Not too Shoddy Digital Arts Project


One of my proudest moments as a full time artist was my recent residency with Education Ossett Community Art Schools. Ossett is my home town, it is the place where I grew up and it is the pace where my love of art was first ignited, so it was wonderful when the head teacher at Towngate, Naoimh Sampson, approached me to work with them. I had initially worked at Towngate as part of my residency with Wakefield Wildcats Community Trust.


I worked with all 9 schools in the EOCT ‘umbrella’ and worked with nearly 1000 children on a project, which saw them working with ipads to create a huge banner about the town, and it’s industrial history.


It culminated on Wednesday 19th March when the banner was unveiled at Ossett Town Hall in front of a huge crowd.


On the unveiling night there was also a digital installation, by The Collaborators, a performance by Gawthorpe Brass Band and a wonderful theatrical ‘reaction’ to the project by Yew Tree Theatre.


See more about the project below…


What Not Too Shoddy is?


After delivering iPad workshops in Ossett schools in 2012-13, the Education Ossett Community Trust approached the artist, Jason Wilsher-Mills, to work with their pupils on a community project, which both embraced the arts and the towns industrial heritage. It would see them engage with both digital art, and the fact that the pupils, who presently attend the schools, have no idea about the rich industrial heritage of the town in which they live in, for which the town of Ossett is famous.


This being the cotton mills, and those mills, from which recycled cloth was used to form ‘shoddy’, a cheap material, which was used to make poor quality clothing, bedding, etc., hence the title of the project.


Initially the idea is to enable the children to interview ex-mill workers/family members & older people in the community and then create artwork based on these interviews. Before making the art they will research the stories told, and then make visual imagery from this. Some schools will also visit sheltered housing and have arranged for the British Legion to visit the schools.


Rather than use traditional art methods they will use ipads to make art on, these images will then be developed further to create a final piece of community art, which will take the form of a banner.


Of particular influence will be the union banners, which were used to promote the union and also to record the history of the industry, and the town’s unique coat of arms, which includes a hanging sheep, along with the town’s motto, which when translated is ‘making useless things useful through art’.


It will be a unique opportunity to revisit the beautiful form of art of the banner, and what makes this project so special is that is will be made through the eyes of children.


We are hoping to celebrate the project through a series of public events, which will ultimately result in a public display of digital art, where images created throughout the project will be projected onto the schools themselves.


It is hoped we can change the building, through the magic of digital equipment, so that the building will ‘evolve’ into a working mill. There will be heritage events in the town on the night of the unveiling, which will include a youth theatre and a brass band. The theatre group will bring the stories to life, which were told to the children as part of the research and the brass band will add to the spectacle, representing the cultural heritage of the town through music.


The project was developed because Jason had worked with the schools previously and due to the fact the trust was shocked and surprised as to just how many of their pupils had no idea about the industrial heritage of their home, and indeed were surprised to find out that there were mills, within walking distance of where there schools now stand.


It is a wonderful opportunity to unlock the stories hidden within families, and greater community, about their role in the industry and will give the children an opportunity to explore their shared industrial heritage, through the means of research, interviews and making art in this new and original new manner.


Working with the artist, Jason Wilsher-Mills, they will use the Brushes App to create digital paintings, which will then be edited into one piece of community art, which will serve as a tribute to the industrial and social heritage.


Jason Wilsher-Mills has a proven track record of working with schools on successful community art projects, funded by Arts Council England, having worked with over 6000 children on 2 prestigious residencies with the National centre for Craft & Design, in the East Midland town of Sleaford, and with Wakefield Wildcats Community Trust, which saw the artist making a truly ground-breaking piece of art, using ipads to bring over 3000 individual images together to form a 60 metre mural.


Through previous Arts Council England funding Jason has been able to purchase 34 iPads, plus cutting edge IT equipment, which many schools do not possess.


Jason is a registered centre for the Arts Award, so through the residency he will be delivering the nationally recognised qualification through the project.


He was born and raised in Ossett and is the son of a mill worker, which is another reason why this will be an interesting approach to the project, given that his work is primarily about his disability, his cultural heritage and his memories of growing up in Yorkshire. He is a full time wheelchair user, so again this demonstrates the innovation of the project.