The film above was created by Year 2 pupils from Sir John Cass Primary School, one of the first schools to take part in the very first Barbican Box for primary schools.
As part of the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London, we commissioned a special edition of our flagship schools program Barbican Box, filled with objects designed to excite and incite creativity as part of the commemorative activities organized in partnership with the City of London Cultural Hub.
We spoke to designer Tina Bicat about the inspirations behind the objects in her Box, its role in sparking creativity and teaching more about the history of the Great Fire of London.
‘The box is made of wood, painted to suggest fire raging in a city and opens into surprising shapes. It can become a house, a boat, a puppet theatre, a cabinet of curiosities – anything that the imagination might invent!’
And what happens inside the Box?
‘The Box is filled with references to historical facts from the period, such as excerpts from Samuel Pepys’s diary about the day of the fire. Its job is to help the children to imagine what it might have been like being in that huge fire in the London of 1666.’
It was important to make clear that it all happened to children like them, but different
How does the Box bring such local history to life?
‘The Box is decorated with maps to set the geographical place of the City in the past, helping to put the London of the children’s schools firmly in the same area. It was important to make clear that it all happened to children like them, but different.’
Each small box holds the starting point of a story
How did you try to make the stories of the children of the past relevant to the pupils?
‘Children in the past used leather buckets to carry the Thames water they drank, they ate the dark bread baked in Pudding Lane, wrote with quill pens and, perhaps, in their breeches and bonnets, saw Mr. Pepys carrying his parmesan to safety as they helped lug their family’s treasures to safety. Each small box holds the starting point of a story, and the big box, perhaps, a place for it to happen.’
What do you hope the children will gain from the Box?
‘I hope they’ll be excited by the Box as an object, and as they begin to play with it will invent more uses for it than I ever could envisage. I hope it will help the children see history and research as something that lives beside them every day, and that they are making it today as much as any child did in the 17th century.’
Learn more about the Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning programmes with schools: barbican.org.uk/schools
Find out how you can support the Barbican Box and other projects with the Barbican Fund: barbican.org.uk/donate