Two days, two laureates, two exciting ways to celebrate creativity. The Children's Laureate, artist Quentin Blake, helped launch Drawing Power: the Campaign for Drawing at the Royal Academy of Arts in London during the opening of the alive exhibition there last week.
The Campaign, supported by the Guild of St George which was founded by Ruskin, aims, over three years, to increase awareness of drawing and encourage people to take up a pencil and have a go. The Big Draw on October 21 will be a landmark in the campaign: 500 museums and galleries all over the country will invite people to make their mark. In London the dingy underpass between South Kensington station and the nearby museums will be transformed by artists and amateurs on that day.
alive celebrates the Royal Academy and Yakult Outreach Programme, which, over 10 years, has allowed 40,000 young people to try their hands at life-drawing. In one-day workshops, GCSE and A-level art students have learned not to expect to make an instant "correct" outline but to exercise their imagination to produce vigorous, fresh drawings. As Paul Brandford, one of the Outreach artists who has travelled to schools as far away as Guernsey and Aberdeen, puts it: "Drawing is speculative; it is a tool with which to explore." Some primary classes in Barking and Dagenham have recently enjoyed similar opportunities, although models remain clothed for younger groups. Four rooms, atmospherically lit, show examples of this work to advantage arranged under themes including "narrative", "gesture", "imagination" and "environment". Quotations from some of the young people who have taken part are displayed on the walls. My favourites are: "The creative person will not be afraid to try something which might be considered a stupid idea by others" and "In art I can learn how to learn and not how to be taught." Until May 12. For information about alive www.may2000.org.uk and about this and the Campaign for Drawing: 020 7300 8000. Visit the alive exhibition website featuring 200 drawings by primary and secondary students: www.royalacademy.org.uk In the same week, Andrew Motion, the Poet Laureate, joined David Blunkett at Morpeth school in Tower Hamlets to launch Poetryclass, a new national training programme supported by the DfEE (to the tune of pound;85,000) and run by the Poetry Society. Teachers will take part in in-service sessions with 50 poets trained by the Poetry Society and will be able to visit a website which will provide ideas and support for teaching poetry, www.poetryclass.net.
This went live last week, but will be officially launched on National Poetry Da in October. Cliff Yates, author of the Poetry Society resource book, Jumpstart, took a workshop with a year 8 class based on the William Carlos Williams poem "This is just to say". The class over-ran, but the students looked as fresh and enthusiastic as ever at the end of the session. Andrew Motion joined the class and backed Cliff's advice to the young poets: "If you stumble over a line when you read it, cut it". In launching Poetryclass, Andrew Motion, fulfilling his chosen role for the laureate as an advocate of poetry, had emphasised the importance of proper critical standards alongside creativity. Then he demonstrated to year 8 the pleasure of knowing a poem by heart simply by quoting Philip Larkin's "Going" from memory, but not before David Blunkett had produced and read another Larkin poem, "No Road".
He said he rather favoured the "miserable souls" Christina Rosetti and Larkin, but left the room in jolly fashion reciting a rhyme about his guide-dog's tail which he challenged the class to finish. And, quick as a flash, someone did.
Another DfEE initiative, Write here, Write now, which challenges primary children to finish a poem, a play, a film script or a story begun by a well-known author, was launched at the same time at Morpeth, a school which takes its creative writing seriously and whose pupils have often featured as TES Young Poets. For information: 020 7925 5555 A group of pupils at Syon Park School has won the top prize, cash and materials, in the Open Art category of the Young at Art Awards, open to all secondary students in London and presented last week by pop artist Peter Blake. Their painting, influenced by Kandinsky and Bridget Riley, is being exhibited alongside winners in other categories including body adornment, book, cartoon and animation, textiles and fashion, photography and the Mike Leigh film and video awards. There are also three awards for teachers, for a newcomer and for innovative teaching in craft and art and design. The free exhibition, at the London Institute near Bond Street, is until May 2.
There is the chance to see some rare treasures at a new Education and Visitor Centre at the Public Record Office in Kew free from April 12. Robin Hood's wage account, the passenger list of the SS Empire Windrush, which brought immigrants from the West Indies, the deed poll showing Elton John's change of name, Wilfred Owen's army service record, Magna Carta, anti-Hitler propaganda material, a letter from Sir Francis Drake about the Armada, Guy Fawkes' confession - the list is endless.
Information: 020 8876 3444; www.pro.gov.uk Heather Neill