A project initiated by University of Dundee graduate Lindsay Macgregor and Fife-based writer and artist Rebecca Sharp is bringing together history, sculpture and poetry to inspire Dundee primary school pupils.

The ‘Clay and the Tay’ project, supported by the William S. Phillips’ Fund, has given 221 pupils in 7 Dundee primary schools the chance to learn from creative workshops run by experienced writers, artists and teachers who are graduates of the University’s MLitt Writing Practice and Study.

Lead facilitators are Beth McDonough, Nikki Robson and Sue Haigh (clay sessions), Rebecca Sharp, Lindsay Macgregor, Keren McPherson and Eddie Small (poetry and history sessions).

The classes, on the social and natural history of the Tay, writing poetry and sculpting with clay, are designed to offer fun, creative learning while promoting literacy skills, self-confidence, working together and sharing ideas.  They dovetail with the school curriculum whilst providing the opportunity for pupils to learn from sessions not normally available in school.

Three current students at the University of Dundee have had the opportunity to be involved by helping in the clay modelling and poetry writing classes. Dervla McCormick, Stephanie Smith and Courteney Inglis are all studying for a degree in English and Creative Writing.  Courteney plans to become a primary school teacher so the experience gained has been particularly valuable.

St Clement’s Primary School P7 teacher, Mr Timmons, said, “The class have done some painting and portraits in art, but working with clay allows them to transfer their knowledge and skills learnt on shape and texture onto a 3D model. Everyone is enjoying learning from creating something unique and individual from a lump of clay. It is a fantastic experience for them.”

The project has helped to introduce the schools to the Children’s University which promotes and delivers opportunities for young people which introduce them to tertiary education as an aspiration. The team hope to develop the programme in ways which help young people make the transition from primary to secondary school and to offer it to many more schools across Tayside and Fife.

Lindsay Macgregor said, “We are delighted at the success of the project. We’ve seen many reticent children, who by the end of the programme, were so pleased and willing to read out their poems. Other children who doubted themselves at the outset really flourished, making fantastically imaginative and elaborate clay heads. We are grateful to the William S. Phillips’ Fund and to all the teachers and schools who have made it all possible.”