Sixteen children looked at some of the 1930s and 40s school photos, newspaper clippings, memories and school log (HT diary and punishment book) entries and found stories within them from the outbreak of war to VE day. Working in groups the children brought these stories to life through drama and sketching/annotating. Having selected the stories that they thought should feature on the mural, we set these to Lisa Temple Cox. Lisa was tasked with depicting these war years stories from a child’s POV. She re-created quotes from the Headteacher log/punishment book and included these in the mural – but predominantly it was visual. Two children from every class from reception to year 6 were selected to take part in the painting. A group of year 6 artists acted as mentors, allowing our more withdrawn/shy children to take part. Over the course of three days the mural was painted. The children asked lots of questions about the story and about the painting process. Teachers, MDSAs, cleaners, kitchen staff, support staff and governors also painted the mural after hours. The children’s diverse backgrounds and heritage is reflected in the mural as we allowed the children to chose skin tones that reflected their reality.
The mural was displayed in school as part of an arts and heritage exhibition which all children from the school visited. Parents, friends of the school, and some of our arts partners also visited. It will be permanently displayed on a long corridor, which leads on from the school’s art gallery. High quality photographs of the panels mean it can be accessed in class for closer reference. This will be used as part of our art and history curriculum, or simply for inspiration.
Through this process we talked about the parallels between now and then. For example, the school was closed for 4 months whilst the air raid shelter was built. The headteacher visited homes and gave the children work to be getting on with. She later commented that this and the frequent school closures due to air raids had an adverse effect on the children’s education.
34 children were directly involved from reception to year 6. Over 700 people have seen the mural.