There will be a day in June, hopefully a gloriously sunny one, when the streets of Worthing are full of Gangsta Grannies, Demon Dentists, Bad Dads and even the occasional Mr Stink.
Such is a summer in Worthing these days that most people won’t even be terribly surprised.
Last year, the Children’s Parade brought us Harry Potter; this year it’s the books of David Walliams. “It’s going to be a really good year,” says organiser Caroline Woodward. “There are so many ideas. There’ll be costumes and giant sculptures. We’re just sparking young people’s imaginations.”
The Children’s Parade has been going for 12 years and it gets bigger every time. “We’ve got 20 schools signed up already,” says Caroline, “including a few that are involved for the very first time. It’s exciting to be spreading our creativity around and giving more young people access to art provision in school.”
The preparations are already underway. Teachers from all the participating schools met recently at St Andrew’s – the school where Caroline teaches – for a masterclass in all things Walliams. Design elements for the giant sculptures were discussed with the contributing artists, enabling the teachers to go back to their schools armed with the skills to develop the ideas with their students. The young people, teachers and volunteers will then have about six weeks to create their outfits and structures in extra-curricular sessions before the big day on Saturday 15 June.
If all those young people can get anywhere near matching Caroline’s enthusiasm, it should be something worth seeing. “I’ve been teaching art for 20 years now and I’m really passionate about it. And I’m passionate about reading as well, so if we can find ways of inspiring young people towards a love of stories through a love of artwork then we must surely be onto a winner.”
“I think everyone is creative and I get saddened by the narrowing curriculum. I know maths and English are really important, but so are play and discovery and producing art. In life, nothing is ever pigeon-holed the way it is in schools. In the real world, we all work together, so it’s really nice to get that over-arching view that I don’t think you get on a daily basis working in schools.”
“This type of work is really important. We get a group of young people together and watch them bounce ideas off each other, getting more and more excited about the work they are doing. Transferable skills, problem solving, health and wellbeing and developing people’s confidence; all of that is embodied in the Children’s Parade. You can’t bottle that. I really don’t think it can be replaced by anything else.”
By Karl Allison