Case study: The Sixteen Thousand, Hull UK City of Culture 2017

Sixteen Thousand Bricks: Hull UK City of Culture of 2017
Wienerberger donated 16 tonnes of clay to 151 nursery schools for an art installation project celebrating Hull as the UK City of Culture 2017.

Culture and Clay

The Hull UK City of Culture 2017 team joined forces with Wienerberger and the No Limits learning programme to develop The Sixteen Thousand project. Wienerberger’s Broomfleet factory delivered 16 tonnes of Humber clay, quarried locally, to Hull’s nurseries in May 2017.
As a way to represent the 16,000 young children living in Hull and get them involved in the City of Culture celebrations, each child under 5 years old attending the city’s 151 nursery schools and early years centres was given a clay brick to decorate with their own individual design.

Playing with Clay

Andrew Shimmin is the Headteacher of McMillan Nursery School which was one of first nursery schools to receive their clay. He commented, “Clay is a fantastic material that young children can use. It is malleable, it develops their hand strength and they can use their imaginations.”
Ian Martinson, Wienerberger’s Heritage Craftsman and Team Leader, led clay modelling workshops for the children during which they were encouraged to express themselves using the material, utilising different tools such as twigs, leaves, pine cones, toy cars and their own hands to carve and make marks on the surface of unfired clay bricks. This showed the school children the potential of the material and taught them about the construction of the world around them, including their own homes and favourite places. Each child received a certificate to commemorate their contribution to the project.

Back to Broomfleet

Ian Martinson commented, “There have been a few stars here today [at McMillan Nursery School] who have loved working with clay. It’s amazing even at this age how much skill they show when you  just let them have the chance, that’s what has been so good to see. It is definitely the best part of my job having the chance to pass on the joy of making things from clay.”

The Exhibition

Once the 16,000 unfired clay bricks had been carved by the nursery school children, Wienerberger took them back to their Broomfleet factory in East Yorkshire. Here the children’s bricks were dried and then fired in the kilns with great care. After firing, the 16,000 bricks were transported to the C4Di building at Hull Marina where the installation was to be set up for public viewing.

The Sixteen Thousand installation was open to the public from Monday 2nd October to Sunday 5th November 2017.
The bricks were displayed stood up on the floor and on specially built display shelves in the glass walled exhibition space, so they could also be seen from the outside. The children who created bricks were able to come with their families to enjoy the exhibition, with the busiest day welcoming over 600 visitors.
Drop-in creative clay workshops were also held every weekend and throughout the school half term holidays where visitors could get to grips with clay themselves.

After the temporary exhibition closed, the 16,000 bricks needed to be repurposed. Children were able to collect their brick as a memento and the remainder were divided amongst the 151 nursery schools that participated in the project.
Due to the great public reception of the project, a selection of bricks will also be incorporated into the redevelopment of Hull’s Fruit Market.
Ian Read, Head of Learning and Participation at Hull UK City of Culture 2017, commented: “We are delighted that Wienerberger has been part of this project, helping us facilitate a fantastic opportunity to inspire the youngest people in the city. It has allowed the children’s imaginations to run wild, be involved in a piece of culture for Hull and hopefully has inspired a lifetime’s love of arts.”
To see the The Sixteen Thousand project for yourself, watch this video.
The BBC also covered Ian’s clay modelling workshop at McMillan Nursery School, you can watch the video here.

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