In July 2014, we were working with Hillingdon Carers in Uxbridge, combining creative writing and visual arts in a mural project as part of our extensive inspired:arts programme for young carers.
Under the guidance of published author Carol Topolski, 16 young carers started by creating their own original story based on “Through the Wardrobe – Imagined Worlds”, a theme we chose to fire their imaginations. The theme – linking with the recent intu Uxbridge Get into Reading Campaign – draws on CS Lewis’s popular Narnia escapades, encouraging children to read and create their own stories.
For some young carers, dreaming of other worlds may provide welcome “downtime”: 27% of young carers aged 11-15 miss school regularly and 68% suffer bullying and isolation due to their caring roles. They worked in pairs, supported by 11 volunteers from intu Uxbridge and Intu Properties plc, to create pivotal characters in the story and visited outdoor spaces for inspiration to imagine a new world.
Once the final story was penned as a group, the young people worked with painter/sculptor Sheridan Quigley to visualise their ideas for a full-sized mural! With further volunteer support from intu, the final six metre piece was painted by hand on site at intu Uxbridge over two days in August.
One young carer described his experience at the end of the project:
“I feel more confident in my artwork now I’ve done this project. It helps to have a professional who you can learn from. We all worked together, listened to each other’s ideas and have made new friends. I think the mural will make a big difference to the community, perhaps contributing to stopping anti-social behavior by giving people something to talk about”.
See below for the final story concept which inspired the mural.
The Portals of The Shadow Tribe
The Lost Shadows are miserable. They’re happy enough perched in Shadowlands’ jungly trees but are missing one vital thing – a person to be attached to. After months and months of moaning and groaning they decide to do something to remedy this and create three beautiful portals: one into Astria, the second into Flipside and the third into Dandilaisydill.
Prince Sebastian lives in Astria. He’s really rather gorgeous, with his long blond hair and emerald eyes and, while he has an Aston Martin, prefers to get around on his gryphon made of fire, which impresses his subjects no end. He can’t be doing with the prince thing since he’d much rather be a hunter, so he buys a necklace from which to hang his trophies; but because he’s hopeless at killing things it hangs round his neck empty. He’s pretty hopeless at swordplay too – has to wear padded shoes because he keeps dropping the sword on his feet – so he practices every day, thinking maybe he’ll pick up some skills.
One sunny Thursday, he’s slashing away in the palace garden when he spots a triangle shape in a bush. He makes a pass and a thrust and stabs the sword through its middle, but trips over his padded shoes and falls through.
‘Woo hoo!’ say the Lost Shadows, ‘Our first!’ and the teleporter whizzes and hums. Sebastian finds himself banged up in a prison that’s made of shadow flames.
‘One down – two more to go!’ say the Shadows and go to lurk by the portal into Flipside.
Boris the Beavcoon lives there, in a land that would make you and me queasy. Everything is upside down, so the locals walk on the sky and look up to the grass but they live a very jolly life together. Boris is a bit of a geezer, and like all the other inhabitants has the head of a beaver and the body of a raccoon, but one of his front teeth is gold with a diamond winking in the middle. He likes nothing better than to create a bit of mayhem, but he always clears up after he’s made it. If he eats penguins he turns into a flying, super-dooper steel version of himself, but should he happen to eat a taco, his powers disappear.
Naturally he avoids tacos.
He’s playing hide and seek one day with friends and comes across this random door propped up against a wall.
‘Perfect!’ he says to himself and squeeeeeeeezes his burly body behind it. Unfortunately for him it’s the second portal and with a whizz and a hum, he’s in the shadow prison too.
‘Clever old us!’ say the Lost Shadows, rubbing their shadow paws, ‘Just one more to go and we’re sorted!’
In Dandilaisydill, Jessica is much given to granting wishes. Just one per person – mustn’t be greedy – and when she’s doing her job she’s dressed like a standard fairy with sparkly wings and tutu and a wand like a leaf she bought in Poundland. Actually, it’s just for show because the real magic’s in her head, but it convinces the punters, so she waves it around wildly when she’s granting things. At the end of a busy day, she retreats to her 50 room mansion at the top of a tree and likes nothing better than to party. She slips on her black leather jacket, her hip hop silk trousers and a snapback with Fairy Posse on the front – the tutu stays – and boogies under the disco ball, drinking cocktails all night.
She’s a keen gardener and one day when she’s fluttering around, spots some flowers with perky little faces. She zooms in to have a closer look and, schlurp! She’s sucked though the portal and into the prison.
Result!’ snicker the Lost Shadows and sneak over to the jail to gloat.
‘Hey!’ says Sebastian as Jessica lands on his head, ‘Who the deuce are you?’
‘I might ask you the same thing,’ says the fairy, ‘How did we end up here?’
‘Wassup?’ says Boris, ‘Like, this is waaaay uncool! We gotta get out of this place, man – this is seriously cramping my style.’
‘Oh Lord!’ says Sebastian, ‘Where’s Mummy and Daddy when you need them most? Somebody needs to think of a plan. I’m far too posh to do thinking, so you, weirdo, get your act together and get us out, will you?’
‘Watch this!’ says Boris and runs at the bars. ‘Ouch!’
‘Oh no!’ says Jessica, ‘Your nose is on fire!’ and she smothers the flames with her wings.
‘Got any penguins, dude?’ says Boris. ‘One of those and I’ll bust us out – no problem, know what I’m saying?’
‘Ah,’ says Jessica, ‘But they only seem to eat tacos here.’ Boris shrinks away into a corner.
‘But with my princely powers of observation, I notice you happen to be a fairy,’ says Sebastian.
‘Can you do a spot of magic to get us out? All that abracadabra whizzy stuff?’
‘Just one wish each,’ says Jessica.
‘Penguins!’ says Boris, ‘Gimme penguins!’ and the leaf wand waves over his head. But there’s been a slight misunderstanding. A huge pile of chocolate biscuits sits in front of the Beavcoon’s snout and, hungry though he is, it’s not going to turn him into steel.
‘Idiot!’ says Sebastian, ‘Get me out of here, fairy! Destination Astria, if you please.’ There’s a bang and a snap and a fair sprinkling of sparkles and Sebastian’s back on home ground.
He stands at the portal and observes. There are the Lost Shadows, prowling round the prison, shape-shifting and licking their lips. Any moment now, the captives are doomed, but Shadowland is suddenly plunged into darkness. For one hour a day the light disappears and of course the locals disappear too. (Being shadows and everything, they would).
Summoning his fiery gryphon, Sebastian rides to the rescue. The gryphon gobbles up the prison’s bars of flame and Boris and Jessica jump on its back.
‘Phew! Party time!’ says Jessica. ‘Everybody back to mine!’ and they swoop through the portal to Dandilaisydill and boogie the night away in her mansion. Many cocktails are consumed by them all.