Crossing Into Yesterday


written by Phoebe Osborne

Crossing Into Yesterday is a cross-arts, participatory initiative striving to inspire SEND and primary school pupils and teaching staff to connect with the borough’s history and heritage, culminating in a performance at Rich Mix in May 2012. The project is funded by the London Borough of Tower Hamletsand developed in partnership with THAMES, Kazzum, Furtherfield, The Ragged School Museum and three local schools.

At the beginning of the spring term 2012, three Tower Hamlets schools – Stephen Hawking, Halley andBeatrice Tate – visited the Ragged School Museum. Participants soaked up the atmosphere of a Victorian school regime by dressing up in Victorian clothes, exploring the displayed historic artefacts’ uses and their modern equivalents, and identifying with the children that used to attend the school . The schools were taken through an interactive performance, which enabled them to cross into the past and experience life as a school child in the Victorian Era. These visits inspired the workshops.



The Ragged School Museum is housed in a group of three canalside buildings, which once formed the largest “ragged” or free school in London. Opened in 1867 by Thomas Barnado, the “ragged school” provided children with free basic education, and now serves as a popular, family-friendly museum. Through roleplay, hands-on exhibits and talks, the museum offers an authentic and memorable experience of the poor of the East End a century ago.

Since the visit, the schools have been using Music (with assistive music technology), Drama and New media to develop their ideas inspired by the Ragged School Museum through weekly sessions (a total of 15 workshops), and will be sharing and collaborating with their fellow schools to create a final cross-arts performance.


role play halley

Halley School 

Halley is a mainstream school, with a total of 30 participants working with Olga Panades fromFurtherfield (visual and interactive media), Phoebe Osborne from Drake Music (music trainee) and teacher Katia Lancellotti.

Halley are creating an interactive arts installation, which incorporates painted portraits, soundscapes, scents and Galvanic Skin Response (see below).

The students chose a portrait of one of the students form the Ragged school museum and have been working on developing characters, stories and atmospheres around them, thus bringing them to life.

Looking at the concept of Foley sound (the reproduction of sounds made from everyday objects), Halley students created graphic sound scores for their characters with found objects creating a location, feeling and atmosphere for their characters.

Halley students have also been working with scent; students explored the exact scent to bring life to their characters, and GSR (Galvanic Skin Response sensor technology); symbolising body conductivity on to a graph and triggered by feelings of anxiety or excitement. Students will learn to control these responses for the performances, enabling the projection of different colours onto the installation, depending on the response from the sensor.

Beatrice Tate

Beatrice Tate is a SEND school with 9 participants working with Carissa Hope Lynch from Kazzum, and teacher, Kerri Ovel, focusing on acting and dramaturgy.

Having recorded sounds of historic objects in the Ragged School Museum, Beatrice Tate have been exploring the links between images and sounds. Concentrating on the comparison of historic and modern day objects, participants used photography to capture the equivalent of the Ragged School Museum’s objects found in their school.

Beatrice Tate are working with stories written by Halley School to create various vignettes and montages… such as ..

 “It is Tom’s first day at Ragged School; he was shaking. There were children shouting in the playground. When Tom went in the playground, there was wind howling. Then every sound stopped. He could hear his heart beating.” (Maahi, Halley School)


Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking is a SEND school with 6 participants working with Neil Valentine (composer and lead artist) and Tomas Kaspar (music trainee) from Drake Music, and teacher, Liz Sawyer, focusing on music and assistive technology.


BT sound beam

Stephen Hawkings have been exploring themes of ‘Old’ and ‘New’. Working with traditional instruments mixed with assistive music technology, participants have been composing songs based around a sequence, and triggering images along with sounds. Music created in the sessions will link with the written stories and vignettes from Halley and Beatrice Tate.

Music Technologist, Gary Day from Drake Music has ensured that all participants are able to access music using assistive music technology. Working across all three schools, Gary has also recorded the sounds of objects, and soundscapes, which will be played through hand-made speakers as part of the installation.


paper speaker

Connecting The Participants!

An Idea gift from each school

Through a short ‘Hello’ video, the three schools have been able to connect and share several things about what they have been doing in their respective sessions. This enables the students to think about the performance on a wider level, and helps to bring together the many art forms into one final production!

The Performance – Crossing Into Yesterday 

31st May 1.15pm

Rich Mix Cultural Centre, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, London E1 6LA

All participants, teachers and artists will come together for a final performance featuring music, movement, oration, singing, technology, visuals and storytelling where we will all Cross Into Yesterday!

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