The North Cornwall Story Box

The North Cornwall Story Box is a project about story telling, story making and story collecting with individuals and groups in the communities in North Cornwall. Stories are full of magic and richness. They connect people to place and to each other, and deserve to be collected and treasured.

In this project we have worked with 5 schools and 2 community groups. Four  artists helped children and local people to delve into local histories and anecdotes, with wonderful results.

The project was made possible with Heritage Lottery Funding and a contribution from the Coop in Port Isaac.

Delabole Primary School

The children in years 5 and 6 at Delabole Primary School took the  poetry of Wilfred Owen as their starting point. They looked at ideas around home….

  • the home front
  • home is where the heart is
  • and the song ‘We’ll keep the Home Fires Burning’.

They first worked with Sally Crabtree to create poems and stories, then with Janie M McDonald to learn about different ways of making art and telling a story in images. They collaged the things that they had learnt that had affected them most.

The Children talked about what soldiers at the front might keep in the pockets of their jackets – both practical and sentimental things. Things that might have been sent from home.

They thought about the thin ‘thread’ of communication between home and the front. They stitched their their thoughts about Wilfred Owen and WW1 on to a soldier’s jacket.

Some of the children knew stories about relatives who were in WW1 and thought about their experiences. The jacket became a symbol of all the soldiers in the war and the stitching a symbol of mending and repairing the trauma – WW1 soldiers with shell shock often did embroidery in hospital to help them recover.

At the end of the last day all of the children came up quietly, two at a time, and decided which pocket to put their work into, until everything had been placed in ‘A Coat for Wilfred Owen’.

Tintagel Primary School

Tintagel school focused on the Unknown Soldier and themes of everlasting loss. They also worked with Sally Crabtree and Janie McDonald to write poems and stories and make textile pieces.

The children produced some beautiful, poignant pieces of work. Aurelia held a handful of hydrangea flowers high in the air and let them fall, stitching them to the coat where they landed to represent not only gratitude but the random way that soldiers fell on the battlefield, some never to be found.

” This project has been a game changer for the school. I have loved working with you and Jane.  “ Headteacher

St Kew Primary School

St Kew School explored diferent eras and which may have been the best to live in. They were comparing Bronze Age, Roman Occupation, Civil War, Mid-Twentieth Century and now.

Jim, a member of St Kew Historical Society and the granddad of two members of Class 3, visited and shared stories about the old school, the war, the railway and the surrounding area. They looked at old photographs and plans.They worked with Jenny Beare on stories inspired by the photographs and the different times to live. Then they worked with Janie who introduced them to sketchbooks and creative thinking and the importance of ideas and the idea of a visual narrative.

They looked at happiness, how an artist might represent that, and what colour comes to mind when they think about it. They painted sheets of card and used these as the background for mixed media collages/photomontages. They chose the bits from each era which would let them live a ‘perfectly happy’ life, and combined them in an individual collage to make an imaginary new era – where everything will be just as they would like it!

To wrap up they talked about how you could then use the artwork as a starting point for another story.

St Minver Primary School

Working with Laura Frances Martin St Minver children

thought about stories and what makes a story. Then we explored different ways in which stories could be told, not just in books, but also cartoons, songs, poems, films, shadow puppetry, shows and written on maps, tickets, scrolls and other things…; how characters can be understood in different ways, using descriptive words that are normally used to describe things like the weather, or a mood, or a noise!

The children created poems about place using found words and worked with grown ups from the Open the Book Group to create stories inspired by an object that we chose from the Story Box.

The group decided to tell their stories in different ways through creating different shaped books…

  • Imogen and Jan were inspired by an old map to tell a story about two lighthouses and the treasure trove hidden somewhere between, written in magical ink on a special ships map!
  • A label that reminded them of refugee children inspired Evie and Marjorie to a story about a girl who becomes a marine biologist and then discovers an amazing starfish!
  • Florence and Martin were inspired by a pine cone that really looked like a hedgehog, to tell a special hedgehog tale.
  • Lowenna and Peter were ispired by a doll to tell a story about a girl and boy who find a cave by the sea and the adventure they have when they go in it.
  • Ella and Su were inspired by an old watch to tell a circular story about a Lord, a King and an old watch.

St Breock Primary School

Jenny Beare worked with year 5 at St Breock School.

  • What is a story?
  • Why do we have them?
  • How do they make us feel?
  • What makes a 
good story?

The children were all given their own notepads as every good story collector and writer has their own book they can make notes in – you never know when you’re going to meet someone who has a cracking story up their sleeve.

They worked on different exercises to explore various types of stories and how to create them. They also played listening games as to be a good storyteller/writer you need to be good at listening and note taking.

They met an evacuee who was able to tell her story, and they emailed questions to another evacuee who had spent the war in Wadebridge.

Following Jenny, Janie talked to them about how artists work develops around a narrative and about creative thinking generally. They imagined that they were being evacuated tomorrow morning and had no idea when they might return home. They thought about the emotions they would feel and what they would be allowed to take with them.

Their storyboxes were small suitcases. They painted them brown to look like old fashioned ones and then spent a long time thinking about colours (and how they can represent emotions), about leaving everything they know behind, about what ‘things’ are most important to them. They made small artworks of their favourite things, that they could fit into their case, in different materials. These were collaged onto painted backgrounds (colours individually chosen to represent how they would feel) and glued into the suitcases. The boxes were arranged together as if they had been left on a station platform waiting to be loaded onto a train.

Some cases are open to show the secret story inside – it could be the start of another story!

St Mabyn Village Group

St Mabyn Village group worked over five weekends with Janie McDonald on stories about St Mabyn and how the people came to be there.

There were stories about landscape and sky, marriage and family, a life in performance, a travelling life, growing up in the village, homes lived in, garden treasures, nature and wildflowers, local history, the pub, the church and village events, all of which have been exchanged and translated into textile panels.

“Lovely exhinition to see – great to see St Mabyn like this. Well done to everybody involved. “

“A beautiful, thoughtful expression of the strong community of St Mabyn, Congratulations. “

“I cant believe what beautiful things have been created here, extremely lovely and so proud to be a part of the project“