Supported by the Big Lottery Fund, and supported with investment from Artswork, the South East Bridge.

A role model is someone who serves as an example, or whose behaviour is emulated by others. Experiencing other people’s stories, observing their successes and triumphs as well as their problems and dilemmas, is often a key component of different art forms.

We are looking for an artist who is inspired at the thought of working in an educational setting with children and young people, and who is curious and excited about how role models might strengthen prosocial behaviour amongst pupils. We are also interested in how the arts can support the whole school in serving as an example of a kind and caring community.

(from 2014 Artist Commission Brief)

Bob Karper is a multidisciplinary artist whose work features true stories performed live, with documentary film, song, projected images and a variety of musical instruments. During this commission he connected Lunsford Primary School with residents from two care homes (Lavenders and St Martin Abbeyfields) in their community, exploring role models. Through poetry, projection, song, photography and performance, the commission illuminated our research in how role models might play a part in strengthening pro-social behaviour. Bob also brought on board other fantastic artists to work on the project, including John Hegley, Shula Hawes and Gitika Partington.

I’m absolutely delighted to be working with People United and Lunsford Primary School on the Role Model initiative: recording and reimagining guided interactions with local care home residents, exploring our valued treasures, our treasured values and the people who have mattered to us throughout our lives. It’s a beautiful project.

Bob Karper

Over 250 people (children, parents, care home residents and their families) visited the school on a chilly and misty evening in November 2014 to see and celebrate all the work that had taken place during the commission.

To find out more, you can read an interview with Bob below, and the blog he wrote throughout the commission. You can also watch Bob’s film This is Your Lifeshowing the session when pupils recreated scenes from the lives of the care home residents. You can also hear Lunsford’s pupil Alex read his poem My Nan during the first session at Abbeyfields Care Home:

Reflections by Bob on the process, his understanding of role models, and the importance of intergenerational work can be seen in Tim Knights’ artist film about ‘Treasure’.

As part of this commission, we collaborated with the School of Psychology at the University of Kent to evaluate the impact of the commission on the pupils. We conducted two questionnaires (one before the commission and one after the commission) that measured perceptions of and attitudes towards the elderly, willingness to cooperate with the elderly, prosocial intentions (or kindness) generally and prosocial intentions towards the elderly specifically, who children’s role models are and why, and children’s understanding of different art form. Early results are encouraging and have shown some significant changes to negative perceptions of the elderly and kindness towards the elderly by young people.

We will share the results soon.

He has changed the way I see old people. Just because they are older you shouldn’t treat them different.

Lunsford Primary School Pupil

In addition to the commission, every child in the school achieved their Discover Arts Award. Beautifully decorating shoeboxes, the children shared their learning about the arts with each other and the audience that came to the school for the final event.

Our story with Lunsford Primary School doesn’t end here as we developed resource for schools based on the work that took place. With support from a number of educational experts we have trialled the resource for primary schools which explores values, role models and the SMSC curriculum through arts-led and creative literacy-led activities. It is available to download now from our resources page.

Funded & supported by:

The Artist: Bob Karper

Bob is an American-born multidisciplinary artist. His solo performance work features film, song, projected images, and a variety of musical instruments. His collaborative projects include interactive site-specific work for children, transforming dementia care homes into creative community hubs, sound design for live art, and documentary films for dancers. He has won the Herald Angel, Anti-fest Best of the Best Award and the Live Theatre New Writing Award.

Some questions revealing a bit more about Bob Karper

  1. Why did you apply for this commission? The commission was an opportunity to do something I'd been considering for a while. I have ongoing experience working with older people - bringing creativity into the care sector with Ladder to the Moon, as well as making work with young people - through performing with fantastic organisations like Oily Cart, Lone Twin and The Pantry. Working with Lunsford primary school allowed me to put together those experiences and engage in a large intergenerational project. People United's aim of spreading kindness through the arts to make the world a better place was very attractive to me too - a refreshing ambition with a wonderful lack of cynicism, followed through with bracing rigour. And I think the project is going to be a lot of fun, too, hopefully for everyone involved.
  2. For you, why are role models important and who would be your ultimate role model? Oh gosh, role models are important for loads of reasons: as a source of inspiration, of learning, of understanding. As someone who can help give you direction, who you can look to for motivation, and someone who can help you understand who you are. If you find yourself drawn to a certain person, if a person inspires you, it can help you realise what it is that you yourself value. It can show you a way of living you can aim for, and the kind of person you would like to become. For me, there have been many inspirations at different times of life: the nonfiction writings of George Orwell meant a lot to me when I first came to this country. I've looked to artists like Spalding Gray, David Byrne, Guy Dartnell to help me as a performer, musician and theatre maker. But the person who probably influenced me most in a formative way was my Uncle Frank. He was a jazz saxophonist for 20 years - leader of the Keynoters big band out of Chicago - but he happily gave up touring to become an insurance salesman and live out his life on a rural lake in Northwestern Wisconsin with the singer who became his second wife, my Aunt Betty. Uncle Frank had a joie de vivre I saw in no one else while I was young. He was always smiling, a twinkle in his eye, ready to crack a joke, always cackling loudest afterwards. I never saw him get angry or argue with anyone (unlike the rest of my family). Everyone on Long Lake considered him their friend. He openly and frequently told people that he loved them. And Uncle Frank was the first adult male I ever heard use the word 'gorgeous'. He was describing the sun shining through clouds while at the wheel of his pontoon boat, a can of Pabst Beer in hand, cigarette in the corner of his mouth. "Will ya look at that sky, Bobby? If that ain't gorgeous, then nothing is..." He taught me that a person could express himself in any way he chose, that it was good to show your feelings, to be affectionate, to appreciate beauty, and to simply care for your fellow human beings.
  3. So, you’re over halfway of the commission now, how’s it going? I think it's going well. The pupils have all met Steampunk Bob and gotten to know about the project, we've had two visiting artists come to the school - John Hegley to make poems about people you treasure and Gitika Partington to teach songs that residents of the participating care homes treasure. We've had two visits to the care homes, and residents shared stories about people who are important to them, and next week we are going to stage a 'This Is Your Life' presentation, casting the pupils in the roles of the residents experiencing those stories. We've photographed hands and faces, recorded sounds, filmed climbing walls, used Photoshop and Painting WIth Light software together, and have thought about the top qualities/ways of being that best encapsulate the ethos of Lunsford Primary School. A good moment for me happened towards the end of last week's visit to Lavenders Care Home: I stepped back and just looked around the room at a full-on, noisy, happy, hubbub of older people holding hands and chatting and loving the children, and the children smiling and chatting back and loving being loved.
  4. Have you learnt anything new about 'role models'? One of the hoped for possibilities of the project was that the young people involved, at the end, would sense the possibility that they themselves could become role models. In talking with the older residents about who they admire, who they are inspired by, it's been interesting that inspiration can come from anyone at any time. One of the residents is inspired by her granddaughter who sings in public and has a wonderful voice. Vera at St Martins admires her neighbour - the woman who moved in next door and became a friend - who 'just goes out and does things, no fear.' The friend suffers from claustrophobia, yet regularly braves the care home elevator to visit. And Ted at Lavenders looks to the activity co-ordinator Adele who cares for everyone with a smile and a real sense of vocation. Role models - people you look up to, and treasure, can come from anyone and anywhere.
  5. Have you learnt anything new about yourself / your practice? I have been looking for a project around intergenerational exchange for a while, and seeing it in practice confirms the amount of joy it can bring to everyone involved. Perhaps because of the longer duration of the project, perhaps because of the nature of dealing with young people and not knowing what reactions will arise, I've been more able to let things happen and unfold at their own pace. It's no secret to my collaborators that I like to plan things out in advance - to know what is going to happen when and where. With Treasure, it's been a very organic process. The overall plan is still very much happening on schedule, but there has been space for ideas to develop and unexpected activities to occur, and I have felt more able to relax and let the project breathe, in no small measure due to the support from both Lunsford School and People United, for which I'm very grateful...
  6. How would you describe 'Treasure' in only three sentences? Treasure is an intergenerational arts project around the idea of treasuring one another. Over three months, guided by Steampunk Bob & visiting artists, the pupils of Lunsford primary school made work exploring the question of what makes us look up to others, admire them and love them, and then they shared their work with residents at local care homes. Together they made poems, sang songs, took photographs and created films of scenes of the resdients' lives with children cast in the roles, culminating in a community celebration day with outdoor projections, indoor demonstrations, music, movies, tea and cake.
  7. How did the commission meet (or not meet) your expectations? The commission exceeded my expectations: the final day was as successful as I could have hoped. I was welcomed at the school, and accepted by the teachers and pupils. The care homes came fully on board and I could see the residents enjoying and engaging with the pupils. The visiting artists I had hoped would join us were all willing and available, I was able to learn more about projections for my own artistic development, and was able to remain on top of the necessary arrangements/shcedules throughout the project. Looking back, there are a few things I would do differently: I wish I'd requested to attend the assemblies that were happening during my visits - and just give a 5-10 minute update on the project to the school in each one, which would have increased my profile in the school a bit and perhaps exposed a few more young people to the project more deeply. One of the project ambitions that didn't get fulfilled as much as I had originally desired was engaging pupils with digital technology. I talked with a few of them about working with computers, and demonstrated photoshop and Painting With Light software, but we had no formal sessions. However, I believe Steampunk Bob made as much of an impact on pupils at the school and the residents at the homes as I had hoped, and I believe many people will take away a truly memorable, joyful experience of participating on the Treasure project.
  8. How do you think working with People United and Lunsford Primary School will inform your future practice as an artist? This commission made me aware of the ideal way a successful project can be supported. I was encouraged to seek advice, given space to experiment, listened to and warmly welcomed, and I will endeavour to do the same when I am in a position to support others. The manner in which the teachers at Lunsford School accommodated Steampunk Bob's visits underlines the need to be flexible when working, and the efficient organisation, thoughtfulness and general kindness that People United consistently displayed - not only working with me, but with pupils, teachers, care homes residents and each other, was inspiring. It was one of the reasons for the overall success of the commission, and has already informed my practice as an artist.

A film by Bob Karper and Shula Hawes. Lunsford Primary School pupils recreate scenes from the lives of residents at Lavenders and Abbeyfield St Martins care homes. Supported by funding from the Big Lottery Fund. Premiered on 26 November 2014 at Lunsford Primary School.

The 'This Is Your Life' film shoot model was developed by Ladder to the Moon, a Community Interest Company that causes creative, innovative, exceptional care services for older people in the UK.

Filmed and directed by Tim Knights. Executive Producer: Jared Schiller.

Commissioned by People United, Tim has created this artist film to capture the 2014 People United and Lunsford Primary School commissioned 'Treasure' (based on the theme of role models) through the eyes of the artist.

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St Martins Walking home
St Martins Singing 4
St Martins singing 3
St Martins Singing 1
St Martins A good laugh on camera
Lavenders Kian's Box
Lavenders Betty's Profile
Lavenders Kian & Veronika
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Max This Is Your Life
Alfie & Vera
Lavenders Kian & Veronika
ROLE MODELS Kathleen at the Clapper copyright bob or shula
ROLE MODELS natasha eileen dancing Lavenders copyright Bob and Shula
St Martins Rene & Tegan
ROLE MODELS audience in projection copyright Hope Fitzgerald resized
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