CBeebies presenter to launch books written by artists and South Shields schoolchildren

From left artist Alizon Bennet, The Works Barry Pollock and the Cultural Springs Michael Barrass.
From left artist Alizon Bennet, The Works Barry Pollock and the Cultural Springs Michael Barrass.

A CBeebies star will launch storybooks written and produced following a collaboration between artists and South Tyneside schoolchildren next week.

Popular TV presenter Chris Jarvis will launch seven books produced in a Cultural Spring project in which five borough schools worked with five artists to produce books based on stories created by children and their families.

The books, which have been professionally designed and printed, will be unveiled at an event at The Word next Thursday, November 8, hosted by Chris, who presents the long-running Show Me Show Me programme on Cbeebies.

The children and families of those involved in producing the books will be at the event.

The project started before the summer holidays when the Cultural Spring linked the schools and artists and set them the challenge of producing the books.

Michael Barrass, Project Co-ordinator for the Cultural Spring, said: “The schools involved decided who they wanted to interview and individual school panels then chose an artist to work with. Each artist then met children and their parents or grandparents to develop stories and narratives. The stories were then developed over several weeks and then the artists created artwork to accompany the stories, while at the same time helping the pupils to create their own artwork.”

The school/artist combinations were:

St Aloysius RC VA Junior School, Hebburn, and artist/illustrator Josie Brookes;
Lord Blyton Primary School, South Shields and artist Julia Stafford
Hadrian Primary School, South Shields and artist/designer Alizon Bennet
Biddick Hall Infants School, South Shields and illustrator Laura Joy Robertson
Holy Trinity CE Academy and Blyth-based arts organization Headway Arts

Artist Alizon Bennet, who worked on the project with children and their families from Hadrian Primary, said: “I had a great time and hope the children did too.

"We based our two books around Woof, who is a soft toy dog that the school gives to pupils to look after and care for – he goes with the children on holiday, to the supermarket or to the park.

“So Woof was our starting point and I talked to the children about where Woof might go in South Tyneside and what he might do.

"We all went on to a trip to see the monsters exhibition at The Word, and then we created some of our own monsters from vegetables- some of which appear in the books.

“My group consisted of six five-year-olds, who included triplets, and their families.

"They were all lovely and I really enjoyed their company.”

Once the stories and images were completed, they were passed to design, creative and digital agency The Works, based in Chester-le-Street.

The agency designed the books and oversaw their publication – and they were so taken by the project they also sponsored their printing.

The Works managing partner Barry Pollock said: “We were asked to design the books early in the summer, and were so impressed by the work of the schools and artists, that we
Said we’d be happy to sponsor the project.

"As a creative business this was something that resonated with us and a brilliant way to engage the children and their families in a fun and creative way.”

The project has also been supported by South Tyneside Council and The Customs House.