Event review: Art as young experience – the BBC Ten Pieces project at the Fairfield Halls

By - Tuesday 14th April, 2015

Rossella Scalia on the responses of Croydon’s children to a wonderful music experiment

The Firebird Suite finale by pupils from Woodside Primary School Croydon.
Photo author’s own.

“An experience is a product […] of continuous and cumulative interaction of an organic self with the world.” – John Dewey

Ten Pieces, launched on CBBC (the BBC’s hugely popular children’s channel) in the autumn of 2014, aims to inspire a generation of children to engage with classical music. Sponsored by the Arts Council England amongst others, it seeks to inspire children’s creative response to ten pieces, through music, dance or digital art, and will culminate in a major celebratory finale in the summer of 2015. The repertoire includes a range from baroque to contemporary. There is pan-BBC coverage of the initiative, from children’s programming to Radio 3.

In Croydon, children’s artistic responses to the Ten Pieces featured at the Fairfield Halls from March 16th to 25th. In my long walks through Croydon’s urban landscape there is always a moment when I am routinely driven towards this place that I like defining as ‘the door’ to the city; a modern colonnade with a monumental fascist appearance whose deep altruism gifts insights into the green and grey open air atrium of Croydon College. Walking on a broken tiled puzzle that only a few students and skaters deign to play with, I cross the threshold of the Fairfield Halls and find myself suddenly floating under a sea of white waves that ripple from a shady foyer as moved by a gentle wind. From the first floor of the building some rays of light stand on a wide staircase that opens on a shy champagne bar whose ‘belvedere’ offers an intriguing scenic view of Croydon – a space that in a few dusty glasses sums up the story of the city; what it has been and what it is going to become.

Ten Pieces sought to shape the sun lounge as an art experiment

A stream of life runs through the streets marked by wheels and feet. A town hall clock tower reminds us that time is not just something that passes by, but most of all a certainty that remains. A podgy art deco SEGAS office patiently accepts its new role of vagrant birds’ hut, giving them its cornice for shadow and protection. A solemn Nestlé tower deals with the last days of its life and, looking at the present days, sighs and wishes for a brighter future.

In a smile of melancholic optimism I turn my attention to the sun lounge, a promenade that often hosts photographic exhibitions and displays some bites of local history. The local primary schools participated in Ten Pieces had sought to shape this space as an art experiment and tried with great efforts – sadly getting a low public response – to involve citizens in a cultural initiative that wanted to transform a collective action into a gesture of communication, thus conquering for a short time a tiny piece of that panoramic window which makes Croydon a place for social interaction.

The beauty of the world hidden in the mind of a child is astonishing

The idea is to involve new generations of pupils in the art of making, in order to transmit the pleasure of feeding creativity and avoid losing it in the transition from childhood to maturity. Music triggers the urgency to move mind and body in unison following a personal rhythm that travels driven by an inquisitive desire for discovery. Classical music with its expressive clarity and narrative of sounds induces an inner turmoil that invites us to enter into a dark unshaped space that needs to be moulded into a firm individual vision. Each one of us pictures such a space in a unique way; the touch of our experience and culture helps us to build it.

This is what primary school children had to reflect on, listening to ten music masterpieces, thus interpreting a language that does not use words to communicate. The purpose of the experiment was to lead to a joint reading of music and art in order to generate a conscious action that imprints itself in a drawing, a play, a dance, or perhaps a digital animation – the photo in this article showcases a work by pupils of Woodside Primary School.

The beauty of the world hidden in the mind of a child is astonishing and its spontaneous expression must be protected and never precluded. The difficult task of such a process lies in providing a continuous stimulus to children, provoking questioning in order to encourage them to explore alternative routes and be always curious of the results.

Hopefully children will soon have the possibility to show again their talent to the public.

Rossella Scalia

Rossella Scalia

Rossella is a London-based architecture critic and researcher. Her interests focus mainly on architectural education, photography, cinema and communication. She has been studying the potential of forgotten spaces and unfinished buildings within the concept of participatory design. Rossella has been shortlisted for the Architects Journal Writing Prize in 2012.

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