A Celebration of Language was a dance and storytelling project at Allerton Church of England Primary School in Leeds, which took place during the Spring term in 2021. Poet Michelle Scally Clarke joined the creative team which was led by Kimberley Hardy and included workshops from Graphic Design students from Leeds Beckett University.
The project looked at languages of many kinds including sign language and the language of rhythm – bringing together different art forms – Kathak dance storytelling, poetry and animation. The pupils come from a variety of cultural heritages and speak many languages and we worked with them to develop a shared language in poetry and movement. While the UK was in lockdown we were very pleased to work with the children from Years 1, 4 and 5 who were still based in school.
The culmination of the work was intended to be shared in a multi-media performance in central Leeds, but that was put on hold due to the pandemic. However the children did get to create a wonderful animation video, keep scrolling for more.
This project was a collaboration with Space 2 Leeds, who have strong connections to the school and funded by a generous grant from the Mohn Westlake Trust via Leeds Community Foundation. It was a pleasure to work with the pupils and teachers in the toughest of days.
“We liked Michelle, our teacher. She taught us how to say hello – “Namaste”. And we learnt poetry.”
“For the film, we wrote a script and recorded it. We had to feel a colour, and say hello.”
“We liked it…until we had to go out for PE. If it wasn’t on PE day, we’d have done it all week.”
“We learnt different ways in which you can say things. And what impact that has. We also learnt about different languages – morse code, sign language. For the dance, we learnt two different rhythms. We said colours by using how our arms were pointing. And we learnt numbers using our hands (traditional Kathak). We learnt a lot!”
“Every Friday we’d go into the dance studio and have lots of fun! Our feet did ache afterwards. We didn’t get to perform it but we did make animations. We would do free dance moves and record it. When we were learning the dance moves it was fun. Nobody cared about performing it. As soon as the iPad come out everyone was scared!”
Check out the artwork from the workshop.