VIPs

Today has been extraordinary. Adrenaline, excitement and pride. Overcome by emotion, keeping going and carrying on – and realising that the reason why I am doing it all, is because I want to get it right for these children, for the people and communities we are entrusted to inspire. And that’s such a huge thing – a privilege and a responsibility – and hard to think about, and hard to write about without raising lots of questions…

I’ve prepared for today more than I would for any academic conference, any MA lecture, any training course for museum professionals, even actually for my PhD viva. Loose preparation, willing to change at any movement.

The reason why… 180 VIPs from West Earlham Infant School in Norwich. It had to be right. I don’t know if it was right, but I think it was ok. It worked I think.

What amazing children.

I’m still settling in here. I don’t know the city yet. I don’t know its politics. But I know that this was for these children. And thank you to all my colleagues at the Sainsbury Centre who knew this and suggested it. All credit – and so much more – to the children – Reception, Y1 and Y2. I’ve never done an assembly for infants. I’ve never really even led a workshop session for this age-group.

Yet they were that wonderful mix – of being utterly excited, yet utterly well-behaved – enthusiastic and full of ideas and questions. We talked about the queen, about Fiji and its objects, about the Sainsbury Centre, and about why the queen loved Fiji, and why she was here today. We passed Fijian objects around, and looked at Fijian coins. We talked about corgis and pets. The queen was the official VIP, but it was actually the children who were the real VIPs. The pride in the crowns and flags and banners and chains they’d made said it all.

My favourite comment of the day was when someone asked the Mayoress if she was a pirate. What an amazing question. (And yes, she did look a bit like one and offered her pirate hat to one of the pupils, plonking it on their head!) The children all answered questions, asked new ones… They met new people, interacted with the student ambassadors, walked through crowds, answered news reporter questions, saw students cheering, saw students still in pyjamas, walked through the whole campus.

This (campus – or new experiences – or asking questions) is for you. One day soon. Now.

An absolute credit to their teachers and families.
I feel slightly emotional about it, but this feels like a direction… so impossible to evaluate or quantify… There’s something about an ethical imperative here.

Learning is for everyone.
It opens doors. It opens imaginations. It opens.

New Year

2017 here we are. Happy New Year!

2016 was a year of change. It involved big life events and big professional events, entangled with big world events, often all occurring simultaneously, both heartening and disheartening. In hindsight, it was hard. Exciting, challenging, inspiring, joyful, new – but also exhausting, sad and hard.

It started with a blustery New Year’s Day walk at Gaddings Dam (Britain’s highest beach). People then here, now not here. Rather too many of them. Warrior Treasures at the Royal Armouries. Working there with some of the most creative and brilliant people I’ve met. And leaving, just as I was settling in. Selling my lovely home in Sheffield. Packing up a life and moving away from Yorkshire after 11 years. Saying goodbye. More loving and leaving. Submitting my final PhD corrections and graduating. Dr Woodall. A German Easter. Hay on Wye. Latitude. Croatia. A few job applications. An interview at the Sainsbury Centre in Norwich. Bunnies and a lake. Head of Learning. A new place. New networks. New job challenges. Art at a university. Just what I’ve been looking for? A house to rent in a new city, a new region. New people. New places. East Anglia. Exploring. Not knowing.

And I adopted my cat, Molly, on 23 January 2016. Amidst all the change, she is a constant (albeit never constant herself), and to her I am more grateful than she probably realises. So for 2017, a hope for some more Molly-like constancy, a few more roots, and a bit of flourishing. That should do nicely.

Image of cat on arm of sofa

Molly watching Yorkshire from Norwich during ‘To Walk Invisible’.