Day two of Tate Exchange partnering with ANDInclusive, saw 19 special schools with 6 new collaborations, coming together to connect, share their work and engage with the public through music, drama, dance and sculpture. It was great to be a part of AND Inclusive again as it was chance for me to connect with their fantastic network and see what new artworks students had made and responded to. This year students responded to the theme of ‘Production, the seen and unseen’. 6 zones; Welcome area, Boxes zone, Inflatable zone, the Sometimes quiet zone, Southwark Room and the Knowledge Wall, were curated in the Tate Exchange to allow schools to have flexibility over choice of where they’d like to go.
The sound of tapping feet ran throughout the entire day at the Tate Exchange. Day 2 of AND Inclusive saw schools arriving at 11am, starting off with Inclusive drama workshops taking place in the Southwark Room. Other activities included sound and salt-scaping, drama and dance, along with music workshops taking place in the Southwark Room, whilst out in the general space, students could feel free to do what they liked, having the choice to create whatever they wanted using many different mediums.
Today I took over the comms for AND, which was an exciting and slightly a nerve-wracking prospect, as it would be my first time doing social media for someone other than myself!
The first drama workshop of the day kicked off in the Southwark Room with pupils from 4 different schools collaborating together. Responding to the changing seasons, students from Northway school performed a lovely BSL (British Sign Language) signed piece. This was so moving to watch as it was so delicately performed by students. Watching the performance, I question why BSL is not taught as part of our mainstream education. It’s such a lovely and crucial language that I think is missing in our system. I think being open to the right communication is vital to opening up more opportunities, especially for disabled people or non-verbal communicators. There was an article I was reading from BBC News where MPs were urging BSL to be made part of the national curriculum, that attracted over 32,500 petitioned signatures. This was a follow on from the success of Oscar winning film The Silent Child, starring a profoundly deaf lead actress, aged 6.
Whilst an Inclusive dance workshop led by Beatrice Tate School students got going, I turned my attention to a performance by Priory School who were in our inflatable zone space. Music, colour and animals filled this space as we watched students act out jungle scenes through animated storytelling. What I loved about these active spaces was that students could freely express themselves to do whatever they liked.
Creating inclusivity is key to making a space or event feel comfortable to whoever is using it. This year ANDInclusive achieved much more than creating just a space to be used by schools. Apart from giving students more independence, leaving schools to be free and allowing them to do what they liked it created room to meet and make new partnerships. It also gave students the luxury to be creative in different ways. It was just nice to see natural responses students made to both the collection and pieces exhibited in the space.
Around lunchtime we had a young student from Redgate Primary School present and share her personal embroidery work with us which was being exhibited in the main Tate gallery!
This was so great to hear and I felt very happy that Tate gave her the space to exhibit her work. Providing young people with the opportunity to exhibit personal work can feel very fulfilling and I loved that you could see the excitement and confidence on her face.
Back at the Tate Exchange students put on an impromptu performance of small pieces they had been practising all morning for the public to come and view from 12pm. It was nice for the day to open to the public in the afternoon as it allowed them to roam freely and sometimes even engage with the artwork, something that didn’t happen last year. Some even commented on how good it was to see works from all these students.
After a packed out morning of school engagement, the afternoon was open to the public until closing. Watching the public, there was a connection moment of empathy expressed when the public viewed and interacted with the artwork.
I felt ANDinclusive was more relaxed this time than last year, all activities happened mainly in one space, which made them more accessible. The day felt like more of a collaboration between everyone, including the public and I also think it brought schools closer together which allowed for new partnerships to take place.
I think for special schools, it’s so great to be given these opportunities for connection and collaboration in such a great space like the Tate which is something is lacking in mainstream environments. It’s about trying something new, making space available, inclusive and most importantly accessible which I think Tate, as a collective is great at doing.
A great take-away and a quote I heard that I think this reflects quite nicely with what went on today. From mobile, kid-integrated design firm, KIDMob based in San Francisco says, “It is about giving the smartest people around, kids, the power to create their own world.”
Jess Ryan-Ndegwa is the founder of Design for Disability. Click here to find out more about the organisation, and click on the links below to read her other ANDInclusive blogs.