A is for artwork, B is for Barnsley

30th January 2004 at 00:00
N is for netball, which St Helen's primary in Hoyland, Barnsley is rather good at. O is for ocarina, which every junior pupil learns to play. P is for priest, in the church next door and Q is for Queen. Phil Harrison, headteacher, met her in 1994. Noticed a connection yet?

The guide to life at St Helen's from A to Z has been captured in the 150-pupil school's own artwork, modelled on the bestselling book by its most famous ex-pupil, Brian Wildsmith. It is currently on its way to Japan where Mr Wildsmith will display it in a museum he founded 10 years ago.

The authorillustrator, now based in France, dropped into his old school last November. After the visit Mr Harrison sent Mr Wildsmith copies of the school's Advent display - three 6ft by 4ft panels inspired by his book A Christmas Story.

As a result Mr Wildsmith invited St Helen's Year 5 and 6 pupils to produce the school's own illustrated alphabet in 26 A3 pastel and paint artworks, following the style of his own ABC. The school is in its second year of a Creative Partnerships programme, and Mr Harrison said "we jump at any change to allow the children to show their creativity".

Brian Wildsmith's books are widely admired in Japan where he has set up an art museum near Tokyo, and where an exhibition of his work is touring. He is best known for picture books inspired by the Old and New Testament (notably a stunning pop-up version of The Creation), traditional folk tales and the animal kingdom.

Last November's visit to Hoyland was Mr Wildsmith's first in 50 years; a miner's son, he went on from the primary school to high school in Sheffield, then to Barnsley School of Art and the Slade.

He remembers drawing in coloured chalk on mini blackboards at St Helens, learning to read with Miss Madden ("A lovely Irishwoman; I fell madly in love with her") and later reading Greek classic tales with Miss O'Sullivan next door ("she was more fierce").

After his recent visit he said: "The children were absolutely delightful and I noticed the lovely art on the walls. When I got home, I had a fax from the museum in Japan asking me to suggest something special for the 10th anniversary, and it all fell into place."

St Helen's ABC will go on show on March 4, World Book Day

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