Since the Summer term, I have been working at Dame Dorothy Primary school. During the last four months I have worked with every child from Year 1 to Year 6. Projects include a concrete bench with a nautical theme for the school field (decorated with concrete casts made by the children); a 15 metre long ship/ play feature called ‘The Barbary Coast’ made with breeze blocks, concrete and 8 tonnes of soil excavated during the making of the running track around the school field (this was funded by the Friends of Dame Dorothy Primary School) and a stage and mural for Early Years. The latest work involves a permanent feature at the front of the school to commemorate Remembrance Day (this will take the form of a large poppy, and will be made with painted beach pebbles).
I have exhibited and sold my work locally and in London and New York, and my paintings form part of collections Nationally, and in France, Germany, Russia and Belgium, but I still often work in local schools, often making permanent, useful features in collaboration with the children (This aspect of my work helps to maintain my connection with my local community, rather than solitary work followed by occasional exhibitions).
During the last 20 years I have worked in over 70 Primary, Secondary, Special and Infant schools, from Northumberland to County Durham, and can honestly say that Dame Dorothy Primary school is one of my favourites! From Mr. Williamson and Mr. Byers, through the Staff, children, Parents Association and cleaners, all have made me feel welcome and have made a real contribution to what we have made.
The children, far from being unenthusiastic and limited in imagination, as they are in some (un named!) schools, have been an absolute joy to work with! In terms of ideas, I have struggled to keep up with them. I know that this is the product of the enthusiasm and caring attitude so obvious among those that run the school. Dame Dorothy is a great catalyst for the pupils’ creativity, a factor that has influenced me, too. Working in some schools can be rather a limiting experience sometimes, a bit of a slog, leaving me rather jaded. Working at Dame Dorothy has had the opposite effect, and I look forward to coming in, to see what ideas the children have, and to be surprised by the ambition shown by the staff in what can be a stressful and exhausting job.
I look forward to maintaining my link with such a marvellous place, and am grateful for haven been given the opportunity to work with everyone there!
Mike Clay,October 2017.