Meet the Barking and Dagenham children turning their school playgrounds into art

Artist Emma Scutt with year three pupils from William Bellamy Primary who are helping paint a mural

Artist Emma Scutt with year three pupils from William Bellamy Primary who are helping paint a mural in their playground - Credit: Archant

Colourful murals are brightening up playgrounds with designs developed by pupils in partnership with professional artists.

The William Bellamy design

The William Bellamy design - Credit: Archant

Video games, colours and animals are some of the varied topics that have inspired the one-off artworks.

Marks Gate School, Marsh Green and William Bellamy have all been part of the My School Playground pilot project by Open Space.

Vasily Chernov, director of the arts organsation, said: “Very often playgrounds are just grey asphalt, but thanks to the programme, they’ll become pieces of art.

“Normally either an artist comes to a school and creates something they think is appropriate, or the school commissions something.

The Marks Gate design

The Marks Gate design - Credit: Archant

“We wanted to have professional artists give their opinions and views on what would look good – but also to have the children involved in it [so they could] really own the space and be creative in a very direct way.

“They’ve helped transform their own playgrounds – not had the adults do it for them.”

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Painting for each of the three murals started last week following a fortnight of workshops to decide what they should look like. It is hoped they will all be completed by Friday.

At Marks Gate, artist Megan Broadmeadow has created “Level Playing Field”, a video game style design, with year five pupils.

Using the school motto “reach for the stars” as an inspiration, it includes stepping stones, hopscotch and a maze, all painted in bright colours to mimic those found in video games.

Illustrator Emma Scutt worked with children in years three and four at William Bellamy. Together they came up with the idea of including each of the seven school year colours as separate paths that flow from the edges of the surrounding buildings to intertwine in the middle (see design, bottom of page on left-hand side).

Each one has the colour written in five languages spoken by the children, and are surrounded by paintings by pupils.

At Marsh Green, Charlie Kirkham worked with year six pupils to create a mural at the entrance that spans the wall and the asphalt.

The slope mural is based on water with water creatures going into a rock pool and the landscape wall depicting the sky, trees and plants.

It includes the school’s duck logo, animals from the book Eye of the Wolf and plants grown on site.

Vasily added: “We think it [the project] will completely change the way the playgrounds look and the way the children feel about them.”

Open Space now hopes to extend the project to other schools in the borough and beyond.