The 11 by 11 Summer Festival

Students in Union Chapel with their hands in the air

Celebrating our creative community

In the final weeks of the summer term, nearly 3,000 children took part in Islington’s 11 by 11 Festival. Working with 19 schools, the festival took place over two weeks and focused on the theme ‘celebrating our creative community’.

A celebration it certainly was, with a wide range of fantastic cultural experiences on offer free for Islington schools from 23 of the council’s 11 by 11 cultural partners.

The festival kicked off with Music Education Islington’s Big Sing, which welcomed more than 1,000 students to Union Chapel to form a mass choir – having so many voices fill up the chapel was an inspiring way to start the festival and really got the creative energy flowing.

On the first day of the festival, the Estorick Collection of Italian Art also visited Tufnell Park Primary school where they enjoyed a taste of Italy, with the help of education officer Jenny Pengilly. They heard the story of puppet Pinocchio and learned how to sing Head Shoulders Knees and Toes in Italian.

“I really enjoyed working with the staff and children at Tufnell Park Primary and appreciated how open they were to trying different activities,” says Jenny. “They were great at noticing the different shapes and colours and saying what they thought the images looked like.”

Inspired by the Cubist geometric shapes of early 20th-Century Italian sculpture, the children printed a backdrop of squares, circles and triangles, and then created their own puppets to perform in front of it. Much fun and mess was had! “The children absolutely loved it,” says Anjuma Begum, cultural lead and teacher at Tufnell Park Primary. “It was a great session!”

Throughout the festival, students also joined rap artist, author and educator Breis, who visited six primary schools for some imaginative creative lyric writing workshops where students created and performed spoken word pieces. The next generation of lyricists, perhaps?

“Our creative lyric writing workshop with Breis was outstanding. He engaged the pupils straight away, the intentions and structure were clear and there were high expectations of pupils throughout,” says Ishamane John, teacher at Pooles Park Primary school. The children benefited from thinking about how to write lyrics that rhymed and focused on the topic they were given. It was wonderful to see the children so eager to perform to each other.”

In the second week of the festival, students from City of London Primary Academy Islington (COLPAI) went on a trip to the Crafts Council’s new gallery space to explore the new exhibition and take part in an object handling and an embroidery activity with artist Woo Jin Joo.

Students from Gillespie Primary, St Jude and St Paul’s and Yerbury Primary, meanwhile, got the chance to immerse themselves in theatrical performances from Little Angel Theatre’s I Want My Hat Back and Tall Stories’ performance of Room on the Broom.

On the final day of the festival, Islington’s first ever primary school dance festival took place. Parents and carers of students from Moreland, Duncombe, and St John’s Highbury Vale came to visit the performance hall at Arts and Media School Islington (AMSI), to watch the impressive dance performances from almost 100 children.

The festival also provided AMSI’s Year 10 GCSE dance students with an opportunity to showcase their own skills. The students introduced, hosted and led the whole event and performed their own routines for the audience, showing some very impressive talent!

These were just some of the wonderful creative activities that took place during the festival. Students from Samuel Rhodes also had a visit from the National Centre for Circus Skills as a part of their Circuspire programme, where they got to have a go at spinning plates and tightrope.

The 11 by 11 Summer Festival is completely free for schools to take part in and offers students a wide range of opportunities to participate in arts and cultural activities and explore their creativity.

Together, as a partnership of schools, cultural organisations and Islington Council, 11 by 11 supports children and young people to gain precious life skills by providing a wide range of high-quality enrichment opportunities. “The festival could not have happened without the commitment and dedication of teachers and cultural organisations,” says Katie Whitbourn, cultural enrichment officer at the council. “Thank you to everyone who took part, we can’t wait till the next one!”

Visit the 11 by 11 website to find out more about Islington’s 11 by 11 programme. If your school would like to take part, the next 11 by 11 autumn term activity menu is now live! Islington teachers can book activities for next term. If you would to like to hear more about how you could get involved, contact

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