Sompting Brooks: Intergenerational project results in time capsule to be buried at new river site
An intergenerational project celebrating the social and cultural heritage of Sompting Brooks will be recorded for years to come in a time capsule to be buried on the new river trail.
Age Craft has been working with schoolchildren and nursing home residents for the past two years, helping to unearth real life treasures from the past.
Much of the work went on show at the Harriet Johnson Centre in Sompting on Friday and Saturday, to show people what pupils from Sompting Village Primary School and Downsbrook Primary School in East Worthing have been working on.
The centrepiece was a 3D table-top map of the area around the new river site, with model houses made by the children.
Katie Gander from Age Craft said: “As a local community organisation, Age Craft was asked to be part of the bigger EPIC Project, to work intergenerationally with local schools and residents to enable more engagement with the heritage of Sompting and the ongoing development of the new river.
“Through making connections between different parts of the community, the aim was to collectively create a pop-up museum which could then be toured around schools and community centres, thereby sharing the valuable heritage of Sompting and the new river trail that is being made.”
The launch of the Ouse and Adur Rivers Trust’s EPIC Project at the Harriet Johnson Centre in April 2019 was when Age Craft also began its journey into the heritage of Sompting and its people.
Katie said: “We met residents and heard stories about the area where the new river trail will be created. With the aid of a basic map, markers were placed to show where children played in the brooks catching sticklebacks and shooting homemade bows and arrows.
“A picture was emerging of how this neglected patch of low-grade agricultural land had been an oasis for children to play in and for wildlife to flourish.”
In May 2019, Age Craft ran a creative workshop at the Harriet Johnson Centre for children and families and with some older volunteers.
The children made a new legend about the knucker hole water dragon and created models out of clay and stone. One of the volunteers took in some vintage toys, like tin can stilts and pick-up fives, for the children to try out.
Kate said: “We wanted the children to discover connections to the older generations as well as feeling they are now part of creating a new living history going forwards as the river is established.”
Age Craft had regular meetings with older volunteers at Chesham House in Lancing and there were reminiscence sessions at Rectory House nursing home in Sompting.
Katie said: “We decided to run an after-school club at Rectory House, which children could come to, meet residents and share stories and information about local heritage and their lives.
“All of the work we did was with the focus of creating exhibitions for a pop-up museum about Sompting, its social and cultural heritage and how the new river trail is part of the development of this area and its wildlife.”
In March 2020, everything changed due to Covid-19 and all of Age Craft’s volunteer activities in schools and with the elderly had to stop.
Katie said: “As things developed, it became clear that we would not be able to share a pop-up museum at schools and community centres, as we had planned to do. Instead, we developed some online activities and ran Zoom workshops with an intergenerational group of volunteers.
“We had already been collating local heritage information and it became apparent that we were actually all living through a significant historical event – a pandemic.
“We decided to invite volunteers to create mini museums to record their pandemic experiences and put together an art pack of materials for this. With the art packs delivered, we then met regularly via Zoom and made goggles for seeing things differently and mini museums.
“Another idea emerged which was to create a time capsule to be buried at the EPIC river site, to record the unusual times we had experienced.”
Through the autumn and winter of 2020, the time capsule idea was discussed and developed with volunteers, then in spring this year, Age Craft was able to deliver workshops at the two schools.
Pupils in years five and six at Downsbrook were asked to think back over their time with the school and remember notable landmarks there. They then created landmark maps of their favourite places, alongside learning about Sompting Brooks nature trail, the new landmark that has been created.
Pupils in year four at Sompting were invited to share something about their lives they would like to be seen in 2046, 25 years’ time.
Katie said: “Having had their school lives severely disrupted by the lockdowns, many messages were about what they liked about their home lives, as well as some inspiring messages. It was lovely to see the variety and detail of their contributions.”
The children had been able to visit the river site in October 2020, before work began, and Linda Kerrison, volunteer and engagement officer at the Ouse and Adur Rivers Trust, gave them a talk about its environment, so they could go back and speak to the residents at the home about it and bring it to life for those who could not physically go to the site themselves.
Collection bags were filled with items found on site, like pieces of ceramic, stones, dried plants and leaves.
Katie said: “On returning to the nursing home, the children described their trip and shared the excitement of seeing the site with the residents. The found objects were used as a starting point for many conversations shared between residents and the children. They were then made into a display for the pop-up museum by artist Jo Coles.”
Visitors to the Age Craft exhibition were also able to write messages to include in the time capsule.