Opening of our 450th Anniversary Children’s Art Exhibition

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On Thursday 30th June 2016 The Harpur Trust launched a unique art exhibition of children’s work ‘Recording Bedford’ at The Higgins Bedford as part of our 450th anniversary celebrations art competition.

A selection of nearly 140 pictures produced by children aged as young as 3 through to 18, feature in the exhibition in the Sir William Harpur Gallery, which opens to the public on Saturday 2nd July through to Sunday 28th August.

The works were all entries in a major competition which attracted almost 1400 participants from across 44 schools in the Borough and every single piece has been uploaded to an online gallery with help from Bedford College students who photographed and catalogued all the work.

Prizes were awarded across 6 age categories with the top prizes in each worth £100 to the pupil with their school receiving £500 for art equipment, and additional prizes offered in the Sixth Form category by NADFAS (The National Association of Decorative & Fine Arts Societies).  The winning pupils which included pupils from Castle Newnham, Kempston Rural Lower, St Andrews, Pilgrims Pre-preparatory, Livingstone Primary, Great Denham Primary, Queens Park Academy, St John’s Special School & College, Bedford School, Lincroft, Wootton and Sharnbrook, received their prizes at a special awards ceremony immediately prior to the launch.

The Competition was judged by artist and designer Alex Chinneck, sculptor and former Harpur Trust grant recipient Suresh Dutt, Head of the Higgins Tom Perrett  and Dawn Giles who is Chief Executive of &Co (formerly Bedford Creative Arts).

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5 of the artists who worked on the project

As part of the competition, the Trust commissioned a team of 10 artists to undertake a series of free art workshops within local schools.  The Bedfordshire and Luton Archives Service also went into many of the schools to provide additional workshops on the history of Bedford, which inspired some students to explore local stories such as historic crimes and witch drownings, whilst others focussed on the river, buildings and maps of the town, the eagles and swans of Bedford and famous Bedfordians (with John Bunyan, Sir William Harpur and Paula Radcliffe all treated to new portraits).  Other children were inspired by Visiting Artist Tiffany Logan, to produce self-portraits of themselves as they might have looked in 1566 when the Trust was founded.

Chairman of the Harpur Trust Murray Stewart said “The aim of this competition was to inspire local children to get in touch with their artistic side and to explore the character and history of the town in a year which celebrates both the 450th anniversary of the Trust and the 850th anniversary of the charter. We are thrilled that so many children have taken part.  We are especially pleased that The Higgins Bedford agreed to host the exhibition; this venue is a great asset for the community and particularly for children and its location ensures that everyone can have an opportunity to see the work”.

Mayor of Bedford Borough, Dave Hodgson said ‘It is fantastic that the team at The Higgins Bedford have been able to work with the Harpur Trust as part of their 450th celebrations this year. I am looking forward to seeing the art work produced by the children of Bedford Borough and I would like to encourage people to head down to The Higgins this summer in support of these budding artists!’

The Harpur Trust provided a grant of half a million pounds towards the refurbishment of the museum and gallery in 2013.