Artbeat

22nd June 2001 at 01:00
There was an air of calm industriousness at Rosendale school in south London last week. All 630 children, aged three to 11, were engaged in art - painting, making models and installations, or rehearsing for a new musical set in an urban landscape, Lost in a Dream World.

This was the second annual Art Week at Rosendale, and headteacher Martin Clarke couldn't have been happier as he went around being greeted by young artists showing off clay animals "with a story to tell", or paintings inspired by Van Gogh's "Sunflowers". In the playground, two of the trees had sprouted excrescences which could be giant chrysalises, and larger-than-life drawings were in the making on the asphalt. In the classrooms, there were artistic gardens in trays, paintings of mini-beasts and designs based on the layout of some of the gardens at Kew , observed on a visit the previous week.

In the nursery playground, children were transforming the climbing frames into a spectacular installation that linked with their work on spiders. Wool, scraps of cloth and egg-box-and-pipe-cleaner arachnids festooned the steps and rails and were spreading to other areas in a lacy web.

Not far away, artist Sineid Codd was working with some Year 6 children - eventually most of the school would be involved - on colourful tissue-paper banners decorated with prints of objects, people, plants or animals noticed by children on the way to school. These were to be displayed in the exhibition in the school hall at the end of the week.

Parents were everywhere - on a tour, making a video, helping with artwork. At break time, Mr Clarke was outside chatting to visitors and teachers in a space where a new lottery-funded arts and sports centre will take shape from next October. An English and drama specialist, he is passionate about the arts and encourages creativity across the curriculum. "Parentsclearly want more than SATs. They want a broad and balanced curriculum. I would like to see the Government putting more emphasis on the arts. If inclusion is top of their agenda, the arts are essential. They provide opportunities for all children."

Creativity among rebellious adolescents is one of the themes of School Play by Suzy Almond, at the Soho Theatre in London. Charlie's brother has recently died in a motorbike accident. She is angry and difficult. Miss Fry, her music teacher, has to supervise her in a string of detentions. Gradually, Charlie's musical talent emerges and she starts to work clandestinely - she doesn't want to destroy her tough reputation or lose the respect of her bike-mad friends -towards a piano exam. This is no sentimental teacher-to-the-rescue story. Miss Fry has career problems and Charlie is not transformed overnight.

The teenage language rings true, but some teachers might be surprised at Miss Fry's expletives in front of pupils.

Suzy Almond, now 30, says she talked to teachers and remembers the way young people "rip into each other". You can, she says, see the teacher character in several ways. "In the beginning, she's doing things by the book, except for being late, but she's boring, just handing out worksheets and keeping them quiet. Her own music career wasn't working, but she's discovered things in teaching, been challenged in a way she hasn't before. I wanted to see her as a human being first,then how she might deal with the restrictions of her environment." Tickets: 020 7478 0100.

There has been some good news for 60 organisations and projects granted a total of pound;90-million Arts Council lottery funding this week. A Chinese Arts Centre is to be established in Manchester, while Kala Sangam, the Academy of South Asian Performing Arts, will relocate to West Yorkshire. Yaa Asantewaa Arts and Community, which specialises in black arts and carnival, will establish a multi-purpose arts venue in London, and the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust will have funding to set up an educational resource for architecture and design.

Altogether pound;10 million has been earmarked for projects involving children and young people, including pound;4.5 million to rehouse the Unicorn Children's Centre in London, moving it into a new "family-friendly" space in Southwark. Artistic director Tony Graham says: "Children will have a world-class theatre in the heart of the capital." But why has the Young Vic, a leader in attracting new audiences, received only pound;250,000?

The Roundhouse in north London, where young people aged 13 to 23 already attend workshops in everything from making television programmes to graffiti art and street music, will transform its Undercroft into a state-of-the-art Creative Centre with a grant of pound;2.5 million.

Two more bits of non-lottery news: in Yorkshire, the newly-created Youth Arts Network - Yorkshire (YAN-Y) will offer wide-ranging opportunities for young people. Annie Raw, YAN-Y co-ordinator, is looking for artists and youth organisations to work together. Information: 0113 270 3595.

Anyone not doing something artistically stretching tomorrow night might like to watch the final of Eurovision Young Dancers 2001 on BBC1 at 7.25pm. Spot tomorrow's stars at the Royal Opera House.


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