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Earlier this month saw the takeover of our brand new Atrium space by Cardiff High students. Over 80 year 10 pupils from their Art, Music and Drama departments filled the space with their performances and artworks inspired by the museum’s collections. This was the culmination of 6 weeks of work by the students, although the planning goes back almost 6 months!

We were initially contacted by Eve Oliver from Cardiff High with an idea for a cross-curricular project in the summer. The idea was to bring together pupils studying the creative arts together to work on the same theme. After discussions with Elen Phillips, the Principal Curator Contemporary & Community History at St Fagans, the idea of working around the theme of ‘Protest’ was suggested. This was chosen because it would give the pupils an opportunity to explore their own beliefs and values as they responded to the museum’s collections.

The project began with a visit to St Fagans on October the 4th for 85 pupils. Elen gave a presentation to the pupils around ‘Protest’ using objects from the collection as inspiration. These included objects around the suffragette movement, anti-racism protest and the miner’s strikes of the 1980s. It was an opportunity for the pupils to hear the histories of these objects but also an opportunity to see them in the flesh, and you could see how inspiring this was for them.

After the visit to the museum, the pupils returned to their school to unpick these themes in more depth. Over the next 6 weeks the pupils enjoyed masterclasses with Timothy Howe from the Sherman Theatre, Anita Reynolds from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and the artist Anna Barratt.

The culmination of this part of the project came on November the 16th. Cardiff High returned to St Fagans National Museum of History to display and perform the work that they had done. We used the new atrium space at the museum which was filled with artworks and performances. We invited the parents of the pupils to watch, and including some museum staff, there must have been around 50 in the audience.

The drama students performed extracts from the play The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning by Tim Price while the music students performed the classic call to arms Yma o Hyd by Dafydd Iwan. The backdrop to the performances were a mass of protest banners and placards created by the art students. The performance culminated in a sing-along of Yma o Hyd by the entire cast as well as the audience. It was truly a powerful performance which brought the atrium to life!

The project has been a great success with the pupils debating and questioning their understanding of ‘Protest’, using contemporary references to deepen their understanding of the past and gaining insights into the beliefs of others. For the museum, it was a fantastic way of engaging with a local secondary school, using a model that we are keen to use again. We have already begun discussion on what other themes we could explore next year!

Diolch yn fawr Cardiff High!

Hywel Couch

Senior Learning, Participation & Interpretation Officer

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