On Thursday 16 May, children with special needs and disabilities from five Harrow schools came together at Harrow Arts Centre for an afternoon showcasing their creativity through performances and an exhibition themed around the environment. The former Mayor of Harrow, Cllr Kareema Marikar, was in attendance for her last engagement as Mayor before Thursday evening’s Mayor-Making ceremony.

Speaking at the event, Cllr Marikar said: “I’m very humble and honoured that this is my last engagement as Mayor. The event has made it very clear that children who are in special needs schools can focus and achieve, and do things in the future in their own capacity. The environment is the key problem in the world now, so I’m very happy that Create has helped the children to understand what the environment is and what happens when you litter. The education side of the project is excellent and I really, really enjoyed the event.”

The showcase was part of changing:minds, a new three-year project bringing together all four special schools in Harrow – Alexandra School, Kingsley High School, Shaftesbury High School and Woodlands School – and West Lodge Primary School’s specialist autism provision, Kaleidoscope. During the first two weeks of May, 113 pupils at the schools took part in a series of workshops run by Create, the UK’s leading charity empowering lives through the creative arts. Create’s professional artists worked with the young people to explore costume design, drama, music, sculpture and visual art.

With funding from John Lyon’s Charity and The Lovington Foundation, Create brought changing:minds to life by working closely with Harrow Music Service – supported by Harrow Arts Centre – and the five participating schools. The project focuses on developing the young people’s creativity and confidence, and on changing perceptions of disability in Harrow. It will continue in 2020 and 2021, each year’s workshops culminating in a showcase at Harrow Arts Centre.

Zach, 10, who attends Alexandra School and took part in changing:minds, said: “I had fun on the project and it was really good. My idea was turned it into a song and that made me happy. It was fun to play music on the iPad and choose sounds for the song. I feel very happy and nervous about doing the performance – my mum is coming!”

Another participant, from West Lodge Primary School, said: “I enjoyed working with all my friends and getting really messy. We found a piece of yellow plastic and we made a yellow submarine out of it, and then we cut holes for the windows and decorated it. It’s made me feel really happy and really nice.”

Create’s Chief Executive, Nicky Goulder, said: “changing:minds is an important project that is bringing together so many children with special needs and disabilities from Harrow over three years. We are determined to use the project to change perceptions and the showcase helped us do just that. The artwork, drama and music created were spectacular, showing how creative and talented all the young artists are. They were all inspired by the “environment” theme to create pieces that challenged behaviour around plastics and other waste; and they had so much fun and built new friendships. More than 300 people experienced what they had achieved at the incredible sharing and we feel privileged to be designing and delivering such an impactful project. I am deeply grateful to all the partners and to John Lyon’s Charity and The Lovington Foundation for making the project possible. I can’t wait for the 2020 project!”

Funders: John Lyon’s Charity, The Lovington Foundation

About Create

Create is the UK’s leading charity empowering lives through the creative arts. Our focus is on engaging the most marginalised participants in inspiring, sustainable arts programmes in areas where provision is poor and engagement in the arts is therefore low. We prioritise our work with seven participant groups: young patients; disabled children and adults; young and adult carers; schoolchildren in areas of deprivation; vulnerable older people; young and adult prisoners; and marginalised children and adults. Create has won a number of awards for its work with disabled children, including the Arts, Culture and Heritage Charity Award in 2017.

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