Around a dozen students from Athena entered this years Arts and Minds competition run by the teacher's union NASUWT, this annual competition attracts entries from hundreds of schools from across the country and the winners are chosen by TV personality and face of Activa yoghurt, Gok Wan!

Entries were posted off in July and to cries of 'we'll never win, what's the point...?" We rushed to finish our entries allowing time for the glue to dry before they were packed up in cardboard and bin bags covered in parcel tape. School finished for the Summer and all thoughts of the competition were forgotten...

Then, at the start of August an email arrived with the fantastic news that one of the students had won one of the six top prizes. I couldn't wait to tell Ciaran Brazier the good news, but he thought I was joking, as did his mum when he went home and told her!

So on Tuesday, 13th. October, Ciaran, his mum Claire and myself set off to London on our all expenses paid trip. No sooner had we got to Preston but we were rubbing shoulders with the stars. Ciaran meeting Katie from Emmerdale! In London we took the tube to Victoria and then walked the rest of the way to our luxury hotel, just a stones throw from Buckingham Palace. We spent the evening walking around St. James', dining in style on hunter's chicken, rump steak and chocolate cake. A nervous Ciaran and his mum retired to their room on the top floor and attempted to sleep...

On the morning of Wednesday 14th. October the union had arranged for us to go on the London Eye and an initially nervous (I'm scared of heights) Ciaran was soon stood right up to the glass and unaware of how high up we were. A sightseeing stroll round London followed; Downing Street, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament before we arrived back at the hotel for the start of the ceremony. More food and drink followed and we got to meet the other winning contestants from schools ranging from Manchester to Brighton and Newcastle to South Wales. We took our seats and waited and clapped as the primary school winners were announced....the secondary school winners were announced....the Anne Frank special award was presented....the special schools awards were announced..... but, they'd missed us out, hadn't they? As I sat there wondering what was happening, Ciaran and his mum looked to me for guidance, but I had none to give. Then, as I was about to raise my hand and say "I think you've forgotten us..." a video presentation from Gok Wan began.

He's chosen a piece of artwork (could be us...), he loves the use of colour (Ciaran's work used colour...), he feels like he knows the person in the self portrait (Ciaran did a self portrait....), then the camera zoomed out to reveal Gok standing next to Ciaran's framed artwork! He had won the main prize, a £100 for him and £1000 for the school. We went to collect our prize and Ciaran decided it would be better if I said a few words. I've no idea what I said but I remember people laughing so this might indicate that it was a good thing?

Well done to Ciaran, and all the other students who entered from Speedwell / Athena. If it proves nothing else it goes to show that we can win and we do win. Thanks to the NASUWT for organising such an amazing experience for us all in London, I'm sure the memories of it will stay with Ciaran and his mum for a very long time.

Barry Gore

For more information: NASUWT Arts & Minds Competition 2015

Saturday, September 23, 2017
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