January 29, 2024
This year, to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day in Tameside, Tameside Cultural Services, part of Tameside Council, has worked with the six Special Educational Needs/Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEN/SEND) schools in Borough - Thomas Ashton School, Oakdale Nursery and Primary School, Samuel Laycock School, Cromwell High School, Safe Start School Ashton, and Hawthorns Primary School - to produce an incredibly important art installation exploring concepts surrounding the fragility of our freedom, what our freedom means to us and what it would feel like to lose it.
It is important to remember that the Holocaust, perpetuated by the Nazis 1933-1945 began, as Anne Frank said in a diary entry in 1942, with ‘a series of anti-Jewish decrees’ where ‘our freedom was severely restricted’. As is explained by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, it is a gradual, even subtle process, as those targeted have their human rights and key freedoms eroded and a climate of complacency is built amongst those not in the immediate firing line. The ten stages of genocide outlined by Professor Gregory Stanton demonstrate the trajectory from targeted exclusion to genocide, as a reminder for us to remain alert to our freedoms and the freedoms of others, regardless of who they are or where they are from.
The project has manifested in two parts: Thomas Ashton School pupils have created a large sculpture of two, shackled open hands holding and surrounded by hundreds of zines, filled with art, collage and written reflections by pupils and students from across the six SEN/SEND schools about the things they enjoy most; their hobbies, ambitions, aspects of their lives they value and can access because they are free. What does freedom mean to each pupil or student?
In the second part, groups of students have worked with the splendid performer and professional storyteller Adam Blake to co-create a series of short stories based around themes of the characters being free, wishing to be free, and losing or gaining freedom, through interactive live performance and collaborative storytelling. These key themes have been woven together through the storytelling traditions of children’s fairytales, folklore and nursery rhymes, taking inspiration from old tales like Rapunzel, or playing as woodland animals or magical creatures. With the help of Adam, each school group has created a unique fairy tale or story which illustrates what freedom means to those children. In addition to this, each participating pupil will receive an Arts Award DISCOVER, which is nationally recognised and awarded by Trinity College, London.
Work began on the project at the start of January 2024 and continued until the installation was unveiled at Thomas Ashton School on January 26th, the day before Holocaust Memorial Day. The work will then tour all the participating schools, giving each the opportunity to host the work and allow family and friends to come visit it more locally, before eventually returning Thomas Ashton School which will be its permanent home!
The stories have been lovingly typed up and published on the InTameside website and can be found at the end of this blog post. Links to them will be on all the school websites too. We will also share all the work with the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, who highly value the incredible art created by young people across Tameside to commemorate the day, year after year: Holocaust Memorial Day Trust | Tameside SEND School Arts Collaboration.
To see the work from last year’s Holocaust Memorial Day please click here.
Tameside Cultural Services
Portland Basin Museum