During the summer and autumn of 2023, Manasamitra delivered the Culture on Your Doorstep project, funded by EVOKE, forming a part of a wider regional project with other delivery organisations in Sheffield, Leeds and Wakefield.

The aim of the project was to build the cultural capital of children and young people by developing a creative place-based curriculum. This was to be achieved by:

  1. Working with schools to define what ‘cultural capital’ means for them and how they might explore their interpretation within their local context and based on the strengths and needs of their pupils.
  2. Working on the development of learning about ‘cultural capital’ within the curriculum
  3. Examining how the local cultural and historical context, as well as natural resources within the local 15 minute area, can be harnessed for outdoor place-based learning.
  4. Co-creating learning resources for use across Early Years Foundation Stage, Key Stages 1 & 2; Key Stage 3.

The project faced a range of challenges to the delivery, which included:

  • Difficulties in advocating for the value of this kind of work given ongoing curriculum challenges faced by schools
  • Mixed and incomplete understandings of ‘cultural capital’ amongst teachers and cultural education providers. Definitions of ‘cultural capital’ are often put forward by people who don’t share the same ‘culture’ as the children and young people they work with.
  • Concerns regarding capacity and resources in schools and the ability to deliver a creative cultural curriculum.
  • Lack of engagement with local culture and heritage beyond the classroom, with families not accessing local cultural offerings.

The schools we worked with were:

  • Diamond Wood Community Academy
  • Headfield C of E Junior School
  • Ravenshall School – KS3 site and The Base (KS2) based at Headfield C of E Junior School

Delivery Personnel

  • Manamasitra: Duncan Chapman and Jyoti Manral
  • CHOL Theatre: Jess Woodhead
  • Shape North: Kathy Coates-Mohammed and Stephanie Bartholet
  • Historic England: Julie Edwards

Project Outline

The project personnel worked with the schools to devise creative activities that focussed on a range of cultural places and histories.

Diamond Wood Community Academy

After preliminary meetings between project personnel and teachers at the school, we decided to use the children’s own family experiences and to work outwards, taking in Ravensthorpe and then Dewsbury. This child-centred approach started with the child’s experience and how they experienced their world and then located that to their local area. This reflected the conceptual framework used by Heritage England in previous work with the school.

A major focus in school is ‘Oracy’ so we used this as the practical starting point. Oracy became the focus of this project within a context of ‘Understanding the World’ (Geography aspect), along with listening, speaking and vocabulary.

We developed a range of activities to provoke children’s interest and curiosity, which helped them to frame questions and enquiries.

Their school topic encompassed a trip to the local canal which we built into the project schedule and became part of the learning process.

Sessions included:

  • Listening walks and sound collection in the home and school environments
  • Drama sessions; using the sounds collected to tell and interpret personal stories
  • Indian dance session to respond to the sounds of the local environment
  • Sound collecting on the barge trip day
  • Visual art session to recount the barge trip and encompass a response to the sights and sounds of the local canal

Headfield C of E Junior School

We wanted to work within the school time-tables and existing curriculum requirements at much as possible; partly for logistical reasons but also to demonstrate how cultural education could be delivered without having a detrimental impact on required curriculum delivery. To this end delivered two series of sessions

Year 3

The Year 3 focus was on Geography, History and PSHE.

  • Manasamitra’s Duncan Chapman took the children on a walk around the new school environment and the local streets, ending at the local church. They undertook sound-scape and mapping activities, which encouraged discussion about how the area might have been different in the past and how it had changed.
  • Chol Theatre took the resulting sound-scape and used it to interpret the sounds, local buildings and the wider environment through drama and movement
  • Manasamitra’s Jyoti Uniyal interpreted local sounds and places through Indian Dance and movement.

Year 6

Year 6 was focussing on Industrialisation and Immigration so CHOL Theatre used their Imaginary Communities methodology. This involved using world building techniques to ‘build’ Dewsbury in the early 1900’s.

Using dramatic techniques, they explored the personal elements of living in Dewsbury during this century in terms of empathy, understanding and vocabulary. In particular the students were encouraged to think about how the Industrial revolution impacted families, business/mill owners and the children who worked in the mills.

In addition they mapped ‘Our Dewsbury’ now and in the past, using the room as a giant map

Ravenshall School

We used language development to the work delivered at Ravenshall . Deciding to start with a focus on the school and then to move outwards, we developed an understanding of the local cultural context of the school.

We worked with a theme of experimenting with non-verbal and verbal communication. This engaged the overriding themes, which are:

  • Every child’s voice and opinion is important
  • Each of us is a citizen of a special place called Dewsbury
  • Dewsbury includes the people in the town who help us as well as places that are seen as important.

Using the Dewsbury Beeline Trail developed by Historic England and a Dewsbury Sound Walk developed by Duncan Chapman as the starting point, sessions comprised:

  • Sound Exploration and Discrimination and Sound Collections
  • 3-D sculpture building of the buildings on the trail
  • Matching sounds to the buildings
  • A trip out to Dewsbury Minster and Town Hall
  • Visual Art Session
  • Recording and interviewing

Their sculptures, voice and sound recordings and visual art will be combined into a film to accompany the trail

Schools Feedback

  • Really lovely experience; have really appreciated working with lots of partners and getting a variety of experience.
  • There are definitely elements of the project that will be incorporated into the curriculum.
  • Would definitely want to work with some of the artists again. It’s good to find someone who is the right fit for the school.
  • It has encouraged the teachers to think differently, how to put more creative aspects into the teaching they already have in place.