Arts & Minds is a major annual, UK-wide competition aimed at promoting equality and diversity in schools. Organised by the teaching union NASUWT to celebrate Black History Month, the competition is intended to complement schools’ existing classroom activities on ethnic diversity, identity and anti-racism. Think Global is proud to support this fantastic project, and I was honoured to be invited to help judge the entrants this year. My fellow judges on the panel were representatives from Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), Citizens UK, Youth Music Theatre UK, Primary Teacher Update, and NASUWT President Fred Brown.
Over 1200 entries were received in 2017 from primary, secondary and special schools from all four nations in the UK, in the form of creative writing, art, group and individual pieces of work. After a first round of judging created a longlist, the panel I was on was asked to look at about fifty works and pick twelve winners in different categories. We were bowled over by the passion, creativity, thoughtfulness and insight on show by children some as young as five, and some with profound learning difficulties. Some of the works were incredibly moving, including those responding to recent tragic events such as the terrorist attack in Manchester and the Grenfell Tower fire; other entries used art or creative writing to imagine what it might be like to be a refugee, or to be bullied for being ‘different’. Among the difficult subjects tackled by the young people though their art and creative writing, there were heartfelt and eloquent pleas for friendship and solidarity, individual expression, a celebration of diversity, and ultimately hope for the future. Some of the poems could have been included in a published anthology, they were so sophisticated; some of the artworks would have been at home in a gallery. It sounds like a cliche, but it really was difficult to choose between some of the amazing poems, paintings, short stories and photographs.
NASUWT’s Arts & Minds projects chimes closely with Think Global’s aims of enhancing young people’s skills and understanding of the world, boosting their resilience to deal with complex issues, and improving their ability to take into account multiple perspectives. It was a privilege to engage with so many wonderful expressions of art and writing by so many young people, and to see how their participation in this inspirational project is helping them to make sense of the world around them. The overall winner will be picked by TV presenter Gok Wan before a prestigious awards ceremony in central London which will be held during Black History Month on 11 October 2017. The twelve winners will be invited to attend and Gok Wan will announce the overall winner at the ceremony.
By Rebecca Sharkey, Membership and Public Affairs Manager at Think Global.
Photo: Olivia Aidoo, overall winner of the 2016 competition.