The Millie Kingfishers
Outdoor Culture managed a public art and education initiative in 2008 on behalf of BBOWT, the Berkshire, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust www.bbowt.org.uk. The Trust is keen to explore the role that the arts might play to help it engage the public and particularly children in its mission to conserve wildlife and manage the land for greater biodiversity. In an attempt to use public art to enhance a community’s relationship with a wild place, we appointed the artist Pippa North to work with local children and to create the Millie Kingfishers – a pair of 7 foot metal sculptures to stand in the Haymill Valley nature reserve near Slough.
As part of the project, Year 6 children from Priory School spent a number of creative learning days in the nature reserve, using the site as an outdoor classroom. The nature reserve has been their inspiration, their canvas and their creation space. It’s really important to give children time to develop connections with green spaces, if we want them to evolve a sense of environmental stewardship. And spending enjoyable, purposeful time in the outdoors helps children to be happier, healthier and better able to cope with life. My experience with creative learning is that natural outdoor spaces fire the imagination in a way that is unrivalled. The Millie is a multi-sensory source of discovery, where boundaries blur and the unexpected happens.
The Millie Kingfishers have become new guardians for the Haymill reserve, an old remnant woodland bordering a disused mill stream, nestled between housing and industrial developments. On 10 October, the children transformed the wood with copper amulets and led a procession to the new sculptures, where the kingfishers were cloaked in iridescent felt feathers made by local families. We’re grateful to Creative Partnerships for their support of this project.