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Ancient Sunlight

December 1, 2014

This autumn I’ve been working at St James School in Exeter, two sessions a week for five weeks, with printmaker Catherine Cartwright and two groups of five students aged 14 to 15. Both she and they have been a joy to work with. A small room in the Art Department, complete with etching press, was allocated for our use.


We assembled a suitcase-library of books for the young people to refer to.

Suitcase library

We hung up their prints and covered the walls with poems, articles and other sources of inspiration, and more of the young people’s work.

Prints 2

Photo by Catherine Cartwright

Photo by Catherine Cartwright

During the penultimate week I edited the students’ poems into a single long poem for the Book of Justice. My experience as one of the editors for the Actaeon collaborative project proved very useful at this stage. During the final week the young people printed their words in monotype drawing, wiping-out monoprint and drypoint etching, and during an after-school session together we created a huge collage of photocopies of the work.


The project is a product of Kaleider, a local Community Arts organisation. To quote from their website,

Ancient Sunlight is a project about the oil age.
In autumn 2014 hundreds of young people will work with Kaleider to write a book: Ancient Sunlight – The Exeter Book.
The book will contain stories of now: stories of Justice, Food, Leadership, Technology and Love in the oil age. Each of these themes makes up a separate book in the Book of Ancient Sunlight and each book is led by a different artist: David Lane (technology), Catherine Cartwright (justice), Sally Flint (food), Amy Shelton (love), and Shona Morton (leadership). Daisi has helped us connect with many schools across exeter where the artists will be leading the development of the book with the help of scientists, other artists, academics, and technologists.
Then in Spring 2015 Kaleider and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra will work with more young people from 4 secondary schools to develop a symphony in 5 parts in response to the book of Ancient Sunlight.
We then plan to use the book and the symphony to make an outdoor show that interrupts the flow of Exeter on a grand and joyful scale.
Ancient Sunlight will involve as many children and young adults as we can, 3 universities, 1 Met Office, 1 symphony orchestra, 1 Daisi, at least 2 robotics artists, 5 robots, 1 dramaturg, several animateurs, 1 publisher, 1 Children’s Literature Festival, 1 library, many artists, producers and technicians, and with luck, several thousand audience members.
And lots of hope.


There were many bonuses for me. One was this walk through autumn woodland between the school and the station. Another was spending time with Catherine and her lovely family on the occasions when I stayed over between the Monday and Wednesday sessions. Catherine is one of many friends I’ve met through the ever-evolving project Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here.

See also the post “Sunlight in Exeter“.

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 1, 2014 7:33 pm

    What a brilliant project, Ama, the book and symphony together will be extraordinary.

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