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Portrait of a Nation: Bristol Collage by students from City of Bristol College, Lawrence Weston Portrait of a Nation: Bristol

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Portrait of a Nation: Bristol

Collage by students from City of Bristol College, Lawrence Weston
Portrait of a Nation: Bristol
The Portrait of a Nation initiative is being run by the Liverpool Culture Company, member cities of the Cultural Cities Network and the Heritage Lottery Fund. It began in 2007 and will develop into a high profile strand of the European Capital of Culture 2008 celebrations in Liverpool this year. Portrait of a Nation works with young people across the UK to showcase their own local, regional and national identities through a series of events that will feed into a December showcase which will close the Liverpool celebrations.

In Bristol the project was linked to the Great Reading Adventure, an annual event that encourages everyone to read the same book at the same time. The 2008 book was a specially commissioned graphic-style history of the city called The Bristol Story which was distributed free of charge to over 80,000 people through schools, colleges, libraries, heritage sites, hospitals, local businesses, bookshops and other locations. It was supported by an extensive website at, activity packs for schools, an illustrated readers’ guide and an adaptation of the main book suitable for younger/ less confident readers called The Bristol Comic.

For Portrait of a Nation, a programme of 143 free, half-day workshops was provided for a total of 484 young people at selected Bristol schools and colleges between November 2007 and March 2008. The young participants created collages/banners, comic books, written work and drama pieces on the themes of identity, roots, heritage and culture, focussing in particular on the city neighbourhoods in which they lived and studied. They represented a wide age range, and a geographically and socially diverse spread of locations, and were chosen from the schools and colleges who had been particularly responsive to previous Great Reading Adventures.
This document brings together the teachers’ feedback on the project, along with photographs of the participants and their collages, sample strips from their comic-books and their written work (as at 15 May 2008). More photographs are on the Great Reading Adventure website, along with PDFs and scans. A disk containing all the digital material, including additional scanned work not shown on the website, is also available. Credit: all collage photos Martin Chainey. All workshop photos Vicky Washington except Avon Primary drama (Martin Chainey) and comic (Dympna Leonard).

The locations of the workshops
The main programme of workshops took place at:
Avon Primary School, Shirehampton
City of Bristol College, Lawrence Weston
City of Bristol College, Soundwell
Clifton High Lower School, Clifton
Colston’s Girls’ School, Cheltenham Road
Elmfield School for Deaf Children, Horfield
Fair Furlong Primary School, Withywood
Hannah More Primary School, St Phillips
Hillfields Primary School, Fishponds

Kingsweston School, Kingsweston

Little Mead Primary School, Southmead
New Oak Primary School, Hengrove
St George CE VC Primary School, Brandon Hill
St Mary Redcliffe and Temple Secondary School, Windmill Hill
Teyfant Community School, Hartcliffe
Weston Park Primary, Lawrence Weston

In addition eight comic-book workshops were held for approximately 30 children during the February half-term in public libraries as part of the project. These took place at:



Cheltenham Road


Note: these children are not included in the demographic information on participants that follows.

Map of locations

ACORN analysis of participants
Figures based on 465 Bristol-based participants where postcode was known.

Classification Group

Portrait of a Nation Profile

Bristol Population Profile

Wealthy Achievers

4.3 %

6.4 %

Urban Prosperity

8.8 %


Comfortably Off

20.2 %

25.2 %

Moderate Means

17.0 %

20.5 %

Hard Pressed

49.7 %

23.8 %

Map of BS postcode coverage

Gender of participants
Boys: 220

Girls: 264

Age of participants
Eleven and under (primary school): 342

Eleven to 16 (secondary school): 97

Sixteen and over (further education): 45
The collage workshops
With the exception of St Mary Redcliffe, all the main sites produced a large-scale collage in workshops led by artist Gloria Ojulari Sule. Most of the workshops were spread over four half-days. Gloria also spent a preliminary half-day in the school, discussing with a teacher the logistics of managing such a large piece of work and ideas that might be usefully explored with the students.

Gloria Ojulari Sule at New Oak Primary
Gloria encouraged the participants to research the history and culture of their local area, draw upon the imagery of local landmarks and include elements that reflected their own lives in the city. The collages had a card base and used bright tissue paper, black sugar paper, glitter, sequins and other materials, as well as drawings and photos made by the young artists.
The collages were then photographed and the image transferred onto a durable material to create a banner suitable for outdoor display. Four of these banners were hung in the city centre in January 2008 as part of the joint publicity for the Great Reading Adventure and Portrait of a Nation, and all will have been on public display in Bristol prior to being transported to Liverpool for the December showcase.
Photographs of all the collages are on the Great Reading Adventure website at spread over four sections: Portrait of a Nation, Education, Education: Banners, and News and Press. The site also includes photos of some of the banners on display.
Teachers’ feedback on the collage workshops
Excellent workshops – very inclusive and creative. Work fitted in really well with our Geography for term 2 – our local area. Project really made the children look closely at their local area and what is special about it. We have a wonderful, lasting record of our work with Gloria. [Pupils benefited from] collaborative work, work in teams and pairs. Gloria got a lot out of the children with her questioning about the area. She readily accepted the children’s ideas about the content of the work. Pupil’s comments included – “we love our lilac motorway and giant River Avon fish!” and “We all had a go!”
It was great to have a series of four. It really provided an opportunity for the pupils to plan the work then have the experience of seeing the work progress and develop, as opposed to the one-off session we had last time [during the Great Reading Adventure]. The planning session really caused pupils to focus on living in Bristol as their own city and then seeing what was special/ unique to them as deaf citizens and then wanting to show other people/ share with them what makes them special in a visual way. Pupils’ comments: “I really liked the banner – I enjoyed working on this. I thank Gloria for helping us work on it.” “I liked the bright colours – come again, please, it was interesting. The banner is good to look at from upstairs.” “I drew a hand. It is grey. I enjoyed working as a group.” “I enjoyed the banner-making. I like it because it looks good, colourful and bright – I was surprised to see the finished banner look so great.” “I made a hand-tree because the tree links to our school elm. Hand means we use sign language. I love this craftwork. I like the idea of the banner, it is really eye-catching. I hope the whole school will come to see it and feel proud.” “I like the banner because it has links with Deaf issues/ features. Thanks for coming (to Gloria).” “I have drawn a sign number because people can learn sign that way. Sign language is a different language. Good work, I like that.” “There are lots of bits of our Elmfield School culture in this banner.”
The students liked working together as a team where cooperation was required to get things done. It was also very relaxing.
Gloria was superb; she inspired and enthused the children and instilled in them a genuine pride in their work. She also taught them new skills and techniques.
Resourced well. Children orientated and led. They really had to think about their local area and city.
I have [previously] worked with Gloria before in a whole school project to produce a mural. Also the class already knew a great deal about Gloria’s life from creating puppets for a production in The Fielden Theatre, City Academy – Inspirations: Black Bristolians Who Had Made a Difference. Once again, it has been a magical, inspirational experience! The children absolutely loved meeting the person they had learnt so much about. The banner is spectacular! Every single child – Education Behaviour Orders to Special Educational Needs – were able to benefit from the team building skills and were delighted with their final banner. The children also had a positive dual heritage role model! So important for many! The parents were thrilled to bits. “Everyone was able to participate and produce excellent images” – Liam (8). “I liked thinking about what we were going to put in our final banner” – Aliza (9). “I liked creating myself in tissue paper” – Kayus (8). “It was fun meeting and working with Gloria” – Joe (8). “We liked seeing our poem in our banner” – Tahmeena, Paris, Marcel (9). Thank you so much! We had a wonderful time. Wait until you see the banner!
Enjoyable, creative and imaginative. They enjoyed the opportunity to work off timetable and complete a large creative piece.
To have produced a published piece of art work that is to be displayed in their own city is marvellous. It allowed those children who have more creative talents to extend themselves further. The children had a wonderful experience especially because they could explore their own ideas and see them put into action.

The children had the opportunity to work with an artist which always heightens the interest in the work. Being able to make use of her expert advice helped the children to develop their knowledge and understanding of how to use colour and perspective. They were particularly interested in developing the ability to make their characters appear as if they were moving. The workshop time scale was useful in so far as the children were able to see that focused and intense sessions can produce an outcome quite quickly. Therefore I would recommend that this format is used again in the future. The equipment needed from the school was minimal which in these difficult days of funding is also very helpful. “The colours were vibrant and stunning.” “It was amazing to see the blank white piece of card turn into a brilliant banner”. “I feel really proud to think people in Bristol are going to see my work.” “It’s good that people in other parts of Bristol are going to see things about New Oak Primary School.”

Gloria organised the children well and they were keen to work. Resources not readily available in school were provided. Banners look fantastic and the children are proud that they participated. [Benefited from] boost to confidence that they had a part in creating something that looked so good. A good opportunity for those with creative interests to shine and boost their self worth. It stimulated an interest in their work.
The workshops were even better than anticipated – Gloria’s enthusiasm and ability to motivate students with MLD (including Aspergers) ensured a very happy and industrious atmosphere. It was a real pleasure to work with her. Along with developing team work, this work is also to be included as an aspect of the students’ Creative Skills unit for their accreditation. The students really enjoyed having input from a ‘real’ artist and are very excited about the banner being viewed by many people. Both the artists we have had (we also had Simon Gurr) have worked really well with our students – bringing out the best in both creativity and behaviour!! These workshops really gave an educational boost to both students and staff and we would be extremely keen to participate in any future projects – please!
The banner was a great success although we had to complete it in less time than was allocated. Gloria was very professional and helped the pupils to master the techniques using tissue and glue. Use of the children’s own ideas and the link to our art club was successful.
The project relates really with our topic. The children were able to use what they’d learnt to produce a piece of art work that just grew and changed in front of them. They are so proud of their work, there ability to produce something so grand, together. They can pick out their contributions but also recognise that they could not have done without each other. They also realised that their work represents their school and their community. They had fun working with Gloria. They worked in small groups to conjure up the ideas of what they felt would represent our community well and realised that there was quite a bit of their community that many people didn’t really know. They gelled well as a class to accomplish this work.Visual representations linked to a book is always a plus!! [Overall] The workshops were varied and interesting. They provided the children with a platform to shine from different corners of their spectrum. There were areas for every child. Well done. It would be good to keep them that way.
The comic-book workshops
The comic-book workshops were led by illustrator Simon Gurr, who was also the illustrator of The Bristol Story (one teacher commented: ‘Having met the person involved with [The Bristol Story] art work really brought the book to life for them.’). In two half-day sessions, pupils learnt the principles of comic strip design and made their own individual strips, following a seven-step process. The strips were then combined into a printed school comic-book, with each participant given their own copy.

Simon Gurr at Avon Primary
Selected strips are included in this document as examples of the work produced but the complete comic-books can all be viewed on the Great Reading Adventure website at as PDF downloads in the Education: Comics section. Some additional comic strip workshops for young people were held in libraries during half term as part of the project.
Teachers’ feedback on the comic-book workshops
The children were required to think and produce a high quality piece of work. Having a final project so quickly really encouraged the children to keep focussed. “Fun doing comic strip”. “Excellent drawing – now we know what to do if we want to do another comic strip”. “It was so good we think it would be great for other children to have a chance to work with Simon”. “Fun because we got to learn how to do comics. Simon taught us a lot and helped us to see how fun it is”. “It was ‘fantabulous’ and I would like to do it again”. “It’s more fun to make them than to read them”. “I thought it was wicked and I definitely want to do it again”. “It was really fun and I enjoyed it”. They realised how much they can achieve when they work together. They all really enjoyed the workshops. This has been an excellent experience and well worth repeating for future reading projects. There were the two extremes – at one stage you could have heard a pin drop they were all so focussed, and on other occasions, they were all animated and excited.
Excellent workshops – Simon’s workshop was well pitched for Year 3 children. He had really well planned out presentations which broke the storyboard process down into simple steps. All children were able to make up a short story and illustrate it in three steps as a comic strip. Children had to focus on various Literacy themes such as; story beginnings, middles and ends, characterisation and dialogue – all of which feed in well to the Y3 curriculum. The children’s concentration was excellent as they had to work carefully in order to produce their individual comic strips. Most of all, it was great fun for Class 3 and they all have an Avon Primary Comic to treasure. The workshop was great ‘professional development’ for me and I look forward to using Simon’s comic strip format when I work on Myths and Legends with my class next term. The children loved looking at each others comic strips – a really well thought out project!
This particular workshop worked very well with our students as they liked the idea about finding out about Bristol’s history, and as an ex-lecturer in the subject, I was very pleased to be involved. The students involved were able to think about their ideas and put them into logical order which incorporated the literacy aspect. They were all engaged in the process and really liked the idea of seeing their work in print.
Simon and I worked together to reorganise, replan and create a purposeful workshop for younger children. They loved making a comic.
Simon held the children’s attention so well and taught them about how to make a comic using captions, speech bubbles and thought bubbles. The children produced an excellent comic strip each about identity and heritage issues. The children were so enthusiastic and they had such fun! They were amazed at the final comic! Comments: Aliza, aged 9 yrs: “We have learnt a lot about how to write and illustrate a comic”. Briony, aged 8 yrs: “It was really fun!” Gabriel Hughes, aged 9 yrs: “We liked looking at the Bristol comic and learning a lot about our city”. Aliza, aged 9 yrs: “The time went so quickly, we wish that we had more time with Simon”.
All students interested and engaged in activity. This is not the easiest group to work with – Simon held their attention throughout. They produced a lovely comic book which they were very pleased with. They all enjoyed themselves and would like to make another comic strip at some point. This is the second [workshop] I’ve been involved with. They have both been of a high standard – keep them coming! Very beneficial to us all.
The children were really engaged. The sessions were really well thought out and planned. They loved having a product that they created. “It was mint!” “I can draw better!”
This was a new topic for the students. They thoroughly enjoyed working with an artist and the final outcome of their comic book.
All pupils were very engaged and enjoyed the day. The comic was excellent and pupils were very proud of it. “It was really amazing how we made it.” – Mya. “I really liked drawing the pictures.” – Yanaye “I like how all the pictures became one comic. I thought it was brilliant and I read it at home.” – Viviana
More than met expectations! The combination of presenting hard non-fiction information in cartoon form really caught pupils’ imagination, and they loved the idea of presenting their own histories/ autobiographies in cartoon form. Some of the examples were stunning – we never realised the pupils were such great cartoonists, this was such an effective medium for Deaf people to communicate in and it would inspire them so much. JB – “I enjoyed the work and it was interesting. He made me learn and enjoy practicing at home and school. He made me want to draw a lot more now.” SB – “I liked the project with Simon. I enjoyed the drawing. I learned lots of new ways of drawing. I felt proud.” TG – “Simon was clever at drawing. It made me happy to learn more from him.” LH – “Simon was the best person to teach me. I enjoyed learning art/ drawing. It made me want to do more.” AR – “I was so interested in watching Simon talk about cartoons. He helped me learn more and I was so happy as he allowed me to be more involved in cartoon drawing.” RJH – “Simon was great to us. I really enjoyed drawing cartoons like in comics. It was really interesting.” BW – “I really enjoyed learning how to draw cartoons for a comic, then being able to draw my own. Thank you for coming to our school and teaching us.” JM – “Simon Gurr was very helpful to us and we now know how to draw more carefully. Thank you for coming to see us at our school.” RV – “Simon Gurr was amazing. He helped our drawing skills. Having him over was amazing. It was great fun. Having him over was absolutely different thing for us. I would like to thank him for having time to come over.” Simon was great with the kids. He was idolised by one or two! And has become a real role-model for our budding young Deaf cartoonists. Thank you for the project! It is great to see a Deaf contribution to Bristol/ Portrait of a Nation.
Simon was excellent; he was very supportive of the children and enthused them and his talent shone through. The children were very focussed and proud of their booklet which Simon published for them within the day.
The children were fully involved and very excited to be making their own comic. The children were very proud of their work and keen to explain to others how it had been done and which part was theirs. It was good for team work, self esteem, interest in possible future careers and a good male role model to stimulate interest in writing.
The children not only enjoyed themselves, they also learnt the importance and relevance of focused planning before starting to draw. They now understand that drawing cartoons involves much more than just doodling. This workshop will help them to plan for their next storyboarding activity.
Really good workshop, well structured, pitched right, interesting and informative and fun. Students engaged very well with Simon. Students gained an appreciation for a variety of comic styles and how they are produced. They then learned how to create a character and use their own true story to develop a short series of comic strips.
Simon’s introduction and presentation was a hit straight away. All the children were interested and enthused. The project worked exceptionally well as its content linked closely to our curriculum. The children were able to come up with lots of ideas by the end of the first session especially as they were already given some idea of what the end product could look like. Simon’s use of the IWB was good, his presentation was to the point and accessible to all the students. I was absent for the second workshop, however did see the end result. The children were so keen to show their work. The experience is one that they haven’t forgotten yet and have already made plans to use and extend to our school community. The children were able to reflect on their own experiences and learning of our local environment. They were confident with their drawings especially as ‘inking ’provided a final stand for their work. They were proud to have something of themselves represented in a book.
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