I feel honoured and delighted to have been asked to take on the role of Storyteller In Residence at The Mermaid Arts Centre. Over the next few weeks I will be facilitating a collaborative project with New Court School and Saint Andrew's Primary School in Bray. We hope... oh, how we hope, that together, we will be able to create some kind of a spectacular lump of amazingness, which will be included in The Yarn Storytelling Festival, which happens in November.

FIG ONE - No one is quite sure what we will end up making, but hopefully the reaction to it will be something like this.


So now... the idea is that because I will be working with two different groups of children from two different schools, it could be interesting to have them respond back and forth to each others' artistic endeavours. For instance, if the group in the first school made paintings, then the group in the next could write the opening to a story using those paintings as a starting point. Then that story beginning would be belted back to the first school, who would decide what happens next in the story... and etc and so on... like a tennis rally where the ball magically mutates into something even more magnificent each time it is hit.


My first visit was to New Court School last Wednesday. I was so warmly welcomed by the staff and pupils that I cannot say thank you enough. Also, I cannot say sorry enough for unwittingly parking my van in the yard where the children go out to play. To the untrained eye, it just really seemed a lot like a car park... with a lot of free spaces... and a seesaw.

I introduced the children to some artwork by Pat The Bug. Pat, being an insect who draws with a pen tied to his back, is too small to be able to ever lift his nib from the page's surface, so each of his drawings is made using a single line...

FIG TWO - Pat The Bug demonstrates how to draw or write using one long line. In the classroom, he drew in a mostly abstract manner, although he also did portraits of one or two people.

The children were asked to make abstract drawings using lines. They experimented with straight lines, curvy lines, fast lines, slow lines, light lines, heavy lines, angry lines, scared lines, happy lines, tired lines and loving lines. Here are some photos of their work.

FIG THREE - Line drawing with pieces getting coloured in by Cían.

FIG FOUR - Line drawing with pieces getting coloured in by Luke.

FIG FIVE - Line drawing with pieces getting coloured in by Jake.

FIG SIX - Two-handed line drawing with several coloured pencils held in each hand by Lloyd.


I gathered the artwork and made with haste to Saint Andrew's School. Again, I was made to feel extremely welcome. Teachers and children helped me to carry things, and led me to the correct corridor. Nobody impounded my van. I had to scrunch my face with the pressure that a diamond manufacturing machine would apply to a tray of coal chunks to stop tears of joy from leaking down my cheeks.

I introduced the pupils of Saint Andrew's to Pat The Bug. That way they could understand how the New Court children's pictures had been made. Then I handed out those abstract line drawings... along with some sheets of transparent plastic.

The task this time, was to search inside the semi-chaos of those scribbles, and see could you spot a form suggestive of an image... a bit like the way you might look up at the sky sometimes and see a cloud that looks akin to the shape of a country, or a friend's face, or a pepper pot, or a hippo holding a brolly. If pupils found a thing, they laid the transparent sheet over it and used a permanent marker to trace it out. Here are some of the weirdnesses that they discovered.

FIG SEVEN - Kate and Eoin found a duck-billed platypus, a heart and a ladder...

FIG EIGHT - Charlie found a mushroom house, a heavy weight, a boat and a ball...

FIG NINE - Jude found a two headed monster, a bat and an enormous yellow duck...

FIG TEN - Astrid discovered a bell and a dragon-snake type of creature...

FIG ELEVEN - Austin found an egg and a volcano and a something else...


I am currently preparing for my next visit to the schools. I hope that the pupils of New Court will enjoy the images that Saint Andrew's discovered embedded in their abstract drawings. New Court's next task will be to identify and interpret these new pictures, and begin to try to create interesting ways to relate the various elements - preferably ways that make some semblance of sense. If the enthusiasm, humor, hard work and general levels of generosity that the pupils showed last Wednesday maintain, then I am quite confident that we will create something very fancy altogether. :)

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