Open Eye Gallery worked in partnership with Wirral Hospitals’ School and creative writer Pauline Rowe to build upon previous visual approaches to learning and develop new fusions of photography/creative writing methodologies to engage students. The project embedded the NHS 5 Steps to Wellbeing: Connect, Be Physically Active, Learn New Skills, Give to Others and Be in the Present.
Using the school as a gallery space, Open Eye Gallery installed an exhibition using images from their archive that reflected the interests of pupils. The photographs explored ideas of identity through place, objects, urban and coastal landscape, and the experience of being young in a changing world. Having the gallery experience in school was important for the students and made photographic art accessible to them.
The in-house gallery also provided a resource for the creative writer to develop workshops and activities that would build the literacy skills of the young people and support them in developing their creative responses to the world.
Linked to this, pupils took part in photo-walks to make their own photographic images to further inspire their creative writing and interpret their environment and the things that mattered to them.
As part of the delivery process the creative writer Pauline also delivered a professional development workshop to the education staff within the setting, enabling them to work alongside the project with confidence and understanding of the process.
Using Open Eye Gallery’s archive, an exhibition of 15 photographs were selected based on the special interests of the students and displayed in the school between June-September 2021. The photographs acted as a stimulus for creative writer Pauline Rowe to develop a series of writing workshops aimed at all ages in the school (ages 12-15).
During the workshops, participants took part in tasks such as gathering words from photographs, discussing ideas and feelings, asking questions of the photograph using senses and imagination, reading a text/poem together aloud, individual writing, group writing, sharing work and editing and redrafting. The participants also took part in several photography workshops using both the exhibition and a photo-walk treasure hunt as prompts to inspire their images. The project culminated in a final sharing of the students work which was printed and exhibited at a parent’s day at the beginning of the new school year.
The writer took an approach which considered how young people might process information and their own and others’ emotions and ensured that wellbeing was at the heart of the activities. The writer adapted an approach familiar to the pupils and used teaching materials that gave visual prompts and shared with them what was expected from the session. This allowed them to approach the learning in a more relaxed way whilst still maintaining a structure that was familiar to them.
The young people were able to express their creativity outside of the sessions with the writer and began to apply their learning spontaneously from the creative writing sessions to music and drama. This encouraged students to explore other people’s emotions and feelings and this again supported their emotional intelligence.
All of the partners involved felt that they had valuable opportunities to learn from each other. The project has highlighted how well photography and creative writing complement each other. The combination of the exhibition in the school at the same time as the writer was there enhanced the students’ experience as they were able to engage with both aspects at any time of the day. Having a gallery within the school has been an important development. It was felt that having artwork in school brings cultural links and that this is particularly important for some children who may not have the opportunity or the motivation to visit a gallery space.
Writing Photographs is a resource suitable for Key Stage 3 and 4 students and was devised by poet and writer Pauline Rowe, working in partnership with Open Eye Gallery and students from Wirral Hospitals’ School, Birkenhead.
The activities in the resource are designed to help students improve their creative writing and literacy skills, improve self-confidence and self-appreciation, and develop creative expressivity and imaginative responses through engagement with the visual stimulus of photographs.
Using the poems and photographs taken during the project a small publication was made. To view the publication click the link shown in the Resource produced panel.