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Breath-taking Art Installation Symbolises School Pollution

Hundreds of felt lungs have been displayed outside a polluted Hackney primary school in in a heartfelt plea to clean up the air.

Children at William Patten, which is one of 50 primary schools audited in the Mayor’s School Air Quality Audit programme, each created a pair of lungs, many were decorated with drawings of polluted cities and roads, juxtaposed with drawings of plants and flowers. In total 450 lungs now serve as a reminder to TFL, Hackney Council and passing motorists of the harm traffic outside the school is causing.

The project was devised by textile artist Jan Cullen, formerly the Family Programmes Manager at the National Portrait Gallery.  Air quality experts came to the school and held assemblies before the children worked with Jan and another artist, Angela Wright, to make the lungs.

She said: “Children are very aware of the pollution problem and this project enables them to represent that in a very visual way.   The lungs went up on the front fence this week and they’re certainly thought-provoking. They’ll be seen by thousands of motorists each day; hopefully this installation will convince some to use less harmful modes of transport.

“Over 500 buses stop outside the school playground during school hours. TFL and Hackney Council have been dragging their heels and, despite three years of parents campaigning, are showing no intention of moving or removing it. As part of this project, children in Year Six interviewed people at the bus stop – almost all said they’d be happy to walk a little further if it meant the bus stop could be removed.”

Recent research by Unicef revealed 60% of a child’s exposure to pollution happens during their walk to school and in the playground. Because children are shorter and closer to exhaust pipes, they breathe in even more pollution than adults.

Headteacher Karen Law said: ‘The project has been wonderful. It has been a fantastic collaboration between our children, staff and parents and it has enabled us to address a topical and relevant issue in an imaginative and creative way, without shying away from the seriousness of the concerns around air quality’.”

Photos by Jamie Smith

Children are very aware of the pollution problem and this project enables them to represent that in a very visual way

Posted 11th June 2019