School & community visits

A total of 20 nursery, primary, junior and secondary schools were invited to participate and visited between January and April 2005. Many hundreds of children and young people aswell as teaching staff, parents and carers gave their time, effort, interest and enthusiasm and I was given a warm welcome at each new venue. This was a particularly intense part of the project and not without its share of anecdotes.

As each panel was a single item, transporting them around was possible (but not always preferable). In their raw state of machined only, they weigh about 60kg - 80kg. As a panel progressed, they got heavier with 10kg of resin based cement and 20kg+ of glass. In conclusion, they were heavy! Add to this all of the glass smalti sorted in to colours and stored in jars; all tools and equipment; a grinding wheel; all kinds of aprons, gloves, face masks and goggles; all in all quite a large amount of kit. With assistance, panels and associated items were carted in to lifts; manhandled up stairs; lowered on to nursery school tables; worked on the floor. Having completed the council manual handling course, I would 'walk the route' first to locate any potential obstacles or problems. On one school visit, whilst walking the route, I was taken up and down stairs; along corridors and alleyways; across the school hall; through the dining area; in fact, clear across the whole school site whilst I became more and more concerned that we would injure ourselves moving the items that were needed. When we finally reached a locked door, my guide turned to me and said that he was sorry but we would have to take 'the long route'!

In addition, we occupied a vacant shop unit when we were not engaged in school or other visits, and opened on Thursdays and Saturdays to invite local market goers to participate. This proved to be very popular, in particular on Saturdays, when Mike Rodger, Jonny and I would have queues of willing participants out of the door and down the street.

There were visits from jewellery groups, professional groups and associations, excluded children, retired associations, company staff and on one occasion a bus full of Japanese exchange students (remember that one Mike!).

Some people visited again and again and became not only accomplished mosaicists, but deeply involved in the build programme, sponsoring and reserving parts of the mosaic that were meaningful to themselves or their loved ones. A trombone player completed Glenn Miller's trombone on panel 9; an archer completed the longbows on panel 2; a young mother brought her toddler in on many days on the way back from nursery; grandparents brought grandchildren; one family unbeknown to us even left their 2 children and dog and went shopping! More poignantly, families remembered those loved and lost by laying stars or completing favoured animals or possessions. I warmly thank all of those who contributed in such a quiet but meaningful way.

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