for their mental health or emotional wellbeing. Lucy, Engagement and Support Project Worker.
Feedback from other participants in the programme to date include:
Thank you for providing us with all the amazing ideas and different ways to keep our children’s brains stimulated. We followed your guidance and collected as many different objects of as many different colours inside and out. My children loved doing the finding and searching as much as they did the creating. Thanks for providing the packages - made my life a lot easier for a couple of days!! do you have anything else up your sleeve to help spark the curiosity. Mother, via Instagram
Love the focus on natural objects & play, think we all need both now more than ever. Clare, Art Therapist
It was a delight to drop the creative care boxes round this morning. The children were absolutely thrilled and their parents really grateful. It really worked I thought, as a way to connect and engage with those families. I was feeling in bit of dip yesterday, with worry and feeling a bit fed up with the situation and what might happen next, but that was just really nice. What a pleasure to see everyone this morning, to know they’re okay, and for them to know all these people are still thinking of them. I could literally see that on their faces. Thank you for putting all of these materials and ideas together. You are wonderful. Headteacher, Wilburton Primary School
Creative Care packages have been sent to some of our most vulnerable families and have proved to be a lifeline to those that are engaging with them. One family in particular, who currently have no access to a computer or tablet, have wholeheartedly embraced the invitations given to them and have rediscovered what it is like to engage with the nature surrounding the place they call home. Many hours have been spent creating and imagining images and inventions for life outside their bubble. Many, many thanks to all involved in bringing this opportunity to our community. Headteacher, Mayfield Primary School
During 2020 CCI worked with Mayfield Primary School, The Kite Trust, Cambridge Academic Partnership, Cambridge City Council, Cambridgeshire Skills and Abbey Foodbank, and the Red Hen Project as part of this programme. Download here the executive summary of the evaluation of this stage of the programme.
Art, Nature and Well-being
Artist Caroline Wendling and CCI’s Director Ruth Sapsed are contributing to a new module for the Transforming Practice Masters programme at the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education. The MEd programme, launched in 2020/21, will ‘strengthen the knowledge, open-mindedness, innovation and potential to influence for educational practitioners across a range of professions’.
The Art, Nature and Well-being module, run by Dr Elsa Lee, is taking place across the summer term 2021. CCI have been writing and researching with Elsa since 2017 and are delighted to explore the deeper links between practice, research, and study through this module. This new course aims to develop understanding of place-responsive pedagogy and the role that connecting with nature through art can play in that. Elsa wanted to work with CCI because she has been influenced by the way that the artists at the charity use artistic practices, including the artful use of walking, to weave themselves and the children they work with into their places. Elsa has long been interested in the interpenetrations of place, wellbeing, nature and the arts, and describes how CCI’s work ‘provides the perfect playground for investigating these elements of childscapes that are so critical in this era of environmental disruption and degradation’.
Caroline has been commissioned to create a soundscape for the students, introducing them to her own art practice of walking and exploration. The 30 minute soundscape - home2studio - was conceived, written, spoken and recorded by Caroline:
I want educational practitioners located across the world to experience an artwork through walking in their own surroundings. I intend the walk to offer an unexpected and enhanced reading of nature, a connection to place and a sense of belonging. The soundscape might prompt students to think in new ways and reflect on their own educational practice. They will be asked to repeat their particular walk, reflecting on different aspects as they listen to it. With home2studio, I offer a rich sensory experience connecting different times, voices and places to create unexpected connections with the student’s familiar environments.
It brings together layers of sounds from field recordings of her daily walk to her studio in rural Cambridgeshire with readings of text appropriated, deconstructed and reconstructed from the 1956 novel Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata and Hildegard von Bingen’s Celestial Harmonies. home2studio is only available to students of the course but a short flavour is shared here. Sound artist Jake Ziegler supported with final edits for the soundscape.
A Call for Spaces of Liberated Learning
Sixteen years after the publication of CCI’s first resource, Enemies of Boredom, we are delighted to be sharing a new provocation – A Call for Spaces of Liberated Learning – created by researchers Gabby Arenge and Emily Dowdeswell. It is offered for free, as a gift for anyone interested in thinking about creating spaces where children can experience ‘liberated learning’ – spaces for flourishing.
This unique paper sculpture has been designed by artist Susanne Jasilek to be cut and folded and then displayed, to encourage debate and discussion and action. You can download and print one here (print double sided on a single A4 sheet) for free or order a full colour version on heavier paper from the CCI shop. Here are instructions for folding and here also is short film of Neil cutting and folding his.
Enemies of Boredom was an evaluation of The Hundred Languages of Children Exhibition and Programme of Events CCI was part of planning. It was a significant milestone for our charity, building connections with many wonderful colleagues we’ve worked with since. In 2020 two colleagues, Gabby and Emily – researchers we had met through ArtScapers and their work at the University of Cambridge - invited people linked to the exhibition to share stories of what had happened since and also to dream with them about the future.
Many conversations later they reflected how:
The principles of Reggio Emilia have planted seeds among our community, and we spoke of how those seeds have grown in different ways. We heard about spaces both real and imagined where children flourish - spaces these people have helped create so often in the past and continue to support today. Their words summoned a space for hopefulness. Since then we’ve been asking how we can make the reflections visible to collectively carry their insights and experiences forward.
Serendipitously, the Journal of Imaginary Research was accepting submissions of new short fictional pieces on the theme of a utopian, a hopeful, a better future. We felt this open-ended prompt aligned with a way of being and thinking that sought careful provocations and minimal instructions. Our words were published (page 32) by the Journal in November 2020. Next, we described the emergence of this short fictional piece in a special edition of the National Association of Environmental Education (NAEE) Journal, published this month, on creative ways to bring about change for ourselves, our communities and the wider world. Finally, we thought about how to create bridges through simple materials that enfolded our thanks to those who had contributed: something tactile, an activity unfolding that could be both a reminder of how we got to where we are and, for those new to these conversations, a call for where to go in the future.
With thanks to Anna Townley, Filipa Pereira-Stubbs, Idit Nathan, Issam Kourbaj, Jane Chudleigh, Karl Foster, Mandy Swann, Mary Connor, Mary Jane Drummond, Paula Ayliffe, Penny Hay, Robin Duckett, Ruth Sapsed, Sally Todd, Sharon Honig, and Sue Bainbridge.
Spaces for Imagination and Curiosity
This special edition of the Journal for the National Association of Environmental Education (NAEE) has been edited by Ruth Sapsed, Director of CCI. Drawing together articles from colleagues CCI is connected to, it offers a joyous celebration of examples of creative activism from around the UK.
I write in my editorial that perhaps if we’d spent more time imagining the unimaginable, some of the current crises could have been avoided. And then add – ‘One thing we can be certain about at the moment is uncertainty - for our children and the rhythm of their daily lives, for our communities and the structures we depend on, for the planet and the systems that support it. Finding ways to be pro-active and optimistic in the face of all this can feel overwhelming. This special issue brings together a collection of practitioners documenting examples of ever more important pockets of creative activism taking place in the UK today. Here are insights from just a few of the wonderful colleagues I’ve met or had the privilege to work with. They describe how all sorts of spaces have been discovered alongside young people and their communities; public urban spaces (Bath’s Forest of Imagination and City Mill Skate in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park); our local, sometimes muddy, spaces (a Newcastle woodland, a small school in Worthing, Hareclive in south Bristol); boundaried spaces (a Cambridge Primary School and the Eco-capabilities programme); virtual spaces (The Art of Creative Care) and, importantly, imaginative spaces (Writing the future and Liberated Learning).’
It’s been a pleasure putting this together for the NAEE. I hope it can open up more conversations about creativity and the critical links between nature, art and well-being for us all. Ruth Sapsed
Each year the special edition is printed (with the other two journals available online in digital form) and initially shared just to members of the NAEE, though it will be free to read online later this year. Please consider becoming a member - it is free to students and from just £20 for individuals. More information here.
What we do know is that ‘opportunities for free play, exploration of outdoor environments and interaction with other children and with adults….are all seen as being key to encouraging creativity’ (Durham Commision, 2019, p29). Arts-based approaches to education, which some see as under threat in the UK, offer wonderful opportunities to engage and reframe our relationship with, and understanding of, the environment….This edition of Environmental Education offers us a chance to reflect on our experiences with and look at novel ways of engaging with the world within us and around us.
Professor Justin Dillon, President of NAEE, Director of Centre for Research on STEM Education at University of Exeter
Finding Ways to Be Creative
On October 6th, 2020, I joined colleagues at Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination to hear about their experiences of working with children and adults in digital spaces these last months. Their reflections may resonate with the wider community and help others find ways to be creative together during this time of physical distance.
Sharing is more important than ever. But it is also more difficult than ever.
Reciprocal sharing is very important. We’ve tried out offering invitations with carefully selected art materials, photographs of work and links, creating films to introduce invitations, or soundscapes to be immersed in. Screengrabs and other platforms have allowed moments on a screen to be captured. As artists, we are developing new ways of being online to carry on working creatively together, to create artworks, a series of images, tell stories, share photos of the process and support collaborative sharing. The question of what is possible is crucial. How can we enable the creative freedoms we know are important? How can we support other adults we are working with to do this on our behalf if children are part of the group? The challenge is daunting. Achieving connection despite physical distance, especially with a big group, is vital.
A gift creates a link: it takes preparation, organization and generosity.
Something very rich can happen. Even digital spaces can become a meeting place for a shared process of storytelling. Through the lack of face-to-face interaction, it is possible to create the gift of connection in new ways. The offering of a gift – whether that is a special material, an art box, a soundscape or a story – can be the provocation that invites a beginning. Creating a space for gift giving and reciprocal sharing seems to support a spirit of assemblage and story so that everything can feel very live; a new space that can hold the group.
Preparing for a dance between the physical and the virtual
The beauty of a moment emerges through preparation. Any time there is a connection to real things, whether that is our bodies or objects and materials around us, there is potential for transformation. The digital medium can get in the way, so it is important to have help on hand to support the technical side. As artists, we need to be fully present in the moment. We need freedom and support to imagine how we can continue to make time to weave together all the ‘voices’ involved – our environment, teachers, children, school cultures, and the myriad of other connections in our community that can be our greatest resource when creating together. This process of 'calibration’ is vital. Relaxation, guided meditation and music can help reengage us with all our senses so that we can continue to work with the body despite screens and distance. And adaptability is of great importance. To achieve this responsiveness, a great deal of preparation is needed for each session.
We exist beyond the digital space. Zoom is just a place where we happen to meet.
Connecting online is not a brief window of engagement despite pixelated appearances. If you are someone bringing others into a digital session, the preparation will anchor you. There needs to be both preparation and improvisation to enable that element of sharing and storytelling. Think of it as a campfire. Name your environment, tell stories about your space, name the discomfort to help diffuse any uneasiness. It helps to know your audience and their experiences with this platform, to adapt to the group. For example, is this a shy group? Do we need to introduce ourselves slowly?
We can reach people in new ways.
Digital platforms are a small part of a bigger connection. People can join who would not otherwise have the chance to go to a physical space. Newsletters, short videos, whiteboards, warm-ups, incorporating objects, creative challenges can all contribute to collaboration. Chat boxes can also be an important tool. Time online is one part of an extended back and forth in lots of different directions, the artist can pull it all together in many ways.
Many questions remain. How do physically distanced connections between artists and classrooms or other meeting environments work? What is the ideal number for being creative together? How do we balance preparation, improvisation and the goal of open-ended process? How can digital platforms engage different types of learners, for example kinaesthetic learners, peripheral learners? How can we continue the sense of dialogue and exchange beyond these meetings? We have found the dis-embodied process of calibration to be time consuming and exhausting. These thoughts show how reconnecting with the body in space in a visceral way can help rebuild connectedness in these new meeting spaces.
Practically, it is important to understand that a one-hour time slot would ideally require a four-hour window that includes two hours for preparation and one hour for reflection. If we are going to move to a world where we aren’t in schools and workshop spaces, we will need to think how to structure sessions that incorporate that preparation and reflection time. The synchronous part is a tiny element of what becomes a complex, but potentially hugely enriching, process.
We are grateful to the Arts Council’s Emergency Fund for their support to CCI during lockdown. Funds from this grant supported four artists CCI to invest time and resources to reflect on the challenges of working online – Hilary Cox Condron, Filipa Pereira Stubbs, Sally Todd and Caroline Wendling. They drew on their work with FullScope’s Creative Care programme but also work with other partners during this period – in particular the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge Community Arts, and the Young Carers group supported by Centre 33 with the University of Cambridge Museums.
Emily Dowdeswell is a post-graduate research student based in Cambridge who first worked with ArtScapers in 2019.
15 years on
We have been thinking about the 100 Languages of Children Exhibition, held at the Kaetsu Centre in Cambridge in summer 2004, and Enemies of Boredom, its subsequent evaluation. This was 15 years ago but it remains a significant milestone for our work as a charity. We still refer to it regularly, particularly when planning professional development opportunities for educators. We also continue to meet colleagues for whom it triggered pivotal thinking and shifts in practice.
During 2020 the world around us and particularly for our children has suddenly shifted to become dangerously fragile. Hard questions are being asked about the world we want our children and young people to grow up in and how their education should be structured to support this. Brilliantly children are leading the way on this and often we find ourselves watching in awe at their articulacy and passion. We’re thinking about how our work can come alongside them and support change? It’s making us ask what me mustn’t forget? What do we know already to be important for children and their communities? Asking these questions has taken us back to this exhibition and evaluation and what it set in motion for us.
But we’d love to hear what happened for others too. What seeds were sown 15 years ago and what has become of them? Invitation to reflect (2020) is a new initiative where we are inviting everyone who was part of these experiences – as visitors, artists, organisers or volunteers or even those who have been moved by the publication since - to contribute their reflections to a new collection. Susanne Jasilek, one of CCI’s founding artists and the designer of Enemies of Boredom has designed the invitation. It is offered as a prompt to help stir the memories and remind readers of events in this period. She created this wonderful ‘cyanotype’ inspired cow parsley for the invitation saying –
Cow parsley, growing, full of promise and seeds.
Prolific in Cambridge and subject to my filming over and over.
Startlingly magical, beautiful and full of breeze.
This seemed to symbolise perfectly the possibilities visited in the 100 Languages exhibition and ‘Enemies of Boredom’.
If you’d like to contribute, please sent an email to Ruth.
Winner of an EMCEE Award 2020
CCI & KISS Communications are honoured to have won Best Corporate Partnership, a National Arts Fundraising School Emcee award 2020. The exceptionally strong short-list included Bristol Museums and Milton Keynes International Festival but the judges felt our work with KISS represented a genuine partnership that was mutually beneficial to both parties.
On receiving the award Simon Fryer, CEO of Kiss said:
On behalf of our Managing Director Sarah Reakes and the whole KISS Communications team, we are delighted to win this award. Our long standing partnership with Cambridge Curiosity & Imagination aligns our values with the desire to create social change and we've seen first-hand the value of CCI’s creatively inspirational approach and the successful outcomes to the programmes they run, some of which the KISS Communications team have had the pleasure of taking part in. This award recognises the many people that have contributed to the success of our ongoing partnership. Thank you.
Bridget Cusack, a trustee of CCI added:
We’re passionate about building creative connections with the world around us, recognising the critical importance of nature for both us, our health and well-being, and for the future of the planet. I made the nomination for KISS, to recognise the incredible value of our corporate partnership in helping us realise our ambitions to get more people out being creative in nature.
CCI has worked closely with KISS since 2016 when they redesigned our website. Since then they have offered the charity invaluable support, all pro-bono, developing the brand and website for our new social enterprise of corporate away days A Day in the Woods.
Poems for our NHS
Hasn’t it been wonderful to see all the amazing ways people are showing their love and admiration of the NHS?
Below are specially recorded short messages of support together with a reading of their own poem about Addenbrooke’s from the three Cambridge based poets who were part of Taking Note: poetry in moments. Dr Mike More, Chair of Cambridge University Hospitals, reads Welcome, the found-poem Kaddy Benyon created from many of the original stories. Helen Taylor, poetry advisor, to the project has also contributed a message along with her reading of Jo Shapcott’s poem for the hospital The Patient. These are being shared on the staff Facebook page and social media as ‘breakfast poems’ every Monday over the next few weeks.
Eve Lacey reads Memory Bone
Rebecca Watts reads When all this is over
Kaddy Benyon reads Head to Head
Helen Taylor reads The Patient
Dr Mike More, Chair of Cambridge University Hospitals, reads Welcome by Kaddy Benyon
I wish I were well and strong, so that I could give these poems the concentrated attention that they are serious enough to deserve. But I suppose the whole point about being unwell is that one is not in one’s best form as a critic. Nevertheless I can tell that these poems are serious, and they’ve certainly got a serious subject. The subject is life, and how it might be lost; and how it might be saved. There is brave and tender hope here; but, even deeper down, the thrill of being human. Clive James
Taking Note; poetry in moments was a new collection of poetry created especially for the community of Addenbrooke’s, our local NHS hospital (and part of Cambridge University Hospitals). The full collection and stories from the project can be read here. Copies are also available in the CCI shop.
NHS Super Heroes
What does this term mean to you? It feels especially meaningful now as we see so many incredible staff working so hard to help people. Now there’s a chance for everyone to create their own picture of an NHS super hero and send it in as part of a new fundraiser for the hospital.
Our colleague Filipa who works with us and also at the hospital running their dance programme has recorded this short film to help you start:
We’ve loved seeing many NHS superheroes appear in work created by children and young people in projects we’ve run with the Arts programme over recent years. Artist Sally Todd remembers in particular the ‘wonderful drawings by children from St Philip’s Primary School in Cambridge as part of the Future Reactive project. They were thinking about all the people who’ve worked there both in the past, the present and even the future. Their drawings included nurses, doctors and many therapy dogs – who the children called ‘dogtors’. We were lucky enough to meet Dylan, one of the real ‘dogtors’ when we were putting up the exhibition.’
This special competition is being run by Ely-based food ingredients company Cambridge Commodities with Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust in support of the hospital. Details are here. There are four age groups and the deadline is 1 June with a special exhibition planned for later this year.
Free wild exchange games
Explore the fantastical – free games to play at home, in your garden, on your walks
CCI has been making fantastical maps of places with young children, their schools and their families in the Fantastical Cambridgeshire project. These celebrate the real and imaginary worlds around us, bringing together words and images and ideas we discover on our shared creative adventures and helping us see our worlds with new eyes.
The games we are sharing here – we call them wild exchange games - can help you to begin creating your own fantastical map. They can be played anywhere by anyone. You could start with just your bedroom or even under your bed or create one for your road or the park you are walking to. You don’t have to go far to discover the fantastical.
You will need some paper and pencils and another key ingredient – time, as much of it as you can spare. Luckily that is something we all have more of now. You need to embrace the idea of slowliness too – this is a word we use in our work a lot. Take your time to listen carefully to each other and the world around you. Give yourself and everyone else permission to be playful and let go of certainties. In the world of fantastical mapping there are no right or wrong answers – just ideas and questions. Your unique map will include lots of different ideas and once complete, can also be offered to others as a starting point for their new journeys and discoveries.
There are 5 different maps – Maps from other minds – and three other games you can print off below. Together they offer at least 20 different prompts for how to start your own creative adventures.
With thanks to all the communities in the Fantastical Cambridgeshire projects who inspired these games. You can read more about their design here and the projects here. A set can also be purchased from the CCI shop.
Our Ways into Hinchingbrook Country Park – A Fantastical Guide for the Wildly Curious with a foreword by Rob Macfarlane can also be read online here.
To read this book is to see innocently again, and to renew your sense of words as being able to forge and conjure. It brims with the power of make-believe. Rob Macfarlane
Lost Words for Cambridgeshire
We’re losing nature as well as the names for nature - Robert MacFarlane
NEWS UPDATE - a copy for each primary school in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough was made available in 2018 thanks to the generous donations of so many individuals and support from The Francis and Maisie Pryor Charitable Trust. The campaign is now closed. Copies were shared at meetings and gatherings across the region. The final opportunity to request a copy was the Cambridgeshire Primary Headteacher’s Conference at Huntingdon Racecourse on November 22nd. Here is a list of the schools covered by the campaign. Final copies will be shared with these schools during January 2019.
Posters of this unique otter print created for the Cambridgeshire campaign are available here - all funds support the Lost Words campaign.
CCI has been campaigning to get Cambridgeshire children back to nature by getting a copy of The Lost Words book into every Primary School in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, as well as bespoke inspiring activities that creatively connect children with the outdoors. Launched in spring 2018, the campaign clearly touched a nerve and we are hugely grateful for the support it received.
Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination (CCI) creatively connects children with their local landscapes through real and imaginary adventures. The Lost Words, written by Robert MacFarlane and illustrated by Jackie Morris, is a gorgeously illustrated book that conjures lost words and species back into our everyday lives. Together we want to (re)connect children with the wondrous free natural opportunities that exist on their doorsteps.
Why do we all need nature in our lives?
The Lost Words at Cambridge Literary Festival
At the Cambridge Literary Festival, on the 14th April, Jackie Morris (illustrator of The Lost Words book) live-painted an otter, using Japanese ink and water drawn by Robert MacFarlane from the chalk springs at Nine Wells in south Cambridge. Robert hand-wrote the 'Otter Spell' from The Lost Words onto this too.
This artwork, created with wild water and sumi ink, pencil and gold leaf is unique. It is signed by both Jackie and Robert and has been auctioned, with all proceeds going to The Lost Words for Cambridgeshire campaign bidding has now closed.
Discover more about the creation of this artwork here in the comments section on Jackie's website.
Posters of the painting are also available to order from the CCI shop.
I have lived in Cambridge for nearly 25 years now, and all three of my children have been to our local state primary school. Jackie and I have been moved and amazed over the past six months by the energy and generosity with which many people around the country have campaigned to get copies of The Lost Words into every primary school in their borough, county or country, in an effort to green the classrooms of our children. Now a campaign has come to Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. I am so glad that it is happening, and grateful to those who are bringing it about, in the hope that it might help close the gap a little between childhood and nature in our region. Robert Macfarlane
We are running this campaign so that all Cambridgeshire children can benefit from Robert’s magical words, Jackie’s inspirational art and CCI’s expertise in creatively connecting children with nature. We all need nature in our lives.
The evidence about what happens to us, to our children, if we are not connecting with nature is alarming. In addition to this, children’s freedoms, both physical and emotional are continuously being eroded. Troubling statistics are everywhere yet successive governments pursue ever-narrower policies. It is more critical than ever that we get this inspiring book and accompanying support into schools across our county:
- ‘Nature deficit disorder’ is now a widely-used term and children’s roaming areas have decreased by 90% in the last 30 years.
- 1 in ten children now suffer from mental health difficulties severe enough to require treatment – at least three children in every classroom.
- The arts are rapidly becoming only for the most privileged with just 8% of the “wealthiest, whitest and most formally educated” proportion of the population making the greatest regular use of Arts Council funded organisations.
- Access to arts and culture has significant social impact: people who take part in the arts are 38% more likely to report good health; and students from low-income families who engage in the arts at school are 20% more likely to vote as young adults, twice as likely to volunteer, and three times more likely to get a degree
- New research commissioned by Fabian Think-tank talks of ‘deeply shocking landscape of diminishing arts provision in primary schools’ (2018)
- Parts of the county are some of the worst in the UK for social mobility (Social Mobility Commission 2016) with Cambridge itself described as a ‘social mobility cold spot’
- Cambridge identified as the least equal city in UK for second year in row (Centre for Cities 2018)
This magical book was created to celebrate and revive once-common “nature” words – from acorn and wren, to Conker and dandelion – dropped from the Oxford Junior Dictionary (and replaced by words like broadband and blog). It is a joyful celebration of nature words and the natural world they invoke. With acrostic spell-poems by award-winning writer Robert Macfarlane and hand-painted illustration by Jackie Morris, this enchanting book captures the magic of language and nature for all ages. The book has been described as a "cultural phenomenon" by The Guardian, for the speed with which it and its ideas have taken root in classrooms and homes across Britain since its publication in October.
The Lost Words is a brilliant catalyst for new conversations with schools about these essentials rights and freedoms for children - to explore, to imagine, to be creative and to connect with their local landscapes. You can hear more about the story of The Lost Words here:
And you can hear Robert Macfarlane talking about these issues and The Lost Words here:
BBC News Night
These bespoke resources have been produced by the John Muir Trust:
Penguin have now also produced 12 different 'challenge cards' packed with inviting ways to work with the ideas in the book. These can be found here.
CCI are Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination. We creatively connect children with their local surroundings in order to develop:
- children’s capabilities to care about themselves, each other and the world around them
- curious citizens with powerful imaginations
We work to explore the rich landscape of wild imagination and to stop wild play rapidly fading from our children's minds. This affects everyone – our children, ourselves and the world we are living in. We can’t care for a world we are not connected to.
CCI is all about empowering and encouraging young people to express themselves and to explore. This is so important - that exploration of themselves and the world around them - as the citizens of the future.
Amanda Askham, Head of Transformation, Cambridgeshire County Council, October 2016
CCI has been working closely with schools across the region to open up spaces for imagination and curiosity, to connect people of all ages with all that is fantastical on their doorsteps and reignite their capacities to have ideas and act on them. Resources informed by this work are available from the CCI shop, in particular our Wild Exchange Games - a collection of playful games for 'people of any age to play anywhere'. Find out more about our Fantastical Cambridgeshire programme.
Wild exploring – a CCI game in Aquila Magazine
The February edition of this unique magazine for children – described as ‘an intelligent read for inquisitive kids’ - explores happiness. We were delighted when the editor invited us to share an invitation to create your own fantastical map.
Read more about the magazine here.
Readers can also take advantage of our 50% off special offer and purchase their own set of Wild Exchange games for just £7.50.
I can create – Workshop delegate, January 2020
Artist Sally Todd led workshops at Brent’s Inspiring Creativity, Celebrating Culture 2020 Conference for Early Years Educators. Four wonderful groups joined us over the two days, spending time working with materials and invitations to explore their own creativity:
We invited the participants to explore the extraordinary architectural spaces of the Brent Civic Centre, working alongside a new colleague. We gave them mirrors to place around the building to propose different ways of looking, and encouraged them to draw the reflected images, shapes and patterns of the unexpected view points.
Back in the room, a selection of everyday objects was offered as a prompt to respond to in any way the participants chose. We invited them to consider the object’s function and then reinvent the piece through story and visual representation. Materials provided to experiment with included paper, theatre gels, wire, string, ink and pastel. We also invited them to consider using a prompt from an earlier CCI project with children, exploring through the eyes of another…such as a mouse…or a caveman archer.
We heard how they relished this time to try out new ways of working and reflect on their own settings:
I felt like a child engrossed in their project…I felt like everything around us can be inspirational….it was fantastic to move around…the workshop made me think how I need to stop and breathe.
The workshop made me want to…explore, create, give time to myself…think about how to use ordinary objects in different ways….become more adventurous in creating away from the computer.
It was fascinating to watch each group engage with the building, each other, and this collection of everyday objects and limited materials. Each time we celebrated the individuality of responses and the brilliant conversations prompted by these ways of exploring and making and thinking.
Creativity as Pratice
A professional development programme for early career Artist Educators
We have now offered the four places for early career Artist Educators for our new professional development programme developed in partnership with Anglia Ruskin University, Goldsmiths University & Kettle’s Yard. We are delighted to be working wtih Fay Jones, Lauren Wilson, Seana Wilson and Tonka Uzu.
This programme has been designed to nurture new talent. It was developed in recognition of the need to equip early career Artist Educators with access to appropriate development routes and ensure relevant and timely support and opportunities. It will be run alongside CCI’s schools programme in spring/summer 2020.
The programme offers:
- two training days led by CCI and Esther Sayers (Goldsmiths University) at Kettle’s Yard
- one day of research training led by Nicola Walshe, ARU, as part of the ARU Eco-capabilities research
- an assistant Artist Educator role on an 8 day school based project with final project celebration day in Anglia Ruskin University
- mentoring support throughout above from experienced CCI Artist Educator
- the opportunity to join our supportive network with potential to work as a CCI Artist Educator in future.
Applications closed on Wednesday 1st January, 2020.
This programme is supported by Arts Council England.
National Poetry Day 2019
The poems Welcome and Little One were written especially for the Addenbrooke’s community in 2017 by poet Kaddy Benyon as part of Taking Note: Poetry in moments. They were unveiled as permanent fixtures of the Addenbooke’s Arts Walk on National Poetry Day this year (3rd October), to be enjoyed every day by patients, staff and visitors on their journeys through the hospital.
Welcome is a ‘found poem’; poet Kaddy Benyon took phrases from 46 of the Taking Note stories to create it - the photo below captures the moment that Rosie and Alasdair identified theirs. Read here for text version.
These poems are part of the new collection specially commissioned for the hospital community, written by Jo Shapcott (winner of the Queen’s Gold Medal, 2011, and the Costa Book Award, 2010) and Cambridge based poets Kaddy Benyon, Eve Lacey and Rebecca Watts, who spent autumn 2017 engaging with patients, visitors and staff. The collection can be read here.
I wish I were well and strong, so that I could give these poems the concentrated attention that they are serious enough to deserve. But I suppose the whole point about being unwell is that one is not in one's best form as a critic. Nevertheless I can tell that these poems are serious, and they've certainly got a serious subject. The subject is life, and how it might be lost; and how it might be saved. There is brave and tender hope here; but, even deeper down, the thrill of being human. Clive James
Taking Note was supported by Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust, Awards for All and the Cambridgeshire Community Fund.
The Art of Reading
A huge temporary public artwork was created by more than 400 children from Milton Road Primary School with artist Patsy Rathbone. It was unveiled in early July 2018 and transformed a 50 metre stretch of builders’ hoardings around the site of the new Milton Road Library whilst it was under construction. The panels were taken down in April 2019 and gifted to the school to enhance some of their corridors. Elements of the design are also now incorporated into the new library, opened in June 2019.
The display was the end result of a community art project called The Art of Reading and was produced by a group of volunteers led by Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination director and local resident Ruth Sapsed, a member of the Friends of Milton Road Library, working in collaboration with community activist Ysanne Austin, artist Jo Tunmer and producer Nicky Webb.
Every child in the school took part in a day’s activities exploring the joy of reading, talking about and drawing their favourite reading places and reading companions. The finished artwork featured reading in all sorts of fantastical places and in all sorts of situations: on the moon, on top of a volcano, in a dinosaur’s mouth, on a reading train. Hundreds of enchanting details were included and explored by passers-by. The artwork is now being incorporated into the new designs for the interior.
The project was made possible with support from Cambridge City Council, Coulson (the developers), a group of local trusts and businesses and more than 70 individuals who contributed via a Crowdfunding campaign.
Ruth volunteered her time saying I love libraries. They offered me sanctuary and inspiration as a child and when I was raising my daughters. Now I understand how valuable they are as community spaces too. Einstein said ‘the only thing you have to know is the location of the library’. He also said that imagination is more important than knowledge as knowledge is limited but imagination encircles the world. This celebration of a library and reading and brilliant imaginations was at the heart of our community for many months at least, and gave joy to many many people.