'Dragons' breathe whiff of creativity

24th July 2009 at 01:00
Given the chance to organise a whole-school event, with a Pounds 5,000 prize, Glasgow pupils attacked their brief with gusto

Five pairs of beady eyes stare across a long table, awaiting the entrance of the first team of nerve-racked hopefuls. First up is a group from Blackfriars Primary, in the Gorbals, to pitch its idea for a books fun day and seek Pounds 5,000 plus expert support.

The P7s are one of five finalist teams chosen from 35 entries to Fresh Material, a competition organised by marketing agency Material, in partnership with Glasgow City Council and Determined to Succeed. The eyes belong to members of a Dragons' Den-style panel, which last term grilled children from Glasgow to think up the best idea.

The brief was to come up with an event they would like to stage for their school. The pupils had to form a committee, appointing a project manager, finance manager, creative director, production manager, marketing and PR manager, talent and entertainment manager and an eco-warrior, and complete a detailed entry form.

The short-listed teams had to pitch their proposal to the dragons - Bridget McConnell, chief executive of Culture and Sport Glasgow; Louise Martin, chair of sportscotland and vice-chair of the organising committee for the 2014 Commonwealth Games; T in the Park creator and chief executive officer of DF Concerts, Geoff Ellis; chief operating officer at EventScotland, Paul Bush; and Sera Miller, managing director of Material.

The Blackfriars children's first idea - a monster sleepover - was vetoed by the teaching staff. But the whole school is behind a fun day to bring favourite books and characters to life. The project manager introduces herself as Tracy Beaker. She is accompanied by a cast of instantly- recognisable characters from the pages of much-loved children's books, including Willy Wonka, Hermione Granger and Captain Hook. The funding would enable them to create themed areas throughout the playground, including a mousetrap assault course, monster mask-making (The Gruffalo), giant peach games (Roald Dahl) and a magician science show (Harry Potter).

The judges question the finance manager about spending. Louise Martin challenges the team over its Pounds 1,000 bouncy castle and slides, accounting for a hefty fifth of their budget. "It's a big outlay."

Mrs McConnell suggests they should be able to cut their costs dramatically by enlisting the support of families and friends. Nevertheless, the judges are impressed by the level of thought and planning that has gone into the presentation.

Next up is a team from Our Lady of the Rosary, Cardonald. Their idea is a Big Brother day, to be held in their PE hall. They plan to decorate the hall with material and transform the stock room into a "diary room". Their first task would be to cycle from Glasgow to Edinburgh on exercise bikes, and the whole eveny would be filmed and made into DVDs for souvenirs. Their budget: Pounds 3,000 for furniture, Pounds 2,000 for making the DVD, and food. The judges are impressed with their confident presentation without notes, the strength of their entry form and the planned tasks.

St Thomas' Primary in Riddrie pitches its idea for a community health and sport fun day, with exercise stations, ball pit, beat the goalie with footballer David Marshall, basketball demonstrations from the Scottish Rocks, Wiis, trampolines, healthy food stall and recycled can pyramid. The children quote scary health statistics and present a Who Wants to be a Millionaire?-style quiz, with questions such as "What is the healthiest: A, hamburger; B, pies; C, banana; D, mozzarella cheese?"

Mount Florida Primary's idea is a multicultural festival with music, dance and food from around the world. Dressed in a colourful array of national costume - a kilt, a sari and traditional Chinese dress - the team displays a plan of the day, with a stage for main acts, storytelling, bhangra drumming, henna artwork, Chinese lantern-making, traditional dance and food stalls. The voracious dragons are presented with platters of tantalising offerings, including pakora and oatcakes, with Scotland's finest orange-coloured cheese.

The day would be hosted in the playground with Lesser Hampden across the road as a back-up if it gets too big, since they hope to invite communities from across the south of the city. The judges say the idea, the detailed planning and the presentation are "inspired".

Finally, St Brigid's Primary in Toryglen presents its proposal for an anti-bullying charity film premiere. They have already made the film with Determined to Succeed. The funding, they say, would enable them to invite guests to view it in a cinema, complete with limousines, red carpet, glitzy frocks, cocktails and canapes. The team's suavely dressed eco- warrior enters to 007 theme music and blows his green watering can like a gun. Mrs McConnell asks about the red carpet: "Have you thought about asking the Lord Provost if you can use his?"

The judges struggle to choose between the teams, all of which show high levels of creativity and planning. Their final verdict is to split the money five ways and provide specialist support and advice to all the schools. "In all presentations, the money has been secondary," says Mr Ellis. "The support we're going to give them will be much more meaningful and we can help them save money by borrowing and sourcing things, by asking people."

The initiative is about "generating ideas and working as a team," explains Ms Miller. "The marker of success will be if they go on and do these events. That will be the real legacy of the project. We hope to do this again next year - only bigger."


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