Beaumont Leys School, Leicester
Open to the public 13:00 - 15:00
21st & 28th November, 5th & 12th December 2009
When we were invited to Beaumont Leys School to discuss a possible collaboration we arrived expecting to talk about animations or pod-casts, yet as soon as we saw the gleaming corridors of their brand new (£17M) building, it was clear we had to persuade them to invest in an edition of The Steps Series. This persuasion wasn't difficult and the school took on the challenge with vigour. A team of students visited Spy Steps to gain ideas (you can see them in the documentation photos for that project). In order to generate enthusiasm from within the school's leadership for the project we took them to Spy Steps as well.
Next, Craig led a session in which students pitched ideas for the project's theme. Our favourite, given the futuristic nature of the school and its daytime status as an enclosed community, was Space and the challenge of turn the school building into a spaceship. This metaphor that casts the school as a vehical for lifting its crew out of their current circumstances and transporting them to another world was an attractive one, given the aspirations and expectations we were looking to help fire in the students.
Reflecting on their response to Spy Steps, our student team helped guide the structure and narrative of Space Steps. The piece starts at the building's front entrance, where robot guards slide aside to allow admission. From here the piece follows a smooth route around the building concluding on the top floor with the flight deck. Although there are connections between incidents early in the piece and those later on, its linear structure is only slightly less conservative than Odyssey Steps.
A test on a hidden piece of wall suggested that the school's emulsion paint work wasn't as robust as those we had encountered previously with this project, so vinyl had to be restricted to floors, doors, glass, metal and perspex. Banks of lockers turned into seed banks, incubation units for aliens and storage facilities for the elements. Music rooms became fuel tanks. Stowaways attempt to steal the diamond drive, aliens escape and have to be recaptured, General Teaching arrives and the crew prepare to make the jump to hyperspace.
Installation took place, helped by the students, over half term. Preparations had been in secret so the rest of the schoool were shocked and excited to find the transformation when they returned to school. Teachers took advantage of the installation as a stimulus for lessons in a number of subjects. The students who had collaborated on the making of the project maintained it for the month it was installed, the also conducted guided tours for parents visitors and their peers. Evaluation of the project surprised us when we learnt that the teacher's strongest response was the amount of thinking involved in the process, that the whole team, students included, would sit and think in silence for extended periods, would make and test suggestions, refine ideas and think critically about our own work.
Devised by Simon Ford, Craig Stephens and James Yarker with Denise Stanton
Rheanna Boyes, Kieran Figg, Vinay Jamnadas, Jasmin Kaur, Jemini Pandya, Ashika Pattni, Ranko Radulovic and Georgia Whitaker
with Ms. Livesley, Ms Hicken and Ms Hall
Sound Design by Lovedeep Bharaj, Coutney Bliss, Rosie-Olivier Heggs, Bhavik Solanki, Annabelle Tarrant and Ross Westbrook with Angus Wallace
Alien / Robot Designs by classes 9RLH and 7SB
Photos by Andrew Billington
Produced by Miss. Crosby and Andrew Fox
Space Steps was funded by The Mighty Creative