Philosopher AJ Ayer introduced a generation to the notion that unless we have a word for something, we are unable to conceive of it, and that there is a direct relationship between our imagination, our ability to have ideas about things, and our vocabulary. This idea is similarly conveyed in 1984’s ‘Newspeak’ – controlled thought through controlled vocabulary. When the Oxford Junior Dictionary removed a series of words such as ‘acorn, blackberry, bluebell and kingfisher’ from their 2007 edition (in favour of more frequently used words such as ‘broadband’), illustrator Jackie Morris and writer Robert Macfarlane fought back by writing The Lost Words a ‘spell book’ celebrating nature words and the imagery and wonder they invoke.
In the autumn term of 2018, schools from the Truro Hub of Aspire MAT joined the fight by beginning their own ‘Lost Words’ project, based on the book, culminating in a performance and celebration at the Royal Cornwall Museum on Wednesday 5th December. Students from Probus Primary School, Truro Learning Academy, Mount Hawke Academy and St Mawes Primary School all earned a Discover Arts Award for their wonderful work.
Sarah Waller, Arts & Culture Consultant at RIO commented, “It’s vital we communicate the importance of arts subjects in developing the future leaders of our country and that we’re able to work with education leaders, such as the Aspire Academy Trust, who really recognise the value of creativity as key to children’s learning and development. Together, we can ensure every child and young person across the region is offered similar arts opportunities.”
The children’s poems, drawings and art were arranged in beautiful displays, with nature imagery and crafted vines and ferns twisting and winding around the various display boards, creating a sense of connectivity and a much more compelling exhibition to view than your typical ‘series of word documents stapled to a board’. The pupils also performed group dances based on the poems from Macfarlane’s text.
Celine Elliott, Community Engagement Officer at the Royal Cornwall Museum said, “We were delighted to be a part of this unique partnership, bringing so many young people and their families to the museum. Celebrating ‘The Lost Words’ through art, music, language & movement in the historic setting of the Royal Cornwall Museum gave a taste of possible future collaborations which we hope will blossom as a result of this event.”
A huge thank you and congratulations to all involved; Royal Cornwall Museum, Helen Tiplady at The Hall for Cornwall, Aspire MAT and of course the students themselves. As Aspire themselves have said, the children have proved to be worthy Arts ambassadors, and this event is Cornish cultural education partnerships in action!