Last week a group of nine 13 -17 years olds from Waltham Forest Young Carers spent four days at Gilwell Park exploring the stories behind the sculptures hidden around the grounds.
Gilwell Park is scattered with sculptures; some have been gifted by other Scouting organisations, others created on site and some pre-date Gilwell’s Scouting life. What they all have in common is the amazing stories behind them. From the majestic bronze buffalo which celebrates the story of how Scouting came to the USA, to the iconic bust of Robert Baden-Powell presented by the Scouts of Mexico (beloved by selfie enthusiasts visiting Gilwell) these sculptures tell of the world wide Scouting family. Some have a personal or poignant story including the Leopard Gates carved by Don Potter who discovered his talent for carving at Gilwell Park in the 1920s and went later on to be a respected professional sculptor and Walter’s Urn commemorating the death of 9 year old Walter Chinnery who lived and died at Gilwell during its previous incarnation as a Regency pleasure palace.
The group spent the week exploring the stories and working with a professional artist Zoe Payne, created artworks inspired by them. The works were brought together by Zoe as an animation celebrating Gilwell’s amazing heritage.
The project promoted imaginative ways to interact and respond to the sculpture, whilst also teaching participants how to animate and visually communicate ideas in motion. The participants enjoyed the hands on approach which encouraged individual expression and enjoyment of art. When a participant states
I have never had so much fun in my life!
you know you’re on the right track. Words used by other group members show they all got something different from their participation in the project.
When we first approached the Young Carers group they were keen to come and stay at Gilwell Park. Getting away is often difficult for young carers due to the responsibilities they have at home, and their group coordinator was keen to combine the project with the opportunity for a residential. For many of the participants this was their first experience of camping and in the evenings they were able to take advantage of the amazing Scout Adventures offer at Gilwell Park. They tried their hand at the high wires course, the climbing wall and go karts, as well as relaxing around a campfire perfecting their marshmallow toasting technique. In the words of one participant
“I could face my fears and try new things”.
The group coordinator reflected that
“Staying here allowed so much bonding and shared adventures. It’s invaluable.”
For these young people having a chance to spend time putting themselves first is a rarity, one which many of their peers take for granted. Over the week we saw the young peoples confidence, skills and enjoyment grow. They came together as a team supporting each other as well as pushing their own boundaries. This is the ethos of Scouting and Gilwell Park and it has been fantastic to see a new group access it through the Movement’s heritage and the opportunities creative project planning can bring.
This is the first project of this kind that the Scouts Heritage Service has run, and we are delighted by how successful it has been.
The project was funded through ArtUK’s Sculpture Around You project, which is part funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.