Abbeyfeale NS boys dance class, Jabub Kaminski. Marley Assani, Eimantus Vitkus, Tiernan Collins, John O Brien | Picture Michael Cowhey.
HUNDREDS of boys in two schools, one in West Limerick, the other in East Limerick, have had the chance to dip their toes into a range of different, creative art forms over the past year thanks to a pilot scheme run by the Arts Council called Creative Schools.
And the verdict? “It was worthwhile, absolutely,” declared Tristan Murphy of St Mary’s Boys NS in Abbeyfeale. “It was really fun and gave us a chance to try new things.”
“It was just something different,” agreed another Abbeyfeale pupil Ben Oakley who is now keen to try his hand at metalwork when he moves into secondary school in September.
Whether it was rap, hip-hop, African dancing, or drumming, the boys of St Mary’s were all enthused by the experience, grinning from ear to ear as they recalled the different elements and agreed it had made them braver about trying new things. They would be more likely, they declared, to try more new things now.
“I liked the hip-hop best,” beamed Li Larkin. “You got to learn new moves every day.”
He was not the only one to have a favourite. For Ricky O’Mahony, it was the rapping: for Ronan Cotter it was the drumming and for Ben Oakley it was the African dancing.
For Jonathan O’Brien, who delivered a rap on the spot to this reporter, the chance to be part of the Creative Schools team was a plus. “I loved being on a committee. I liked being part of a team,” he declared.
Darragh Lyons was one of the group of third and fourth class pupils who spent a day doing various coding and animation workshops at the IT Tralee. And he loved the chance to make his own little animation short.
Coding was also the best part for Darragh McCarthy while Cian O’Brien was able to indulge his love of everything Titanic. “I watch every single video,” he said while holding firmly on to his Lego Titanic. (He makes cool stuff every day, declared Li Larkin).
Arnas Kersys, the oldest pupil on the Creative School committee agreed it was a valuable experience. It was, he said, about becoming more aware of what is out there and what it is like to experience different things.
Pádraic Kenneally, at seven-and-a half, the youngest committee member bubbled over with enthusiasm but, with a serious face, declared sagely: “I would say it gave us all confidence.”
Teacher Rebecca Carroll, who was creative co-ordinator for St Mary’s worked in tandem with another teacher Noreen Cotter to make the detailed application to become one of 150 schools nationally to take part in the pilot scheme. And they are both thrilled that it will run into a second year.
The purpose of the project, Noreen explained, “is to open up the arts to every school and every child and to broaden their understanding of the creative arts.”
The pupils learned that the arts are not just about painting pictures, she added, it is also about music, dancing, coding and so many other things. Having a creative associative, in the person of Ceara Conway, assigned to help and support them was a huge bonus, Rebecca stressed.
The approach in St Mary’s was to bring in professionals from different art practices but other approaches could be taken, the two teachers explained, and it was brilliant to see the interaction and to see the response of the children. Parents too, Noreen Cotter said, would have learnt a lot from the project.
And both teachers were every bit as positive about the experience as their pupils.
“I think it is wonderful. We are delighted to be part if it,” Rebecca said. “Everybody learns differently and the children were given an opportunity to express themselves differently.”
For Noreen, the project highlights the importance of creativity. “You see the children and they had skills we didn’t realise they had.”
The 137 pupils at Doon Boys NS, who share the school’s ethos and passion for sport, music and writing, also enjoyed a heady year as part of the Creative Schools project.
They used their grant to buy a number of ukuleles and invited Music Generation to facilitate music composition workshops. The project was pupil led and pupils composed new music that explored themes and subject matters that were of interest to them. They also gave some public performances and the Music Generation School Summit finale took place this Wednesday in Thomond Park.
Another highlight of the year was their participation in the Peace Proms 2019. The pupils also had sessions in “clay” with Fin O’Hara and visited the artist Eric O Neill to see his artistic process, from forging sculptures to how he exhibits the final pieces.