The junior consultants

28th July 2000 at 01:00
Schoolchildren are being asked by museums and galleries to help make the most of the exhibits. Douglas Blane reports.

The first junior board in the west of Scotland was established in March for the tall ship at Glasgow Harbour. The sailing vessel Glenlee, a three-masted barque built in Glasgow in 1896, was salvaged from the bottom of the Guadalquivir river near Seville in 1992, towed to Glasgow, restored and moored at Yorkhill Quay, where it is now open to the public.

A junior board of 16 children aged 10 to 13 from nine Glasgow schools, including Kelvinhaugh Primary, has been formed to advise on continuing restoration and development.

At the first meeting, a relaxed affair attended by broadcaster Kirsty Wark, the children's communication skills - which helped them be selected for the board - were clearly in evidence. After half an hour on the ship they already had plenty of suggestions.

"There's too much text here for young kids - they need something in simpler words. And you could have it in different languages and Braille."

"They should have more things you can do so you don't have to just look."

Rhona and Jessica, from Garnethill Primary, wondered about installing computers and videos, but were unconvinced: "It would seem too modern."

"You could have sailors' costumes from olden times hanging on the walls," they then suggested.

Glasgow Museums nd Art Galleries have embarked on a redevelopment at Kelvingrove and are planning to set up a junior board later this year.

The MacRobert Arts Centre in Stirling is also redeveloping and, with guidance from the Article 31 Action Network, a charity, has set up a group of consultants aged eight to 12 who are recruited from out-of-school care groups and function rather like a junior board but not so formally. (Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that every child has the right "to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities I and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts".) "We decided against having agendas and chairpeople," says Mairi Coyle, the children and young people's officer, "because we thought they would feel freer to talk without them. Our meetings tend to be for a specific reason, such as discussing plans with the architect or the content of the new children's magazine."

"The young people are important to us and we intend to keep them on as an integral part of the organisation," says Ms Coyle.

She sounds one note of caution for others with similar plans: "They should realise they have a huge responsibility to keep it going and make sure they fulfil the expectations they raise in the young people."

For more information on the Article 31 Action Network, contact Harry Shier, tel 0121 766 8446


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