Who's telling the story
What you see in the images that accompany this story is the result of a workshop held at Lanchester Art Gallery, Coventry in 1991 in aid of Amnesty International. Photographer Denis Kelly and I worked with pupils from Southfields Primary School to illustrate, retell and document the Hindu story of Ruru & Pramadarva.
In those far off days there was an annual art auction to raise funds for Amnesty International in Coventry and the organisers in their wisdom decided to make the duration of the viewing a jamboree of related events including workshops with schools. That's where we came in!
The workshop took place over one school day. We all converged on Lanchester Art Gallery, the school on foot carrying four black plastic dustbins (dressing up clothes, art materials, cardboard, paper and kitchen waste packaging), we arrived after a long and harrowing car journey armed with four manual cameras, face paints and the story.
While a nervous gallery curator covered the carpet with plastic sheeting I gathered the children together in a more tranquil setting and told them the story. After a quick discussion on storyboards and comic strips the pupils decided which were the most important pictures the story had left in their minds and then set about recreating them.
A cooperative maelstrom broke out (if such a thing is possible - it certain looked like it was). Actors were agreed and costumes created, props and scenery made in alarming haste with paint flying perilously close to the unprotected art works on the gallery walls, make-up was applied, directors drew sketches for theatical tableaux, and Denis gave rapid fire insturctions in the use of manual cameras to our documentary team, who then roamed the gallery taking fly on the wall and posed record shots of the process.
At noon everything stopped for lunch apart from the curator's panic as he watched part eaten sandwiches and crisps; sloppy yoghurt and sticky orange squash, flying around his hallowed environment.
After lunch we all went outside to pose and photograph the scenes and just before 2.00 o'clock we had shot our seven pictures plus the official team photo. Sorry Denis someone had to be holding the camera and yes, my little instamatic does shoot something completely different to what you see through the lens.
As the pupils went back to school to record the experience in artworks and words, Denis and I rushed off to the one hour processors with the film in our hot hands. Thanks to the man at the machine breaking all records we were back at the school showing the children the pictures by 3.05 giving them just enough time to write captions retelling the story before the school bell rang for home time.
We assembled photos and captions onto a display board which was hanging on the wall at the Gallery by 4.00pm. We got back into the car to face another jam on the M6, and that was the end of just another day.