The brief lull before the summer blockbusters hit your local cinemas is a good time to explore more critical issues. The British Film Institute, with the Museum of the Moving Image Actors Consultancy, has produced Black in the Frame, a 90-minute actor-led workshop which takes a close look at the way black people have been represented on film. The project is aimed at A-level media studies students, but could also appeal to history and drama students.
Using actors to stage a drama about a white 1930s Hollywood studio producer clashing with a black film director, the event examines the changing roles of black actors and film directors, from the silent film era to today. The session provides unique access to film material from the BFI collections and National Film and Television Archive, including extracts from Birth of a Nation, and screen appearances from Hattie McDaniel in Blonde Venus and Steppin' Fechitt in The Littlest Rebel.
Next Thursday, there's a forum at the Tricycle cinema in Kilburn, north London, to discuss the project. Accompanying resources include teachers' notes, slides, and written material with suggestions for preparatory and follow-up work. The BFI may also create a video compilation of extracts for use in the classroom. Details from the BFI education department: 020 7957 8983.
Weather permitting, this might be a good time to explore the environment, as Architecture Link's Adopt a School project has done. Five architectural practices provided architects to work with teachers and pupils from five London schools to nurture thinking about the built environment. As Victoria Thornton, director of Architecture Link, says: "People tend to look but not see, so this project helps pupils think about the streetscape."
The results, in the shape of work by A-level art students from the Mulberry school for girls in east London, can be seen at the Whitechapel Library.
After going on a narrative audio-walk, devised by artist Janet Cardiff, of the Spitalfields and Brick Lane area in the East End, the pupils produced work based on their response to the cityscape.
As St John Handley, one of the architects working with them, says: "Using the audio-walk headsets, the children got a better idea of a story about their locality - this transformed them from being passers-by into observers."
Because the girls are mainly Muslim, one theme explored what happens when East meets West. One pupil did a very colourful ethnic print on which was superimposed a much darker and gloomier pattern, representing the City. All pupils also created mind-maps of their experiences during the walk, picking out emotions they felt en route.
"Some of the girls went into a dream-like state, and saw themselves as drifting invisibly through the steets, observing the world from the outside," says Handley. They also "tapped into very strong emotions from their childhoods, remembering how some of the places they saw once filled them with fear."
Details from Architecture Link: 020 7267 7644.
Other childhood fears are explored at the Imperial War Museum, where Hear Our Voice, a performance which was developed in response to children's Holocaust writings, is being staged from today until Monday. Led by composer Jonathan Dove, the show involves 60 Year 6 pupils from Lewisham's Edmund Waller primary and 25 Year 9 pupils from Hackney's Skinners girls school. Project director Tertia Sefton-Green says that the event "aims to use the arts to increase awareness of the Holocaust". A teacher's pack, Teaching the Holocaust Through the Arts, is available from Sefton-Green (020 8829 9458) and details of performances from the museum's education department: 020 7416 5269.
The Embra Theatre Company, featuring 16 to 17-year-olds from West London schools, is also examining the war. Their play, Repulsion, is set in an abandoned brothel in 1944 Paris, and "shows how the Nazis are destroyed from within and without as the liberating Allied forces approach," says 16-year-old Sophie Middlemiss. Written by Tom Lane and directed by Andrew Ormerod, Repulsion has been on at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, and will resurface at the Edinburgh Festival. Details: 020 8255 8964.
London's Serpentine Gallery celebrates its 30th anniversary with a gala dinner on Tuesday, during which work by Howard Hodgkin, Antony Gormley and Rachel Whiteread, plus a mini artwork specially painted by Damien Hirst, will be auctioned. Proceeds will go to the UK Children's Cancer Study Group. To coincide with the gallery's current exhibition of the work of artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres, the gallery's education programme is supplemented with a project at HMP Pentonville, where artists will work with a group of inmates.
Gonzalez-Torres explores the relationship between public space and private ideas, and he is particularly well-known for the participatory nature of his exhibitions, often inviting viewers to help themselves to items, such as coloured paper, from his exhibits. The idea of a constantly renewable sculpture is very appealing and his work uses materials such as sweets, jigsaws, prints, billboards and beads. A summer school for A-level students, from July 3 to 13, will explore themes in his work. Details: 020 7298 1514.
hackney workers, pupils and residents will appear in a world premi re in November. Jonthan Dore and Nick Dear's opera, The Palace in the Sky, has a cast of 150. Hurry to one of four taster workshops, the first tomorrow at the Hackney Empire. Information: 020 7729 8550.