When Marguerite and I arrived at the auditorium at the Romsey School in Hampshire, we entered a world of organised chaos. Like elves in a workshop, over 40 primary pupils guided by 20 of their secondary school peers were busily cutting, gluing, measuring, designing and fitting.
In the background, a projector rotated pictures of carnival festivities in Rio, Trinidad and Notting Hill to the drum beat of soca, while the walls were adorned with messages, such as “what is your cause?”, “what do you care about?” and “what do you want to say?” These questions were answered at the end of the day when parents gathered in the hall for the colourful culmination, a carnival where students paraded the social issue or charity of their choice.
Heather, who works with Go Givers schools in Portsmouth and Southampton, organised a full day event where pupils from Awbridge Primary School, Portsmouth Schools Student Voice group representatives, the Go Givers Club from St. Joseph’s RC Primary School, and a network of home schooled children came together to choose an issue they care about and then create costumes and floats to represent their choice. Using the history of carnival as a form of social organising, Heather worked in partnership with community artist, Jennie Rawles, to give the pupils an opportunity to voice their concerns creatively. The event piloted the “Senior Leader Teams” model where Year 9 students facilitated the process with the designing and costume-making skills they gained in their training session with Jennie. The older students took their jobs seriously, whether it meant maintaining the safety standards of the glue guns, or patiently helping their primary-age counterparts cut around a tricky bit of material, or making sure everyone was happy with their final product.
As Jennie pointed out, the event “gives them a chance to be creative. Most people think you have to be an artist to be creative, but children see things adults might not. They can turn a scrap of material into a sleeve.” From a cardboard box converted into a 2-person dog costume to represent the RSCPA, to an old fleece transformed into a polar bear trapped by melting ice caps, an effect of global warming, both pupils and students learned how to be resourceful, but also that fun and celebration can make a difference.