Friday, August 23

Vanessa's Been Searching....

...for WW1 links to Bermondsey.  Much of it has been redeveloped since World War 2, and it's recently changed from a very poor area  into one which is very affluent in parts.   Only in parts though. Away from the fancy coffee shops and gift boutiques of Bermondsey Street and places like it, the Bermondsey of council flats and working class communities is still very much in evidence.   This is what she says about some of the council flat railings that the kids pass by every day.


In South London, round the blocks of flats, there are lots of fences that like this. These are actually recycled WW1 stretchers which were used in mobile hospitals.

WW1 is harder to 'get into' than the familiar Churchill-Hitler story. It was longer ago and attitudes have changed- people back then were jingoistic and the whole concept of empire is uncomfortable for modern kids. But I recently ran a successful series of workshops about the iron age Britons and Romans (even longer ago!) for 7 and 8 year olds. We had a series of lively debates about whether the Roman occupation was a good or a bad thing. This was really inspiring as it proved to me that even quite young children can put themselves into the mindset of someone living long ago.

I'm really looking forward to opening up the Edwardian era to modern children and hopefully making it stick in their Moshi-Monster-filled heads. I can't wait to read the stories they come up with... if they are not absolutely historically accurate they will at least be funny and thought-provoking!

Thursday, August 22

Who Are We?

Here are Frank (left) and Vanessa (right) drinking coffee and sketching out the first ideas for Mabel and her fleas.

I (Jenny) was behind the camera there, and here I am in front of it, reading a book of photos of London in Mabel's day, or just before.

So far so good...

Wednesday, August 14

And Who Exactly Was Mabel?

Well, Mabel wasn't my Grandma, (above) although like Grandma she was cheerful and joyful, and worked as a nurse in France in the First World War - just like Grandma did.

Grandma came from Seaton Delaval, near Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in the North of England.    Our Mabel was a Londoner, though. She came from Bermondsey, the same place as Boutcher School, and we have her living in a little house that once stood opposite Boutcher school.

I did wonder if Grandma's knife had a little secret to it, and so Mabel needed a secret too.  Mabel's secret was that she took some very unusual little friends with her to France. They were her performing fleas.

And so we embarked on the story about how we harnessed the creative energies of the kids from Boutcher School to create a story with a secret, inspired by that feisty young girl who was my grandma, long ago.