Case Studies

Kettle’s Yard

Key Stage 1 and 2 (ages 5 – 11)

Maritime artworks and a unique domestic collection inspire year 3 pupils to create messages in bottles and lead family tours. Long term partnerships benefit the whole community.

  • Pupils had more creative ideas, increased use of describing words, made their images far more exciting, and thought about the subjects in the images as characters
  • The children became project advocates; one pupil brought her mum back to the gallery seven times
  • The support worker for one pupil, highly coded on the autistic spectrum, reported his extensive use of nautical vocabulary related to the programme, as he was so inspired

Between 1957 and 1973 Kettle’s Yard was the home of Jim and Helen Ede. Jim had worked at the Tate Gallery in London, and supported his artist friends including Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Christopher Wood and David Jones by purchasing works early in their careers. Jim carefully positioned these artworks alongside furniture, glass, ceramics and natural objects in his home, with the aim of creating a harmonic whole.

The project took place through four sessions, and the school also adjusted the order of the curriculum topics so that the project was fully integrated. The term topic was rivers, so a nautical theme was developed, which capitalised on the character of the Kettle’s Yard collection.

The pupils’ visits to the gallery explored maritime themes found across the collection and they were encouraged to think about how individual objects ‘make conversation’ with each other. Pupils acted as guides to family relatives and explored how Jim and Helen Ede developed their collection, and how Jim loaned artworks to students. With the support of teachers and parents, they wrote letters to Jim and Helen explaining which objects they might like to borrow from the house and what they would loan in their place.

The workshops also included origami boats filled with ideas and stories inspired by the works at Kettle’s Yard, and messages in bottles written by ‘shipwrecked’ pupils.

A temporary exhibition of work by Ian Hamilton-Finlay was on display at the Gallery and this was used as additional stimulation. Pupils thought about the visual impact of the written word and created their own sea and sky of words.

Kettle’s Yard
Kettle's Yard, Cambridge
Gallery lead
Karen Thomas
Creative Writer
Claire Collison
The Grove School, Cambridge
School leads
Helen Harwood and Filipa Aurelio
Year 3 (age 7-8)
Number of participants
  • developing vocabulary
  • EAL
  • writing for audience

Resource produced

Making Conversations

Downloadable PDF

Activity cards with a maritime theme for younger pupils and supplementary teachers' notes. These encourage storytelling and creative writing for younger pupils or those for whom English is an additional language.

Want to explore a creative approach to literacy?

  • Integrate an arts-based literacy project into a wider school topic or theme for maximum impact
  • Encourage pupils to have ‘ownership’ by being hosts and guides for their parents and carers
  • Identify and agree specific aims and outcomes to maximise the power of your project

Explore more ideas in the resources

Long term impact

Making Conversations with Kettle’s Yard, the Grove Primary School and Claire Collison

Kettle’s yard and the Grove Primary School have developed a strong, sustained partnership, working together on a variety of projects every year. More than a hundred pupils at the Grove have achieved Arts Award qualifications and they have worked with artists with a variety of practices exploring themes as diverse as community cohesion, the history of communication, wellbeing and carnival. One of partner teachers has also become a member of the Kettle’s Yard committee (board equivalent) and so supporting the strategy and growth of the gallery.

We were delighted to work with writer Claire Collison and some of the MaxLiteracy pupils 2018, when the pupils were the first to visit the new Kettle’s Yard following a significant capital project. Together they wrote an original poem inspired by their visit, which they read before officially reopening Kettle’s Yard to thousands of eager visitors on the 10th February 2018.

“How obscure a concept is a message in a bottle, if you’ve never even been to the seaside? … Imagine you are by the sea? They didn’t have to invent something out of nothing.”

Clare Collinson, (Creative Writer)

3 years on: The impact of MaxLiteracy on young people’s creative confidence.

Gifting Creativity: Students from The Grove Primary School presenting their poems as part of the re-opening of Kettle’s Yard

Explore other case studies

Leeds Art Gallery

Key Stage 1 and 2 (ages 5 – 11)

An original painting, On the Move by Jack Butler Yeats, is loaned to a local primary school where it stimulates ideas for colour, poetry, music and public performance.

  • art on loan
  • families
  • poetry

BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art

Key Stage 3 (ages 11 – 14)

A major exhibition is the stimulus for bookmaking, guided writing, printing and random poetry, and an alternative audio guide for the venue is voiced by year 7 students.

  • exhibition
  • mixed ability
  • visual impairment

York Art Gallery

Key Stage 3 (ages 11 – 14)

An evocative statue of a bleeding young boy is the starting point for year 9 students to explore storytelling, poetry and playwriting through drama and wordplay.

  • creative literacy
  • empathy
  • five senses
  • role play

Looking for funding?

Check back here for an announcement on when the next funding round will open

Find out more