Festive Winter Wonderland

On Saturday 11th December 2021, staff and students from Joint Honours programmes at Blackburn University Centre hosted a ‘Festive Winter Wonderland’ event for children from Blackburn Children’s University. Over eighty children in years two to six took part in a range of activities relating to books such as The Snowman, The Grinch and A Christmas Carol.

This is the latest in a number of very successful events run in partnership with Blackburn Children’s University including the Heritage Lottery funded project,’ East Lancs Childhoods: Sharing Stories, Making Memories.

Val Jessop and Sandra Nichol, joint leads on the project, said “It was great to be back with the children two years after our last face-to-face event in November 2019. On that occasion, we focused on the theme of ‘A War-time Childhood’. Since March 2020 we have delivered events online due to the pandemic but having the children back here in person was lovely.”

Sara Burton, Blackburn Children’s University manager said “It was so nice to work with the staff and students again face-to-face. They planned some fantastic activities for our CU members including a Grinch mask and a lovely bauble which they took home. Staff, students and CU members created a wreath of kind and caring messages, which went on display at the University. We cannot wait for our next activity!”

Ruqayya Hussain, Blackburn Children’s University member who attended the event said: “I loved all the activities. I love all the activities Children’s University have for us and it is the best thing ever.”

The Children’s University offers an exciting and innovative programme of high-quality learning opportunities outside normal school hours to children aged five to 11. Its main aim is to engage the wider community and at the heart of its work is the ambition to raise aspirations, boost achievement and foster a love of learning.

Sharing Stories, Knitting Memories

‘Each stitch is a thought of you dear, woven with loving care’

“The aim of this project is to produce a collaborative and creative piece of work that recaptures the essence of the ‘make do and mend’ ethos. Participants were asked to collect a memory from someone in East Lancashire who was a child during World War Two and then knit a square, choosing colours to represent the memory in a meaningful way.

A framed ‘blanket’ of these knitted squares has been created, with each square visually representing the wartime childhood memory of the individual. This project spans across several generations as the oldest participant to knit a square is in her nineties, whilst the youngest is only eleven years old.”

Karen Coe

We are currently in the process of producing a booklet containing all the knitted squares and memories. In the meantime, please enjoy a snapshot of memories from this project below.

Wartime childhood memory of Gertrude Annie Bailey – written by her daughter Olive Laurie

“My mother was a confectioner who, before her marriage, had specialised in making and decorating cakes for special occasions. During the war, I had very happy memories of watching my mother making and decorating cakes to be sent to troops who were celebrating their 21st birthdays, most of whom were serving abroad.

The cakes were much appreciated and my mother received many letters of thanks from the young men who had received them. The brown of the square represents the dark fruit cake, a great luxury during the war, and the centre motif represents the special occasion.”

Square knitted by Olive Laurie

Wartime childhood memory of Teresa Matthews (sister of Ken Hardacre) – written by her granddaughter Amelia Matthews

“My grandma lived in Padiham during the war and she remembers brown tape being stuck across windows to avoid injury in case they shattered during an air raid. She also used to think that the barrage balloons looked like elephants in the sky! At primary school, someone brought a banana to class.

This was quite an event as nobody had seen one before. All the pupils in the class, including my grandma, enjoyed a slice of the banana. She also told me that when the air raid siren went off all her class were taken to St John’s Church next to the school and had to sit under the altar for safety.

The beige in my square represents the strips of tape on the windows and the grey is for the ‘elephants’ in the sky. The stripe of yellow is the one slice of banana my grandma tasted and the green is the altar cloth at the church.”

Square knitted by Amelia Matthews

Wartime childhood memory of Barbara Riding

“I remember visiting the hairdresser as a child. It wasn’t fashionable to have straight hair in the 30s and 40s. My mother let me have my hair permed while still at junior school. She took me to a hairdressers on Bolton Road.

“In those days your hair was wound round a bobbin which was clipped onto a wire fastened to a machine somewhere over your head. I was very scared in case there was an air raid. What would happen to me hung up by my hair to a machine?

“Barbara’s square is knitted with a light brown background to represent the sepia of an old photo and black to represent the curlers and wires.”

Square knitted by Val Jessop

See all the knitted squares and the memories.

Eid Creative Craft Activity – Saturday 1st May 2021

On Saturday, 1st May, staff and students from the Joint Honours’ programmes at Blackburn University Centre took part in another online event with Blackburn Children’s University and Eachstep Care Home. 57 children attended the event and had great fun decorating bunting and making ‘moon and star’ mobiles to celebrate Eid.  Some of the children also met online with residents from Eachstep Care Home and enjoyed colouring cards for Eid and chatting to each other.

Sara Burton, Blackburn Children’s University Manager, said:  “This was another fantastic event.  The staff and students from Blackburn University Centre gave up their Saturday to run this and provided the children with lots of fun activities to do.  Children were able to share stories and messages with some residents from Eachstep Care home, which was lovely to see too.”

Easter Celebration and Tea Party

On Saturday 27th March 2021, staff, students, children from Blackburn Children’s University and residents of Eachstep Care Home took part in an online Easter celebration and tea party. For part of the day, children participated in a series of craft activities supported by undergraduates from Joint Honours courses at Blackburn University Centre and facilitated by Sara Burton, Children’s University Manager. The children made bookmarks, hanging decorations and Easter bonnets before decorating and writing cards for the residents which were later posted to them. The residents also made cards which were given to the children by Sara.

In the afternoon, the children and residents came together via Zoom to be entertained by the ‘Happy Voices’ choir, who sang a medley of local folk songs and songs from WWII. During the entertainment, the children enjoyed Easter eggs and other treats provided by Blackburn University Centre. Celebration cakes, Easter bonnets and 100 Easter eggs had previously been donated to staff and residents of Eachstep by project leads Sandra Nichol and Val Jessop for them to enjoy during the concert. The whole event was coordinated by Sara Burton, and the concert was led by Helen Washington and culminated with a rendition of ‘We’ll meet again’. Helen said ‘ choir members were delighted to see how much the children and residents enjoyed all the songs and music ‘.

Project leads Sandra Nichol and Val Jessop said ‘This was such an enjoyable celebration and everyone looked wonderful in their Easter bonnets. The children seemed to enjoy the singing and some were dancing to the music. Sara and Helen did a marvellous job of coordinating the different online activities, the choir were great, and everything ran smoothly. A thoroughly enjoyable day’.

Sara Burton commented ‘This was another fantastic session with Blackburn University Centre and Eachstep Care Home.  It was a shame that we couldn’t have an actual tea party, however this online event was a huge success and enjoyed by all.  The children really enjoyed the craft sessions where they made an Easter bonnet and a bookmark. For the celebration event Happy Voices choir performed a variety of songs and were amazing.  Children and staff were able to join in the singing too! I loved seeing everyone together with their Easter bonnets on and enjoying eating their cakes and listening to the choir’.

Please take a look at the showreel of the event below…

Have a listen to what our students have got out of being part of the project…

The project has provided students from several courses at Blackburn University Centre with opportunities to develop key transferable skills.

Students on the Foundation Degree in Photography have taken some great portrait photographs of participants and have also helped to record interviews and make showreels of our online events.

Students on the Foundation Degree in Fashion and Textiles came up with the idea of making face masks as a craft activity for our Remembrance Event as part of a work-based learning module.

Students from the Joint Honours programme on the History, Sociology, Politics and English Literature pathways have been incredible in their efforts with our online events with Blackburn Children’s University and Eachstep Care Home. They have planned and delivered some wonderful activities which have received great feedback from the children, parents and Eachstep residents, as well as our external partners.

Being part of the project has encouraged quite a few of our students to go into teaching and their project contributions have helped to secure teaching placements. All students who have participated in the project have said it has been an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

Fiona Bradley – Joint Honours: History and English Literature

Lois Fitzpatrick – Joint Honours: History and Sociology

Children Exchange Hands of Friendship with Local Care Home Residents

On 13th February 2021, children from Blackburn Children’s University and residents from EACHSTEP Care Home took part in an online friendship event to coincide with Valentine’s Day.

The event was facilitated by staff and students from the School of Art and Society at Blackburn University Centre.

During the morning, the children took part in Zoom activities with Sara Burton, Blackburn Children’s University Manager, and decorated wooden hearts and made trees with messages of kindness, before ‘meeting’ with the residents in the afternoon.

The children and residents decorated hands which were turned into wreaths and exchanged with the help of Sara and Joanie Gleeson from EACHSTEP Care Home. During the event, some of the residents treated the children to a spontaneous rendition of ‘We’ll Meet Again’ and ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’.

This the third online activity that the children and residents have taken part in after lockdown curtailed face-to-face activities which had been planned as part of the Heritage Lottery Funded Project, East Lancashire Childhoods: Sharing Stories, Making Memories. This is an intergenerational community arts project which aims to capture memories of the home front from people who were children during WWII.

Project Leads Val Jessop and Sandra Nichol said: “These events go from strength to strength as we have adapted to new ways of continuing interactions between children and residents. It was wonderful and quite emotional when the residents burst into song!”

Sara Burton, Blackburn Children’s University Manager, said: “We really enjoy running activities like these and working with Blackburn University Centre and EACHSTEP Care Home. Our members always look forward to these activities and cannot wait to receive their craft pack for the day.

“At this activity children shared with us messages of kindness and things they were going to do to help someone at home. It was so nice to hear, especially during these difficult times.

“The sessions with the residents from EACHSTEP are wonderful. The children who took part in the one in February loved hearing what the residents like to do and how old they were! We are looking forward to the celebration event at Easter.”

Joanie Gleeson, Activities Co-Ordinator at EACHSTEP Care Home, said: “The event was a great success. The residents loved connecting with the children and joining in the virtual craft activities.”

The next planned event is a socially distanced Easter celebration and tea party for the children and residents.

Blackburn College WWII Project Sees Children Create Their Own Face Masks

In November 2020, children from Blackburn Children’s University took part in a Sharing Stories Remembrance Event with students and staff from Blackburn University Centre.

During the event, the children learned about the gas masks worn during WWII and then designed their own face masks with a WWII theme using a mask template designed by undergraduates on the Fashion and Textiles programme at Blackburn University Centre.

The mask designs were collected from the children’s schools by Sara Burton, Blackburn Children’s University Manager, and delivered to the University Centre.

This is where they were made into face masks by the undergraduates as part of their work-based learning module. Sara then recollected the masks and distributed them to the children who were delighted to see their designs made into a real face mask.

Val Jessop and Sandra Nichol, Joint Project Leads on the WWII project East Lancashire Childhoods: Sharing Stories, Making Memories, said: “We are always amazed by the creativity of the children who attend our events and the face mask designs were imaginative and colourful.

“It was fantastic to see photos of the children wearing them! We’d like to thank the staff and students for all their work in making the children’s designs a reality.”

Sara Burton, Blackburn Children’s University Manager, said: “During the Sharing Stories, Making Memories activity, the children were given the challenge of designing their very own face mask. They were told that this would be made into an actual face mask for them to wear.

“I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but when I received the finished masks I was amazed, they were fantastic. I have received so many positive comments from parents and carers, as well as from the class teachers who handed them out.

“They were just perfect and what a lovely item for the children to keep. I cannot thank the staff and students enough from Blackburn University Centre.”

Christmas Cards Event

On Saturday 8th December 2020, children took part in festive craft activities with residents of Eachstep Care Home.

Both sets of participants made Christmas cards for each other which were exchanged with the help of Sara Burton, Blackburn Children’s University Manager, and Joanie Gleeson, Activities Co-Ordinator at Eachstep.

Sara also ran several additional sessions for the children during the day. This is Sara’s evaluation of the sessions, including those with the care home residents and the children’s feedback.

Please click here to read Sara’s evaluation!

Project Leads Sandra Nichol and Val Jessop said: “It was lovely to hear the children and residents chatting as they took part in the activities and asked each other questions about their plans for Christmas.

“The children designed their own cards and wrote messages for the residents. The residents coloured in their own holiday cards which were then passed on to the children. It definitely cheered us all up and made everyone feel very Christmassy!”

Joanie said: “It was an amazing event and the residents loved interacting with the children online and making Christmas cards. They can’t wait for the next event!”

Children’s Christmas Messages for Care Home Residents

On Saturday 12th November, children from Blackburn Children’s University took part in festive craft activities and recorded messages for the residents of EACHSTEP Care Home.

They also made Christmas cards for the residents and, in the afternoon, some of the children took part in a Zoom meeting where they ‘met’ five of the residents and asked and answered questions about Christmas, hobbies and experiences during the pandemic.

Here are some of the children’s messages…