Gomersal is an arts-rich primary school less than 10 miles from Bradford, Leeds and Huddersfield, situated in extensive green space. Deer and sheep are regular visitors to the woodlands that adjoin the school.
During our tour of the school, we saw many student art works created during class walks to the nearby woods and fields: flowers, insects, leaves and trees were all used as inspiration for work in textiles, ceramics, painting and installations.
Year 4, 5 and 6 students told us about their many visits to local arts places. The school has links with the nearby Longside Gallery at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The children talked excitedly about the work of Henry Moore, Andy Goldsworthy and Barbara Hepworth. They had recently created figures in the style of Antony Gormley who was born just 3 miles from the school.
Students also spoke about their visit to the nearby David Hockey-associated ex-mill now art gallery and studios Salts Mill. Some mentioned going to the art gallery in Cartwright Hall, just 7 miles away, with their families to see pieces by Hockney, Anish Kapoor and LS Lowry.
In the legacy of Titus Salt and the dominant local industry of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the school had just secured funding to set up a textiles base that will help raise the profile and standard of textile work in this and other local schools.
As well as the richness of the arts and culture in the immediate area, we were struck by the diversity of the art forms and artists with which the students were working.
Much of this was either on display or being created in the large, light and vibrant Art Room. Our tour of the school coincided with a class doing a printing project.
The Art Room was full of the students’ art work; Celtic crosses, shop fronts, skeletons, skulls, dresses and masks packed this busy space.
As academics and researchers, at home in libraries and archives, we were thrilled to see these roller storage units being used for the copious arts materials.
The Art Room also contained its own library: the books here covered a dazzling diversity of artists and their art.
Our photos don’t capture the music that was playing while we were in the Art Room, or the buzz of excitement from the children as they created their prints.
Speaking of music, one of the parents and school Governor is Andi Durrant, a high-profile DJ, producer and broadcaster. He now takes time to teach the students how to use the equipment in the music production/radio room – a well-resourced facility stocked with sample pads, midi keyboards, sampling and sequencing software, a mixing desk and microphones. Students had been creating own dance music recordings.
The sense of diversity extended to the themed art works that were on display from recent cultural and religious celebrations – Dewali, Hannukah, Black History Month, Bonfire Night, and Remembrance Day.
The striking minimalistic art works in the library took us back to our childhoods and returned us to the school’s immediate environs. The creator of The Mr Men and Little Misses, Roger Hargreaves, was born and raised in the adjoining village of Cleckheaton.
Finally, we saw some bespoke paintings which included lines from a poem, co-created by staff and students. Located in and around the Head’s office, they seemed to sum up the whole-school arts-focussed ethos that underpins this, and the other arts-rich primaries that we are privileged to visit during our RAPS research project.
Thanks to Head Teacher Melanie Cox and Arts Lead Mandy Barrett for their warm welcome, insights, guided tour and coffee.