Artsmark Celebration – Produced by Historyworks

 27th June Artsmark Celebration in Cambridge

Helen Weinstein was appointed by Arts Council England as the Producer for the ArtsMark Celebration event which was held for the first time in the region, organized by Festival Bridge in partnership with Cambridge City Council’s Arts team and part of the very exciting new Festival of Education in Cambridge.

The challenge for Historyworkswas to produce an event which would showcase the performances of students involved in the Artsmark award scheme, and also to provide a set of pieces to learn in collaboration with top Artists in an afternoon workshop to be performed together at the evening showcase of performances.

To see a fantastic overview of all the contributions from young people to the event, please see the film captured and edited by the students from the Sawston Village College film crew here:

The schools involved in celebrating their Artsmark achievement were a range of primary and secondary students from across Cambridge, and the aim was to host all the young people to rehearse together and learn new vocal singing techniques and breathing techniques, to help support their development of singing and drama.  Some of the young people were at the start of their Artsmark journey, like the ACTIVATE group from Coleridge, and others were at the end of their journey like the young artist, Becky Demmen.

There were also professional artists invited by Historyworks for the workshop, to inspire the young people and to work with them on some group pieces to perform.  These were the Rap artist, Inja, and the musci leader, Mario Satchwell.  We had a lot of fun in the workshop warming up our voices, but we did have a rather unexpected interruption of a fire alarm, so ended up with over a hundred children singing in the rain for a few minutes!!

During the workshop, the young people learnt from historian, Helen about why we had chosen the group piece called FREEDOM because it was about an extraordinary human rights activist called Equiano who came to live for a while in Cambridge in the 1770s.  He wrote an important first-hand account of what it felt like to be enlaved as an African child, kidnapped and torn away from your family, put in chains to sail on ships in horrifc cramped conditions to far distant lands, and all the time to be imprisoned and beaten to work to the brink of endurance, de-humanised with your birth name and your birth language forbidden, violently treated whilst witnessing many enslaved africans tortured and maimed and killed in front of your eyes.  Equiano's is a story of resistance and his publishing his memoir, going on speaking tours all over England, lobbying in churches and with politicians,  was a game-changer in making a difference to altering attitudes in England about whether it was moral for the trade in buying and selling humans in Africa and taking them all over the world as enslaved people could ethically continue.  

The song FREEDOM is based on the research documents about this human rights activism which were shared by Helen as a briefing for Inja, who composed a RAP piece which he performs dynamically, with an accompanying choral backing arrangement which is very moving, composed by Rowena Whitehead.  This is quite a challenging piece to learn in a workshop because all the singers have to really listen carefully for the transitions and watch the conductor like a hawk!  It is in 3 part harmony and the young people tackled it brilliantly under the superb direction of Mario Satchwell, who broke the learning up into segments, and we had all the adult music teachers and carers pitch in too to sing alongside the students to make our workshop a truly participatory activity. 

During the rehearsal we also had breaks to learn a couple of other pieces for the evening event, and for the groups of performers from the schools to rehearse their pieces for the event, but also to perform pieces to one another, which they all really enjoyed.  You could hear a pin drop during these concentrated moments in the workshop, when all the young people were just awestruck and respecful whilst listening to one another's contributions.

After a pizza break at the end of the workshop, everyone had a well deserved break before taking their seats ready for parents and teachers, and the wider Artsmark and 'My Cambridge' Education Festival audience to be wowed by the celebratory event.  The Radegund Hall was dressed with banners and balloons and all the performers and the wider audience were welcomed by Helen Weinstein as Director of Historyworks about the running order and housekeeping for the event, and then we turned over to Michael Corley from Festival Bridge who expressed his pride at the achievements of all the young people and their teachers and schools involved in Artsmark, and explained to the wider audience the ethos of the programme, to support young people on their own cultural and creative journeys.

The audience were enabled to join in the participatory and celebratory values, as the young people under the direction of Mario and Helen taught them their vocal warm up songs, including the special Horrible-histories-style songs about Cambridge; with Mario asking the parents and carers to form a secondary choir together, so their voices were joined in call and response with the workshop singers.  It was huge fun and 'Hey Mr Miller' sounded especially melodic and was a great opener before we asked all the artsmark performers to come to the front to perform the FREEDOM RAP together.

Following on we heard wonderful Artmark pieces by the Duxford Year 6 singing 'As Time Flies By'; followed by Witchford's Performance of 'Don't Know What To Do'. Emily Chase from Festival Bridge then gave a quick talk explaining about the progression steps of the Artsmark award before we heard from Becky Denman with her performance final film called 'Even For You'.

Wowed by the first part of the celebratory event, we then heard about the fantastic work by the ACTIVATE group introducing 'The Museum of Us', before we watched a vibrant film by Coleridge Head of Create, Russell Burgess with a ShowReel of the Artfest from this June's students at Coleridge Community College and Parkside Federation. See:

In the last part of the event, we witnessed an intense drama by Linton Village Community College students about the 9/11 attacks on New York's World Trade Centre called 'Shock, Shake and Shatter'.  Followed by a strong vocal performance by the large mixed choir of Sawston Village College, of Ed Sheeran's 'Castle on the Hill' which lifted everyones' spirits.  We finished with a short talk about the importance of singing everyday in school by Sarah Edwards of Cavalry Primary School.  

Appropriately, the team from Historyworks led the audience and all the artsmark students in a particiaptory finale, of 'Vela Sikubone' which means 'We all come together in Harmony'.  Mario and Helen and Tizzy led the audience groups and it was a very warm and fitting note on which to end an extraordinary evening of uplifting performances.

Artsmark Celebration in Cambridge