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By Julie Smartfreelance education writer

Four primary schools in Gloucestershire used a famous English country garden as inspiration for a whole range of creative projects

Children learning about plants

Hidcote Manor in Gloucestershire is one of England’s great Arts and Crafts gardens. Thousands of visitors every year wander through the ‘outdoor rooms’ created 100 years ago by the wealthy American, Lawrence Johnston, and now cared for by the National Trust. Last summer, it was also a showcase for the creativity of local schoolchildren.

More than 200 children and their teachers worked with professional artists, such as potters, sculptors and animators, to create drama, dance, cookery, visual art, ceramics and film that were on display in a week-long event during July 2009. Hidcote Unlocked was a celebration of creativity inspired by the history, planting, design and evocative setting of Hidcote Manor Garden.

Creative Partnerships

The project was the result of a link made between Creative Partnerships, the National Trust and Gloucestershire Dance. The schools involved worked with Creative Partnerships for a year as Enquiry Schools, exploring how creative teaching and learning could enhance their practice. Enquiry Schools are given a grant of £3000 and contribute £1000 themselves. They are also offered the support of a ‘creative agent’ who acts as a project coordinator.

Five schools – four primary and one secondary – took part in Hidcote Unlocked after being approached by RiO, the managing agency for Creative Partnerships in the south west. Antony Waller, RiO’s creative agent, knew that the schools were interested in developing a relationship with Hidcote. He brought them together, supported them through the funding application and put them in touch with professional artists who could meet their needs.

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