Hitherfield 2016

Today we did the first of three workshops we are conducting with the current year 6 at Hitherfield Primary School in London. It has been a strange weekend in London, Abigail and I decided last week that instead of asking the children to develop their island states and then make commercials for their countries we would hold a conference instead… like they did in Zurich earlier this month. A conference where we would propose the motion ‘Is it better to work as an independent entity or to work in community with our neighbouring countries?’ The next day 17 million people in the UK voted to leave the European Union.

Suddenly I didn’t think the conference idea was so good after all, I mean the conference was a good idea but the subject matter seemed too raw, too provocative, too divisive

Hitherfield Primary School 2016

The week before last Abigail Melville (Collaborator INTOPOLITIKS WORKSHOPS UK) and I Antonia co-founder INTOPOLITIKS) had the absolute pleasure of conducting three INTOPOLITIKS workshops with the the year 6, 2016, classes at Hitherfield Primary School in London.  Inspired by what we saw in Zurich earlier this month and also drawing on current National Events (our workshops were scheduled for the week after the  EU Referendum) we decided that rather than create a ‘commercial’ for their island societies we would invite the children to chair a debate, the topic of which would be; ‘would you rather work together in a union of countries or remain separate?’ we didn’t refer to the referendum, or the result and never mentioned the word ‘Brexit’.

We started the week with 6KB. It was a beautiful day and after warming up with some role play and word games we went outside to build our islands in the Sun. The children made some beautiful structures, wrapping fabric around the poles to make tee pees and so forth. But there was discord.. People were stealing each others resources from quite early on. In order to avoid a war Abigail and I decided to create a UN prison where people who were caught stealing were sent for a bit of time out.

Charlie had written a constitution the night before which he was able to share with his group, it was great and really gave them a head start. They spent a long time debating whether or not they should have to right to bear arms. Listening to both sides of the argument was enlightening and made it harder than I thought it would be to choose..

I was struck by the loyalty of another group where it really did seem like the girls were doing all the work; when I suggested they should berate the boys for not being more helpful they rushed to their defence; bonds of friendship are important and very strong.

After lunch it transpired that some of the islanders had sabotaged some of the structures. We decided to have a group debate to determine whether or not the saboteurs should be allowed to continue with the workshop; it was amazing! Thirty children sharing their feelings in front of the class, kids taking responsibility for their actions and their peers unafraid to admit how they felt and furthermore to ‘sentence’ them. We were so impressed with the class and how they conducted themselves; politics at its best!

On Wednesday we worked with Class 6N .. And ‘pasta politics’ was invented! In the morning we always play a form of articulate with the children, they have to explain/describe a political word or term to their team, they can say ‘rhymes with’ or ‘sounds like’, really they are just supposed to waggle their ear! Anyway some of them struggled with Manifesto and I had the, not so clever, idea of suggesting they say  ‘rhymes with Pesto’  By day three of the workshops ‘Pasta Politics’ was a thing!
We saw some incredible gymastics in 6N and heard a lot about pigeons..We also observed more stories of friendship and some serious building work. The children are split into groups of 5 or 6 outside of their immediate friendship groups. In some groups we observed children splitting within the groups.. Often a girls versus boys scenario.. But each time this happened, by the end they chose to come back together; strength in numbers, co-operation in communities.  When two of the islands were destroyed by natural disasters it was brilliant seeing how the children worked together and supported one another. Ahmed, who was the elected leader of his country was devastated when his country was destroyed by an earthquake and ran. I saw him and reminded him he was the leader. He returned immediately and made sure all his people were safe.

The debate was great.. Not everyone did want to work in a union as they didn’t like the way some of the other countries did things; the defence policies were particularly contentious…

On Thursday we met 6T. We had hoped to go outside again but the rain on Wednesday had left a muddy gloop in its wake, so we stayed inside. 6T were pretty clued up. Possibly because they had been chatting with the other year 6 classes in the playground or possibly because they love politics. When we asked each child to tell the rest of the class what they would do if they ruled the world we heard 30 amazing ideas and decided that perhaps 6T should run the country! It always helps to have the benefit of history, (i.e. 6KB and 6N) But kudos to 6T for listening and learning from it! What really struck us about this class was how even when they were split into their 4 groups they kept working together, supporting one another. One group decided each member would be a leader. Each leader was responsible for a different department. One of the inhabitants was unhappy with this though as he didn’t feel he fit into any group; he was of course allowed to emigrate and was welcomed elsewhere. There was a real feeling of ‘community’; we are all in this together. Perhaps that is how they are as a class, perhaps they were responding to the nations confusion about the referendum which was mentioned, for the first time that week, that day; by the kids I hasten to add. It seems that their natural instinct was to work together; inhabit their own cultures, but save the world as one .

We especially enjoy the children’s feedback after the workshop. Some of it was printed in the Hitherfield Herald;

“Politics isn’t always just about government; the public have a big part in politics”


This feedback is from Tom who teaches 6T..

“I thought this workshop was the best I’ve had as a teacher! the activities inspired a creative side in the children that they often don’t know they have! It was also fascinating to see how they responded in a crisis and I felt I learned an awful lot about each of my children.”


Last week I had the pleasure of watching the results of a two week INTOPOLITIKS workshop led by Dominique Margot (Co-founder INTOPOLITIKS) and Susanne Hofer (Co-founder INTOPOLITIKS), with the help of Seraina Duer and Christin Glauser,


as part of the http://www.blickfelder.ch/  Festival 2016. Blickfelder is a Festival of ‘Arts for a Young Audience’ held every 2 (or 3) years in Zurich. We applied to Blickfelder in 2015 and were invited to create a 2 week  INTOPOLITIKS workshop for the Festival. Although we have been developing and delivering our workshops for over a year now we have never done a two week workshop so this was an opportunity not to be missed and also an opportunity to trial the ‘Generateur du Hazard’ for the first time.

The Festival is spread out in different venues all over the city with a central ‘office’, not dissimilar to a circus encampment, just opposite the new Tony Campus of the Zurich University of the Arts. This is where the children’s work was on display in a ‘container’ museum


and also where they did they public performance inside a marquee. The Festival is not commercial and its position, nestled amongst the huge buldings of ‘Techno Park’ as the area is known, created an interesting juxtaposition.

INTOPOLITIKS Workshops allow children to create the society they want to live in, however they want. We give the children practical, emotional and psychological tools but NO RULES. There is no right or wrong answer in INTOPOLITIKS because we want the children to create what they think will work, what they would like to see; a place where they would like to live. Dominque, Susanne and the gang  were lent an empty school hall on the other side of the river just by a high bridge (which I was told the kids liked to jump off into the river in the summer!!!) and spent two weeks introducing these wonderful children…..


a year 6 class from the  Unteres Letten School in Zürich to ‘POLITICS’; how does it feel to be a leader? How does it feel when no one agrees with your ideas? How does it feel when your city is destroyed by an earthquake? How do YOU feel in this scenario and what would you do to change it. The children were given building materials

rainbow island

and were able to film their progress and the ‘Generateur du Hazard’ would bark instructions, which interestingly they followed unquestioningly; Susanne commented that they were happier taking orders from a digital voice from a computer than from a human adult.

Kids n Gen dH

During the two weeks the children visited the Mayor of Zurich, Corine Mauch at the Stadthaus (Cityhall) and they got to sit at the board table where the ministers debate and make important decisions for the City. They had a guided tour of the Rathaus (Townhall) and were invited to assist at a meeting of the Parliament. The political scientist Michael Hermann visited the children during the workshop, he creates politically orientated maps concerning the inhabitants of the country. The children were also visited by a young and very engaged female politician, Flavia Kleinert who is 25 years old.  And Zamboradio came and did a live broadcast with the children.

Abigail Melville (Collaborator INTOPOLITIKS WORKSHOPS UK) and I were very excited to see the results of the 2 week workshop and arrived at Blickfelder headquarters full of anticipation and we were not disappointed! First of all we had a look in the container museum

which was like walking into a secret children’s den with magical lands and beautiful maps and egalitarian constitutions written up and displayed proudly. At the far end was a screen showing the workshops in action and another showing solo interviews with the children. The effect was really powerful; when you give children the space to think about the world and a safe place to discuss the feelings it engenders, the most amazing ideas materialize.

We then watched the children ‘perform’ for an adult audience.  The children had formed into 3 groups.  Each group had created their own society. There was ‘Papagreen’, Rainbow and the third group had split in two; ‘Mainstream’ (the boys) and Frozzocania


(the girls). Each group performed a sketch to introduce their country. They explained their beliefs and rules and how they had constructed themselves. They sang songs, they showed the audience what they had built and how they ran their world. They were proud and loud and strong. Then they held a conference, it was like being at the UN. The group of 21 children debated propositions, that they had not prepared. It was extraordinary to watch this group of 12 year olds discuss huge political issues in front of an audience. They were passionate and were unafraid to voice their views. They were respectful of one another and conducted the conference in a civilised way even when the topic of gender came up; the girls were aggrieved that the boys had not pulled their weight when they were creating the exhibition in the container, the boys said that they had tried to but what ever they did the girls told them they had done it wrong, one of the girls then took the mic and apologized for this and admitted that, actually, they had enjoyed doing it without the boys help as tit gave them the freedom to do it how they wanted. After the show there was a tremendous storm!

plastic bags

Fortunately the Festival provided us all with some elegant rain wear.

Two days later I was able to see the next performance  when the children performed to other school classes and their teachers. This time the audience were invited to join in the conference. It was amazing, 60 children and their teachers discussing equally ‘what is unfair in society?’,  ‘is school a dictatorship?’, they voted on this one and it was decided by the majority that school is not a dictatorship. The debate was filled with ideas, ideas shared rather than dismissed. It did not feel like a competition, or a fight; it felt like a very good way to rule the world.  I was lucky enough to speak to the class teacher,Götz Dihlmann, afterwards who gave me interesting feedback. The two things that really stuck in my mind were that a lot of the parents had commented on how calm their kids were when they got home in the evenings whilst doing the workshop, and that for the last 3 years this class has been unable to play football as a group because the game descends into a fight in the first few minutes, since taking part in the INTOPOLITIKS workshop they play football together every day. I also got some feedback from the children, one of the girls from Frozzocania admitted that they had tried to get back together with the boys as they had all realized they were stronger as one.

Antonia Beamish (C0-founder INTOPOLITIKS) June 2016