Squidging, emoting, clicking and drumming

26th September 2003 at 01:00
An arts day in Aberystwyth for primary pupils is not a quiet event.

Yolanda Brooks is swept along by the enthusiasm of youngsters positively encouraged to shake off their inhibitions

With Cardigan Bay glimmering to the west, the Cambrian Mountains brooding in the east and Snowdonia looking moody and magnificent to the north, the incongruous sound of African and Samba drumming vibrates through the air.

The Samba gathering resonates with the complementary rhythms of drums, tambourims, Agogo bells and shakers. The style contrasts with the disciplined badaboom of the African drums accelerating to a climax.

In addition to the drumming, there is squidging, emoting, cutting and clicking - you'll have to take my word for it - all happening under the roof of the Aberystwyth Arts Centre. Here, 80 pupils from Years 1, 2, 5 and 6 of Ysgol Gynradd Aberaeron (Aberaeron primary school) are asked to leave their inhibitions at the door and engage their creative side.

They are taking part in a multi-disciplinary art day that allows them to experience a diverse range of activities that include ceramics and screen printing (squidging), drama (emoting) mask making (cutting) and photography (clicking). Cath Sherrell, education officer for the visual arts at the centre, says the one-day events have been a hit from the start.

"The art days provide activities that we offer as part of our regular programme but it is was amazing how excited everyone was the first time we did one. I suppose the art days are more like a big day out."

Professional artists, many of whom offered bilingual WelshEnglish instruction, came to the centre to provide an international day of colour, noise and movement. All the activities were elective and the children enjoyed morning and afternoon sessions trying out their two chosen activities.

Aberaeron's headteacher, Isabel Hind, who took part in the African drumming and ceramics workshops, decided to book an arts day after getting positive feedback from other local schools.

"It was an opportunity for every child to participate in an arts activity," she says. "The event is an excellent mixture of art in its truest and its widest sense. Every child I have spoken to has been most enthusiastic and we have all had a thoroughly good time."

Whether it was a new skill, a work of art or simply a great experience, everyone who took part had something to take home.

Such days are available throughout the year and run, on average, four times a term. The activities vary from session to session and are open to primary and secondary schools. It costs up to pound;9 per pupil but visits by Welsh schools are heavily subsidised by the Welsh Arts Council.

Other activities available for schools include banner-making, dance, stagecraft, music, creative writing and poetry. Aberystwyth Arts Centre has a national reputation for contemporary ceramics and the galleries hold more than 40 exhibitions, in a range of artforms, a year. Many half-day workshops related to the temporary exhibitions are available.

Aberyswyth Arts Centre is on the Penglais Campus of the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. For details of visual arts activities and workshops, contact Cath Sherrell on 01970 622 888; for performing arts sessions, contact Gill Ogden on 01970 621 512; www.aber.ac.ukartscentre

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