ArtScapers in North West Cambridge Development

Image of a map of the North West Cambridge Development containing words imagining, being curios, reflecting, co-creating, looking differentlyExploring change at the North West Cambridge Development

How can art and the work of artists help children relate to their city as it grows?

How can children help others to think creatively about these changes?

The NW edge of Cambridge is changing.  A new district is being built with homes and spaces for over 8,500 people to live, work and learn together. The public art programme, curated by Contemporary Arts Society and InSite Arts, has been inviting artists to investigate and respond to these changes through commissioned pieces and a residency and research programme since 2013.  The ArtScapers programme invites children and their communities to join in this process. Visit the Public Art website for a web-based resource for ArtScapers developed from this project and other opportunities to engage with the programme.

A partnership between CCI and Dr Esther Sayers, an artist educator and researcher from Goldsmiths University, the Artscapers programme began in 2016  when it worked with both Mayfield Primary School and the University Primary School. There were a series of creative workshops and events for children, their educators and their families:

What I really like about the project is that it gives the kids a sense of say over their environment…it was not like that for my generation. Its lovely being creative and doing a bit of art-I don’t do that any more - and thinking about what community means and how we can bring people together.
Parent feedback, Gravel Hill Open Day, July 2nd, 2016
Gabby Arenge from the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education researched alongside us during year 1 of the project, and reflects here and what it meant to be an artscaper for everyone involved.

Being an ArtScaper means to look at something and make your own ideas. Then, just think of the idea you thought of before and mix it up so you can make something even bigger and newer. Then just design it.. then just find stuff that might be used in the future and use that to help you build it.
Jared, 8, Mayfield Primary School

CCI artist Susanne Jasilek leads the planning and facilitating of the workshops in the programme. She reflects on her experiences in year one here.

Work from the programme has been re-imagined as an interactive resource and accompanying display materials. These have been shared through exhibitions and events including the 2016 University of Cambridge Festival of Ideas:


Artists Sidonie Roberts and Ruth Proctor made this short film of ArtScapers at the University Primary School. The children are exploring Ruth’s own work We are all under the same sky alongside Susanne Jasilek in a CCI workshop:

This short film shows a broom's eye view of our fantastical city resouce being playing with at the Gravel Hill Farm open day (July 2016):

Our year 2 programme will work again with Mayfield Primary School and the University of Cambridge Primary School but will also invite the community from Girton Primary School to join in.  It is continuing to build relationships and take inspiration from the processes, creative thinking, research and collaborative practices of the Habitation Artists involved in the Arts Programme. Regular updates are shared below. 

Different ideas bring different drawings


By Caroline Wendling

Both the year 2 classes from Mayfield Primary School joined us this Thursday, becoming ArtScapers for the morning in Storey Field Centre’s main hall.  Fifty two children sat in front of three fifteen meters strips of brown paper ready to explore, make, tell and imagine.

Children drawing

Carrying on with our investigation into how we live beside the wild and share places with different species, the focus today was newts. A population of newts and great crested newts in particular were found on Eddington site during the wildlife surveys prior to construction and special measures have been incorporated into the site as a result, including a newt tunnel. Images of this and other sketches and films of newts invited the children to think in depth about how and where they live.

The morning would not have been the same without real newts from Ruth and Gladys’ back garden!

Children drawing

The children were able to gather round the large jars; observe and study the species. Each child produced a series of incredibly accurate drawings. They had been good listeners and observers of nature; the drawings demonstrated their understanding and interest in trying to capture the creature’s personalities, features, and behaviour. All were serious attempts to capture the life of the newts.

Telis’ drawing was exceptionally accurate and true to nature; he recorded the knobbly and crackled skin and the expression of the face. He had used his pencil with skill but then expressed disappointment at having added felt pen marks. We discussed it and agreed that the use of felt pen might have been better in another drawing. The conversation I had with Telis about his mark-making choices was no different to those I have with my Foundation students who are training to be artists.

by Telis

Newt drawingby Rose

In pairs, I invited the children to transcribe their sketches into large drawings on to the long brown paper. One child asked if their drawings could be imaginative! We encouraged them to work to the scale of the paper. Parent volunteers helped and worked alongside the children. Even William D.’s little sister Daisy joined in. During reflection time Alexander’s observation captured beautifully the morning session:  different ideas bring different drawings. Rose added that everyone thought of their own ideas, some wanted to work small, some large and some in three dimensions.  Rose understood that the materials provided the children with the possibility to express their own ideas creatively.

Newt drawing

Newt drawing

The children also observed that nobody copied; everyone made his or her own drawing. This reflection, I like to think is the gift of nature, nature gives us the chance to interpret the world in a personal manner. Science helps us to understand and make sense of nature but art gives us the possibility to imagine and create.

Newt drawing

Newt drawing

Newt drawing

Robert MacFarlane poem Newt in The Lost Words was read aloud and not a sound heard except the melody of the word associations.

Children looking at the Lost Words book

The newts that the children had the chance to observe, discover, draw and imagine today gave us all a sense of excitement. They all enjoyed their newt moment and one child was compelled to compose lyrics to express her love for them. We ended the morning session with Alesia singing an operatic song of newt love:

You are all alone
But you meet a boy
He had a home
And you are friend now
Then you are all again
Friend old friend
Come for ever with me

The song will be released next week, watch this place!

Long roll of paper laid out in hall

Muster Point as underground space


By Caroline Wendling

Artists Karen Guthrie and Nina Pope were some of the first artists to work on the site now known as Eddington. They worked with the community to create a cob model of phase one on a scale of one to 30. The model still exists, albeit somewhat weathered. This week our ArtScapers spent time amongst the cob stuctures before immersing themselves in thinking about the animals that might live close to or under our feet.

Looking at the site

Having made their own models of wren viaducts last week, I noticed how easily the children could visualise, compare and understand the models against the real buildings. They were able to represent the near and the far, the model and the built, without difficulties in one drawing.

The children worked together to create an extraordinary collection of imagined fantastical animals, working just with the materials they had gathered on their walk around the cob structures.  It felt as though the children applied their own alchemy; they managed to make earth look like ‘fur’, stones became bodies and flower petals like ‘feathers’. An atmosphere of study and engagement was apparent through the process of making and later sharing. As the children talked about their creations we further discovered children had thought of names, characteristics, and behaviours for their animals.

A magical creature called Ellectro, he looks like a mosquito and can fly. He moves by electro gravity  by Ayaan, Rezwan and Alper

A rabbit called Unibear  by Ella D. & Eleanor

A Furgy with big claws and fur. He eats buds. By Noah & WilliamT

A snapple that eats apples and slivers along, he throws off mud and eats it off his tale. By Tobias and Orla

A lizard called Spiky. A poisonous lizard that can hold his breath under the water for 1 minute and 20 seconds. by William M. and Telis

An ant mound with stones for the ants' bodies.  by Emi–lou, Esha and Stella

For the afternoon we transformed the Muster Point outside building (Mayfield's outdoor classroom) into an underground space. Here the children drew and later annotated underground homes and passageways for these morning creatures. They remembered brilliantly how their creatures had looked and where they lived. They provided them with all things necessary, modelling on our human needs and ways of life. Children were particular and precise; some thought of pampering their creatures, others provided them with communal places such as cafes and even discos.  Snapple had an automatic secret room with stairs to an automatic prison and a slide to an automatic secret room, whilst another had a stone house for him to survive, and  Spiky had an underground Pool. These worlds underground became as sophisticated and diverse as the world above ground. Nothing was spared and all was done on a grand scale a little bit like Eddington!

Only for Wren


By Caroline Wendling

Only for Wren

ArtScapers returned to Eddington last week on a glorious sunny day. Mrs Lisa LeMoal’s class of six and seven year olds (year 2) from Mayfield Primary School are leading the way this year and I will be working as the CCI artist helping them explore and discover the site. This year we can work in the centre created for the community – Storey’s Field Centre. The group will be joined at various points over the next two months by the youngest children in the school (a class of 4 and 5 year olds), their parallel year 2 class and also the Seniors Group (older local residents around their school) who are keen to get involved.

As in earlier years, we invited the children to look carefully as they walked into this new landscape, noticing the changes to the skyline and thinking about might be above them. They recalled some of these in the sketchbooks they made to start their workshop.

Drawings of Eddington

Drawing of Eddington

Drawings of Eddington

We thought about what has changed in Eddington – for animals as well as people – and shared a detail from the work of artist Melanie Manchot and her performance piece The Choirs (premiered in the Storey’s Field Centre at the end of last year). She writes of a community of Wren birds that had used the site of the new Eddington housing development as a crossing. To protect the birds, a viaduct was built as an alternative route as their old route would have houses built upon it. This idea had intrigued us and we offered the idea to the children to now explore – what is a wren? How has it become known as the king of birds? How might we help it navigate this new development?

Together we watched a film of the wren spell being created from The Lost Words, a book created to celebrate and revive once-common “nature” words. I noticed children holding their breath as they listened. Their drawings beautifully captured some of the characteristics of this tiny bird – Orla’s included dashes on her wren to show how fast it was moving.

Drawing a wren

Then children were asked to become architects, planners and ‘maquette’ makers as they designed and found solutions for the construction of their own viaducts for wrens.

Nest above building

Viaduct with windows

The 3 dimensional models were made over the afternoon back in the school grounds. One had signs so that if wrens were flying really fast they would know not to hit the tree. The signs say turn left or right. I felt that they cared deeply for the wren.

Stop and arrows for Wren

Ella P., Stella and Giang thought how to protect the wren from the rain and the sun. They made plates of food showing great concern over the well being of the birds. The comfort of the wren was discussed. Iriyana told me as she was making furniture with tape and paper I want to make the wren feel at home even if they don’t have homes.

Making food for teh Wren

Many children worked on through their breaks. I noticed William M’s quest for the ‘perfect plantation’ as he positioned and repositioned the ‘trees’ in front of the wren viaduct he was part of creating.

Structure for viaduct

Cansu and George took great care in finding ways of creating a similar structure to the Pont du Gard.

Viaduct drawing and maquette ( Pont du Gard)

Writer Helen Macdonald had talked earlier that morning on Radio 4 about the importance of ’early connections to the natural world’ and the need for ‘hands on experiences for connection of love’.  I believe these children‘s investigations as ArtScapers will forge a closer relation to the wren and nature in general.

New ArtScapers


(by Susanne Jasilek with Esther Sayers) We shared a wonderful creative session with Anglia Ruskin University students on the  BA Primary Education Studies undergraduate degree in November. Thinking about ArtScapers as explorers/prospectors/artists/archaeologists, the group looked at the work created to date and talked about the values developed from the work there - slowing down, looking differently, not knowing, imagining and being curious. They then played with the entity and tea-house resource created by the work of ArtScapers in year 2:

Entity cards

Choosing from a materials table of carefully prepared packaging materials, students were invited to create a maquette -  a scaled model of a dwelling using their own ideas and adopting some of the ArtScaper values. 

Maquette - a scaled model of a dwelling

They had to work with scale, volume, balance, purpose, and think how different materials, shapes and weight could work together.   There was generous time to reflect, adapt and add or discard elements of their dwellings, many returning for new bits of card. They used fluorescent tapes and duct tape to aid construction. Unique structures quickly developed and evolved. Mostly places where people would live but one was an astronomy centre and another a garage.

Fluorescent tapes and duct tape to aid construction

Fluorescent tapes and duct tape to aid construction

Think how different materials, shapes and weight could work together

Once dwellings were developed, participants were invited to take their building and pair up with another building (and colleague) and find a way to make these two buildings relate through juxtaposition, form, mathematically, aesthetically. They were offered additional materials (cloth, smaller pieces of card) to help link the dwellings visually - to think about community to make the idea visible. We asked how linking to another dwelling felt. Photographs of unusual environments taken from the air were given out and again the participants were invited to imagine where their dwellings would be placed in this environment and why and how would they need to adapt them for these often inhospitable or challenging places.

Unique structures quickly developed and evolved

Finally we introduced the larger themes from the North West Cambridge Development site Art programme - Sustainability, Archaeology, Place, Community, Environment – and asked students to work in small groups and develop a lesson plan using some of these creative ways of working and keeping the themes in mind. To end the students also watched Ruth Proctor’s film about her artwork ‘we are all under the same sky’.

It was great to work creatively with the education students to demonstrate aspects of the theories of creativity they have been exploring in practice. I really enjoyed the conversations about creative working and the willingness of the group to emerge themselves in making with all the inherent imagination, exploration and problem solving that it requires. We drew out ideas about choice, decision making, risk and slowing down to give time for people to think and consider. Students were very willing to apply those ideas to potential classroom situations.
Esther Sayers

Tutor Nicola Walshe commented how they all genuinely really enjoyed the session. It not only gave them space to explore some of the creative pedagogies we have been talking about, it also gave them ideas as to how to work with students in the classroom themselves.

An everlasting tea party


Family playing

The Open Eddington day on Saturday 9th September was the first opportunity for everyone to visit this new development.  People came from far and wide – an estimated 4000 visited the site during the day.

ArtScapers had created a new resource for the day that invited playful ways to think about future worlds and communities. Based on work made by the children during our year 2 workshops, we were delighted to be able to share them with artists Winter and Horbelt, on site to open their extraordinary new tea house, whose work the children had explored.

artists Winter and Horbelt


Image showing the entity cards

Open eddington materials ready on a table

Based in the University Primary School, artist Susanne Jasilek had planned workshops and drop in invitations. There was also exhibition of work and films created in the project over the last two years. One hundred and fifty two people of all ages made with us, shaping a breathtaking collection of plasticene ‘entities for future worlds’ which they curated themselves into an exhibition that grew throughout the day. Many more enjoyed visiting this and hearing about the project. New communities were also planned on the huge site maps we offered.

Open eddington new community

Family paying with the cards

Family looking at the cards

Family curating

ArtScapers curating

Children playing


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