From the Spring of 2018, whitespace was engaged to document the Summer residencies of the School Without Walls project. This is an exploratory education project where primary school children leave their classrooms behind and carry out their learning in and around the city of Bath.
With the Egg Children’s Theatre as its base cultural setting, whitespace’s documentary filmmaker, S-J Cooper-White followed the pupils, staff and artists on their journey of discovery.
whitespace has been involved in School Without Walls from its concept back in 2010. The relationship with the Egg is based on trust and an understanding that a formal brief can’t always be possible. Over the years several shorter films have been created but the 2018 film called for a deeper evaluation.
S-J worked closely with Andrea Harris, the evaluation lead from 5x5x5=Creativity and together formed conversational questioning techniques.
An addition to this year’s approach, whitespace installed a Diary Room with a secure camera and microphone. The system was designed to trigger as pupils entered the room to talk. This provided a space where the children could reflect on or share their thoughts and experiences. You can see some Diary Room clips in the film.
S-J Cooper-White said: “It’s a captivating project. Seeing transformations right in front of you and watching children grow in confidence and well-being. That is really hard to capture on camera and the edit is reliant on hours of footage over weeks. It’s not just the children though – I see as much impact on the teachers, staff and artists. I think its a hard project to undertake, especially for the teachers – leaving all the preconceptions of ‘school’ behind and just jumping in with an open mind. A willingness to learn together is crucial, where there’s a hierarchical shift between who the learner is and who the teacher is. I always leave that project knowing I am the better for being part of it. I think everyone just seems happier, somehow.”
It was a year of events. The Director of the Egg, Kate Cross was awarded an MBE for her services to children and young people. Having worked with Kate for over 20 years at the Theatre Royal, in both design and filmmaking services, we couldn’t be more proud of her. But it was with immense sadness at the death of Sue East, a co founder of School Without Walls and Head of St Andrews Primary School. Sue was an exceptional woman and a great friend to whitespace. The world is not the same without her.
We pay tribute to Sue East at the end of the film.