Years 5 and 6 were incredibly lucky to have two distinguished guests last week: Dr Shirin Hirsch from the University of Wolverhampton, and world-renowned photographer Vanley Burke, born in Jamaica and living in Birmingham since 1965, often described as the 'Godfather of Black British Photography'.
Shirin talked to the children about the controversial Conservative politician Enoch Powell (1912-1998), about whom she is currently writing a book. Powell was MP for Wolverhampton South West from 1950 to 1974 and features in a scene in our play. Speeches Enoch Powell made 50 years ago had a big impact on our school. We learnt more about Powell's influence from Shirin and also about the many people in Wolverhampton who rose up and spoke out against him, as well as those who supported him.
Vanley talked about his work as a photographer, not just in this country but all over the world, and about how he documents the lives and struggles of marginalised communities. He mentioned his involvement in the anti-apartheid movement, for example. Vanley met and photographed Nelson Mandela on more than one occasion and has photographed other famous people, but the main focus in his work, he told us, has been on the lives of ordinary people. The same is the case for Shirin. Standing in front of an image of Henry VIII, she told us that, as a historian, she is always more interested in the people who, for example, had made the king's clothes, or built his castles and made his jewels and what their lives were like.
Vanley went on to photograph both classes. These photos will be exhibited in April at Wolverhampton Art Gallery alongside photographs he is also taking of people who went to West Park Primary School 50 years ago. This exhibition is part of the Conference we will be performing our play at on April 21st.
How fortunate we are to have been visited by these inspiring people! Thank you, Shirin and Vanley, for coming to our school!