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The games children play!
In the 1950’s and 60’s, a group of Edinburgh school teachers embarked on a unique study of children’s street games and play activities. They called themselves THE NORTON PARK GROUP (Norton Park School, Edinburgh). In 1951 they produced a film called The Singing Street; games filmed in the streets of Edinburgh and accompanied by traditional children’s songs.
The publicity leaflet to the film stated: In songs where ancient ritual, myth, the mountain and the rose, mingle with taxis, telephones and powder-puffs. Old rhymes rarely dying – something new always appears. No-one asks “What does this mean?” The world’s accepted, poetry’s kept alive. Not meant for education or entertainment.
In children’s street-games, song, dance and chalking art intermingle seamlessly into the purest form of creative expression known as “the art of play.”
In 1964, one of the films directors James T. Ritchie, produced a book of the same name, the book cover included a chalk drawing and a chapter called ART IN THE STREET, which focused on children’s chalking art. In the book he states; that for almost three seasons of the year you will see the “peevers-artist” “Whenever the crocuses start to trust through in the parks, and the thrill of longer light heartens everybody, the girls are down on their knees, chalking up the beds and giving each figure they make their own plain or flourishing style.”
White chalk was the favourite medium, and on pavements and walls drawings would appear; the criss-cross games of OXO, along with a multitude of other decorations, shapes and symbols, hearts drawn with kisses, a cupid’s arrow, and then some initials; JS loves MM. The back streets have smooth stretches, greatly appreciated by certain artists. A place where children aged seven to nine do some marvellous drawings. One week they have bouts of drawing brides, and the next week houses—provided the rain showers have scoured the streets clean.
You also get houses in hearts, hearts in houses; as well as faces, fishes, cats, bears, trains, cars, ships and rockets. “I like to draw match-stick men.” “I draw nice women.”
Drawings are done very quickly and confidently, changes made aren’t covered up, the old idea and the new enhance each other, and there’s no rubbing out!
“Many of the drawings suggest the styles of established masters from severe Holbein or exact Durer, right on to the voluptuous sweep of Matisse, or the magic of Braque’s wandering line. Paul Klee must have been greatly influenced by these street graffiti for you see such a lot of his candelabra trees, his type of stars, and his kind of thinking”
In the early sixties the space age was a popular theme, and children would draw a very big moon, and opposite, a much smaller orb representing THE EARTH. Most children back then imagined the earth to be much smaller than the moon!
As well as drawings, writings on the theme of LOVE would appear “Jean goes with John” and imaginary place-names such as “Stinky Corner” or “Funny Avenue” would appear alongside slogans like “Ban the Bomb” or “I was here in 1963” who the “I” was remains a mystery to this day!
Written & researched by Philip Battle, with special thanks to Julia Bishop (Researcher-Sheffield University)
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