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British Art Show 9 (BAS9) Lead Teacher Blog


As our worlds get smaller, how do we maintain big imaginations? 

Fay Patrick - Reception Teacher and Arts Co-ordinator at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Primary School, Birmingham 

I chose to become a British Art Show 9 lead teacher because I was interested in introducing our children to a more diverse range of artists and art practices. Contemporary art gives children the opportunity to question, wonder, create and express themselves freely without being restricted by traditionally recognised art processes.  

The return to school in September was an uncertain time. Despite being pleased to see my colleagues and children, I felt trepidation about what was to come. If I was feeling that way, I wondered how the children in my class might be feeling. With so much time spent at home, I knew that I needed to support their transition into the rhythms and routines of school life whilst also providing a safe space for them to explore their emotions.  

How could I nourish my children’s imagination whilst also supporting their emotional and social well-being? Contemporary art practice seemed like the obvious solution, as it allows children to channel their imagination, express anxieties and develop an effective form of communication.  

In September children returned to school after six months of intermittent lockdown. Forced to stay inside, their worlds have become physically smaller, with reduced experiences and interactions.  I noticed the impact this had upon the way children play, interact and regulate their emotions. Instead of the usual experience and narrative based play that naturally emerges at the beginning of the Reception year, play was unfocused and children lacked the ideas to sustain it.   

I wanted to use the project to explore how play could be enhanced, despite a reduction in real world experiences. Using the idea of internal space, the project aims to use contemporary art to develop children’s imaginations to positively impact upon their development.  

As our worlds get smaller, how do we maintain big imaginations?  

Of the many talented artists taking part in BAS9, Tai Shani’s work really stood out; particularly the way that she uses narrative at the core of her work and interprets writing in many different ways including installation, film and object making. I was interested in exploring her idea of world making with the children and creating objects that could be used to provoke imagination, tell stories and enhance play experiences.  

We began by reading stories that focus on what Shani calls ‘fictive space.’ Together, we chose key themes, language and images to inspire our creative work. The children were set the task of creating an imaginative place, bringing together favourite imagery. They were highly motivated and engaged throughout. The end result was an intricate and detailed tableau, depicting their inner worlds and ideas. We have displayed the work so the children can use the loose parts in the outside area to construct their world. We have already observed increased levels of engagement, creative play-based storytelling and co-operation. The children feel empowered to create their own narratives as they build their imaginative worlds.  

Going forward, we hope to work with an artist, either virtually or in person to create a large- scale installation space for play and storytelling.  

The open-ended nature of the project means that the practice can take any form and is guided by the children’s ideas. The key is that their contributions are valued and that they come to recognise their practice as art rather than being restricted by traditional art outcomes.  

Through the BAS9 project, we will continue to offer our children opportunities to experience a diverse range of arts and culture and use contemporary practices to enhance development in the Early Years.  

The Lead Teachers project is being delivered by Arts Connect across the West Midlands region. Find out more about the project in this article.

About Arts Connect 

Arts Connect are a development agency, delivering the Bridge programme in the West Midlands for Arts Council England, they are part of the University’s Faculty of Arts, Business and Social Sciences and they support communities across the West Midlands, in enabling children and young people (from 0-25) to enjoy a rich and meaningful arts and cultural life. 

Arts Connect work with 500 education partners and 1,700 teachers, 300 arts and cultural organisations as well as 150 artists across the Midlands region. Arts Award Discover is an introductory award, designed for ages 5 to 11 years, but is also open to young people up to 25 years old. 

About British Art Show 9 

The British Art Show is presented by Hayward Gallery Touring every 5 years and it is the biggest touring exhibition of contemporary art in the UK and widely acknowledged as the most important recurrent exhibition of contemporary art produced in this country, unrivalled in its ambition, scope and national reach. 

The University of Wolverhampton is working with Arts Connect to create an exciting British Art Show 9 (BAS9) learning programme to inspire teachers and young people to engage with the show and explore contemporary art. 

Ten BAS9 Lead teachers from across the West Midlands will share their explorations and learning to support and inspire creative teachers from all education stages and levels to take advantage of the show which will be exhibiting in Wolverhampton at the Wolverhampton Art Gallery and University of Wolverhampton School of Art from 22 January 2022 until 10 April 2022. 

Anyone looking to study at the University of Wolverhampton should register for one of our forthcoming Open Days. 



For more information please contact the Corporate Communications Team.

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