In this Guest Blog by Adrian Deakes, Ignite Cultural Partner and Ideas Hub Outreach Projects Coordinator, we hear all about the Ideas Hub’s amazing creative work in schools celebrating Chelmsford pioneers. Adrian has played a key role collating all the additional ideas wider Ignite hub members had for celebrating Writtle and the birth of the BBC and liaising with Writtle Junior and Infants school, and Hylands (Secondary) to build a manageable programme to commemorate this important radio broadcasting anniversary. Big thanks to Adrian for volunteering to take on this co-ordinating role and for bringing us all up to date with this blog.
I sometimes wonder how the regulars of 1922 at the Cock and Bell pub in Writtle (now the Paqwaan restaurant) reacted to the weekly sight of a piano being precariously wheeled out of the front door and trundled down Lawford Lane for use in various ‘wireless-broadcast’ experiments? What strange noises could they hear from that tiny wooden shed? Did they have a clue what was going on? I like to imagine tolerant bemusement as the default British response… (‘Another half a mild please, Ted…’) I suspect few knew that history was being made and that the birth pangs of the BBC were taking place in a muddy field at the end of their road.
Over the summer of 2021, the Ideas Hub successfully gained funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to run two in-depth learning projects in three local schools with the aim of bringing local history like this to life for our young people, through STEAM projects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths). Hat tip to Edith Miller and the team for securing the funds!
Year 5 visit to St Andrews Parish Church
BBC microbit coding session
February 2022 sees the 100th anniversary of those broadcast experiments from Writtle. Year 5 pupils in Writtle Junior School have been finding out more about them whilst designing and making their own ‘Radios of the Future’ using microbit coding and neopixels for use in a community parade on Friday 11 Feb 2022. We’d love to see you there (weather and COVID-allowing) and we’d love to see some 1920s costumes!
Along the way, the project has given us fantastic opportunities for close collaboration with our local pool of talented and enthusiastic historians and creatives. The core light-parade team of Emma Devereux, Heather Smith, Laura Trevail and Vicci Button with technical support from John Chappell and Ed Bye, have been working on coding, art and craft and building since September. The funding has also allowed us to work with Alan Pamphilon who has led talks and history walks with the pupils. Year 5 pupils have found out more about wireless and radio via visits to https://www.chelmsford.gov.uk/museums
‘Marconi Magic Maths’ sessions at Chelmsford Museum
Many Ignite Hub members have enthusiastically supported the initiative with their skills and resources including Michelle Durant from Chelmsford Community Radio who is mixing sound recordings handed on by Tim Wander of Captain Peter Eckersley (arguably the world’s first ‘DJ’) with young people’s ‘Earth Poems’ gifted to us by Ros Green from the Essex Book Festival. Sara Tupper from ‘Chelmsford for You’ is advising us on how best to move the ‘Radio Installation’ from the Meadows Shopping Centre to Writtle. This has a pleasing echo of wheeling the piano from the pub back in 1922… I think Cpt. Eckersley would approve (and be somewhat jealous of the development of the ‘white van’…)
There will be storytelling with a ‘communications’ twist for Writtle Infants School with Shane Ibbs, singing with the Junior School choir and all of the Infants School with Deborah Aloba and the parade itself is due to be filmed by Dan Baker and Alastair Gillan (drone camera operator).
We’re also actively seeking to work more closely with Chelmsford Society of Science and Engineering in our next project to offer training opportunities for STEM ambassadors in soldering, coding and working in schools. The focus of this work, which follows on almost immediately from ‘2MT’ (Writtle’s ‘call-sign’) will give us the opportunity to introduce young people to the lives and legacy of Colonel Crompton, Anne Knight and other pioneers who have shaped our city’s history. We’ll be producing an on-line CPD Primary Teachers’ Pack with background links so that Chelmsford can become a focus for local curriculum study and, once again, we’re looking forward to working with our home-grown pool of talent: Alan will again be leading the pupils of Kings Road School and Parkwood on talks and tours, Lynne Excell will illustrate our CPD document and Hayley Wells will introduce young people to ‘zine design to tell the story of Chelmsford’s pioneers in a vibrant and accessible way.
So, for a ‘school project’ there’s quite a lot involved. We’d like to thank everyone who’s contributed and supported us so far, particularly the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Writtle Parish Council as well as the members of Ignite Chelmsford Hub and the local creative community who have embraced the chance to be involved.
For more info contact: Adrian Deakes, Outreach Projects Coordinator Ideas Hub firstname.lastname@example.org