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St Colm’s Pupils Launch Anthology Reflecting on Life in Lockdown

Thursday 11th November 2021 at 4pm 0 Comments

St Colm’s High School in Belfast hosted a special event on Wednesday 10th November to celebrate the launch of a new poetry and photographic anthology, created by pupils, entitled ‘The Times That Shape Us’.

In attendance were First Minister Paul Givan and Junior Minister Declan Kearney, who gave their full support to arts in education, welcoming the students’ publication, commending the pupils and staff and the Creative Schools Partnership Programme which ignited the project.

The Creative Schools Partnership is a pioneering initiative supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland National Lottery funding, the Executive’s Urban Villages Initiative, and the Education Authority. It brings professional artists into classrooms to teach students creative skills, linked to the school curriculum, to improve educational outcomes for young people.

The school’s focus from the outset was improving mental health and wellbeing through the mediums of poetry, photography and music, and students worked with a range of artists including the poet Danielle Carragher on this year-long project. The poems composed by the young people reflect their time in lockdown and how this period affected their mental health. Pupils also produced a collection of photographs, which depict snapshots of what mattered to them during this pivotal point in their history.

Adrian Walsh, Principal of St Colm’s said he is extremely proud of the achievements of this group of young people.

“These students have participated in the Creative Schools Partnership Programme with enthusiasm and positive energy. It has been wonderful to watch their self-confidence and self-esteem grow as they enjoyed new experiences through engagement with the arts and the opportunity to meet a variety of people from different backgrounds and cultures. It has been inspirational to witness how they channelled their experiences of the pandemic and lockdown into poetry, photography and music. There is no doubt about the immense benefits of this programme for our young people.”

Mr Walsh continued:

“These young people come from an area with many socio-economic problems and challenges, and here at St Colm’s we have seen an acute rise in young people with anxiety and other mental health issues since lock down and the subsequent return to school. They are a wonderful group of young people who are extremely proud of what they have achieved, and as such it is fantastic to share and acknowledge their success.”

First Minister Paul Givan, Junior Minister Declan Kearney and the Belfast deputy Lord Mayor, Tom Haire joined students, teachers, parents and many others, at the school on Wednesday 10th November; to celebrate the pupils’ achievements and hear some of the poems they had written.

First Minister, Paul Givan said,

“This is a positive and successful collaborative cross Government partnership programme, and is based on research, which indicates that access to quality arts experiences in school can benefit all aspects of learning. This includes better engagement and attendance levels, improving results in other school subjects, increasing confidence and promoting positive mental health through the mediums of art and creativity.

“I am so impressed with the young people I have met at the launch today. The poetry anthology and photographic exhibition that they have created are excellent. The students have expressed their journey through Covid so well; this is not only a wonderful expression of creativity, it is literally a snapshot, it has captured a moment, recording a short social documentary of life in a pandemic.”

Junior Minister, Declan Kearney commented,

“It has been my pleasure to be able to attend this event today and to meet, and hear from, the students who have created these truly inspiring words and images, capturing their experiences of lockdown and the impact the pandemic has had on them and the lives of those around them.

“I am really impressed with how this programme has taught these young people new skills and encouraged their creativity, helping them build their self-esteem and confidence and improving their mental health and wellbeing.

“The incredible young people that we heard from today, and the others who contributed to this book and exhibition, are the influencers and change makers of the future. They should be very proud of what they have achieved. Their efforts will not only benefit their lives, but also those of their peers who have been through similar experiences during the pandemic.”

Senior Teacher and Creative Schools’ Coordinator Ursula Mackel stated:

“It has been a privilege to work with this group of young people on The Creative School Partnership Programme. The disruption of the educational journey of our students and their subsequent return to some sort of “normality” gave us the impetus to pursue our ambition of the publication of an anthology of their work in poetry and photography. The fact that they have lived through what will be known as a significant point in history enthused and encouraged them to share their experiences and we are delighted with the finished project.”

St Colm’s is one of 11 secondary schools currently engaged in the Creative Schools Partnership Programme.

Roísín McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland explained:

“Thanks to support from the Arts Council’s National Lottery funds, the Education Authority and Urban Villages Initiative, the Creative Schools Partnership Programme is bringing professional artists into the classroom to create new learning experiences for students.

“This is an inter-governmental programme that recognises the importance of the arts, and the skills of our artists, in giving a voice to our young people in a hugely challenging time. The students at St Colm’s have created a unique record of this pandemic, and of the impact of lockdown on their lives. The artists and teachers involved have introduced them to new ways of creative thinking and expression; that has been our goal throughout this programme and it’s just a joy to see it realised in this remarkable publication today, and fully supported by the NI Executive. Well done St Colm’s!”

Barry Mulholland, Chairperson of Education Authority, said:

“These students have created a very poignant and significant record of their experience during lockdown. Through poetry and photography, they have expressed their emotions and given us a visual diary of their experiences during this extraordinary time. They should be very proud of what they have created and achieved.The Creative Schools programme recognises that creativity is an essential component of education, contributing to the mental health, wellbeing, and the development of our young people.”

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