Mar 13, 2019


The Hastings Opportunity Area is funding hundreds of free enrichment activities aimed at offering services to children and young people. We caught up with director of Culture Shift, Catherine Orbach, to tell us about Space to Create, an after school arts programme.

What is Space to Create?

Space to Create is an after school arts and wellbeing programme, which is currently running for around 30 children across three primary schools. Over eight weeks, children try their hand at a number of different art styles, materials and ideas, but the primary focus is to create a safe space for children who for whatever reason have difficulties engaging in the curriculum.

Where is it being run?

It’s being run in three primaries – The Baird Primary Academy, Churchwood Primary Academy and St Leonards Primary Academy. The sessions are led by maker and animator Janey Moffatt, illustrator Ed Boxall and music therapist Phoene Cave – so we have a broad range of very talented and enthusiastic people who are very passionate about working with children.

What kind of activities to you run?

We offer a range of different types of creative activities including clay, printmaking, sewing, sculpture and painting. Every child has a sketchbook which they work in each week. We’ve also worked on animations, music and large scale collaborative projects. Children at Churchwood Primary Academy worked on designing and decorating a bookshelf with staff from Hastings Furniture Service.  However, it’s really important that the sessions aren’t too much like school. We never force our groups to do things they don’t want to, but instead offer the opportunity to enjoy being creative. Over time each group will let the group leaders know what activities they enjoy and would like to do more of.

What are your aims?

Our aim isn’t to create a school full of professional artists, but to allow creativity to unlock each individual child’s potential. There is a key thread of well being and enrichment in all of the activities. We make space in all sessions for children to check in and talk about what is happening for them. Our creative activities will support children to explore and express how they are feeling; for instance, in one workshop we ask children to create their own masks: but we ask them to create one which represents how they show themselves to the outside world, and another which shows how they really feel. Self expression builds confidence in children, and helps them to feel at home in their school environment and with their peers.

We are keen to encourage children to feel free, with no pressure or expectations so they can create whatever they like. We also encourage play, and encourage children to play outside as part of each session. . Many children need extra attention and support, and the regular school environment can be stressful and challenging – activities like this allow them to enjoy their time with us.

Enrichment activities play a vital role in developing life skills and resilience, as well as fill the crack between school and home – we feel very strongly that they should be available to all children.

What are your highlights of the activity?

Well, we are honestly proud to simply give each individual child time, space and attention to develop their own ideas. But that said, the final session is always a real treat when the children share the work they’ve done to the parents. It’s sometimes a real eye opener for the parents to see how well their children have responded to the group.  Each child taking part in the programme will complete their Discover Arts Award which is a great way to celebrate each individual’s talent and commitment.

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