Students join forces with Feral Spaces
“We started off with almost a blank canvas. But we didn’t see that as an obstacle. We saw it as an opportunity.”
Year 7 student Subhan
Over the past few weeks, several of our Year 7 students have taken part in a project with Feral Spaces. Feral Spaces are a local community group who ‘transform spaces through child centred placemaking and immersive art experiences.’ Taking disused spaces in the local community, the group work with young people in transforming these spaces into areas that can be used by the local community.
Having worked with our Academy before, our students were invited to take part in a project at Burslem Port which saw the students make a massive impact on the area.
The project took place over a three week period, with our students heading to Burslem Port once a week to showcase their creativity and innovation, whilst develop new skills carrying out activities that some had never experienced before.
On Day 1, students Lara and Olivia quickly established a den within four trees and planned out their ideas for the area. This included cutting back some of the branches and weeds, before building a swing; hammock and a sheltered area from the sun. An ambitious plan that they took head-on with the help of local specialist Martyn, who provided a great source of knowledge and materials.
Joshua; Marco and Subhan found their base at the bottom of a small decline and undertook the massive job of clearing the spaces of all weeds and brambles to make it more habitable, before working on a tree swing of their own.
Caitlin and Gabriela’s plans for their base was to provide a ‘tranquillity of solitude’ as they found a peaceful spot that needed some clearing before they worked on building a bench.
Working with determination and commitment, the students used a variety of tools to help them bring their ideas to life. Saws; drills; hammers; secateurs; and rope were all used under expert supervision, as the students took a hands-on approach to the project and helped each other to create their urban spaces.
Lara said: “I haven’t really done anything like this before. It’s amazing. We’ve actually built our own swing and hammock. We planned it and then made it happen. All of us have worked hard to make the area better for the community.”
Day 2 saw the completion of the previous week’s work, as well as walk around the area to get a feel for the calming environment and the possibilities within it. The students all used digital cameras and ipads (with Boomerang becoming a firm favourite) to capture their 3-day journey and build a portfolio of work. With the help of Laurel and Jenny from Feral Spaces, and Miss Rees from the Academy, the students finessed the work from the previous week and ironed out any kinks and flaws.
A den was also created as a base for a video diary area. Throughout the project, the students stopped to reflect on the work they were doing and why they wanted to do it.
Joshua said: “Really enjoyed taking part in the project. It’s been great to use all the different tools and build swings and benches. It’s a great experience outside of the classroom.”
The third and final day saw all students use shovels to dig up some of the ground to find clay, which was then used for clay modelling as they showed off their burgeoning creativity. But the favourite activity of the day was the spray painting, as the students used a variety of colours and techniques to create pieces of work that will be displayed in the Academy.
Laurel Gallagher, Creative Director of Feral Spaces said: “We have been working with young people in Middleport since 2016, building dens, taking photos and creating artwork in disused spaces. We see how spending time in wild spaces improves young people’s sense of well being and this research will help us to provide more opportunities for young people to connect with nature, creativity and community in their local neighbourhoods.”
The students involved (Olivia; Lara; Caitlin; Gabriela; Subhan; Joshua and Marko) did themselves and the Academy proud with their attitude and commitment to the project. They worked fantastically well as a group, helping each other as well as working independently when required. They produced amazing work and really helped transform the area for the local community to use. A massive well done to them all from a very proud Academy.
And a huge thanks to Laurel; Jenny and Martyn from Feral Spaces, and Academy staff Miss Rees and Mrs Taylor.