Rivers of the World: Coventry Artist Brief 2020

Photo: Milo Robinson

In 2021, Coventry becomes the third UK City of Culture. Coventry will be transformed through a year-long programme of events in every corner of the city, developed in collaboration with local people.

Over the next two years, Coventry City of Culture Trust, the Thames Festival Trust and Open Theatre will be working with all eight of the Special Needs Schools in Coventry and their students to celebrate and re-engage with Coventry’s historic River Sherbourne. This project will form part of the City of Culture schools programme.

The Rivers of the World and Story of Water is an innovative programme, delivered in partnership with Thames Festival Trust; an organisation with a proven track record of delivering creative education programmes. The project is aimed at helping children and young people connect and learn about rivers and to create work inspired by its culture, community and ecology.

Open Theatre has been working extensively in Special Needs Schools across Birmingham and Coventry for the past 20 years delivering year-round programmes of their drama practice that supports the creative learning and personal development of all the pupils involved. With this project they will be working closely with all partners and the artists to facilitate the creative process wherever needed. In addition to this, Open Theatre will identify one or two emerging artists with learning disabilities based in Coventry to work alongside the artists on the project. Each of these emerging artists will be supported by Open Theatre with a degree of mentoring to be provided by the artists as appropriate as well.

We are passionate about creating an inclusive programme and elated that Coventry will lead the way as the first city to work specifically and only with Special Needs Schools for this Thames Festival project.

Project Brief for Artist: Rivers of the World & The Story of Water

We are looking for a Coventry-based artist/s or an arts organisation to work with all eight Special Needs Schools in Coventry to deliver a programme of high-quality art workshops based around river and environmental studies. The work produced will be exhibited as part of Coventry City of Culture in 2020 and 2021.

  • Photo: Tim Day

Arts Network & Schools Background

The Coventry Special Needs Schools Arts Ambassador Network is a partnership between Arts Connect and the eight Special Needs Schools in Coventry, which cover a range of ages and special needs. The commission will involve one or two classes in each school, and the eight schools are:

  • Baginton Fields School (Secondary Special School)
  • Corley Centre (Secondary Special School)
  • Castlewood Special School (Primary Special School)
  • RNIB Three Spires Academy (Primary Special School)
  • Riverbank Academy (Secondary Special School)
  • Sherbourne Fields (Primary and Secondary School)
  • Tiverton School (Primary Special School)
  • Woodfield School (Primary and Secondary Special School)

The children in these schools range in age from 2 – 19 years. All schools engage with the arts through a wide range of mediums. The children have a broad spectrum of special needs which include; physical development, learning development, Autism, visual/hearing impairment, communication difficulties and PMLD (profound and multiple learning disability). There are a large number of children who are working on curriculums similar to the Early Years (P-Levels) and then range to a small number completing level 2 GCSEs.

About Rivers of the World & The Story of Water

Rivers of the World and The Story of Water are international art and education projects delivered in partnership with the British Council that connect pupils around the globe to their local river through environmental, economic and cultural learning themes.

Rivers of the World is a secondary school programme while the Story of Water is aimed at primary schools. Due to the requirements of the SEN schools in Coventry we have decided to merge the programmes in order to achieve maximum benefit.

The programmes are both art and geography based and are designed to inspire teachers through creativity. The two-year programme involves the pupils in the first year learning about their local river and in the second about a river in another country. We provide each school with an international school partnership with a school in Tanzania and there are opportunities for teachers both to visit their partner school and to host teachers from overseas within their own school.

Working with an artist or designer, who has been trained by our lead artist Shona Watt, pupils learn and gather ideas that are channelled creatively into drawings, paintings, photographs and other visual media which result in the creation of a collective digital work of art. The artworks are then curated and exhibited in galleries, along the River Thames walkway, schools across the UK and around the world in partner countries.

Since its creation in 2005, Rivers of the World has been delivered in thirty countries around the world including Egypt, Turkey, China, Hungary, Thailand, Brazil, Indonesia, France, United Arab Emirates, Mexico, South Korea, India, South Africa, Bangladesh, Argentina, USA, Pakistan, Taiwan, and across the UK in London, Worcestershire, Exeter, Peterborough, Warrington, Hull, Reading.

Rivers of the World is managed by the Thames Festival Trust in partnership with organisations local to each city. In Coventry these are Coventry City of Culture Trust and Open Theatre.

Project Overview

We are looking for artists/designers to deliver visual art-based workshops in eight SEN schools over the months of March to June 2020.

The national lead artist for the project, Shona Watt, along with the Thames Festival Trust, will hold a training day for all new artists on the 2 March 2020 in Coventry in order to fully brief everyone on the delivery and expectations of the project.

Each school involved in the project will be asked to select a group of pupils to come off timetable for the equivalent of 2.5 days and be involved in the art workshops. Where schools have both a primary and a secondary section both parts of the schools will be involved, meaning that a total of 10 class groups across all the schools, will take part.

Each school will be assigned one of six river themes (based on their local river) and the artwork they produce as part of the workshops will be inspired by these themes: River of Life, Polluted River, Resourceful River, River Culture, River City and Working River.

It will be the artists’ responsibility to research the themes, and work with the pupils to decide on the idea behind each work. You will also decide on the best media for each workshop, for e.g. print-making, sculpture, photography, collage. We are looking for an innovative approach, giving pupils the opportunity to work with materials they may not have used before.

Each class group is to create one joint piece of artwork which high quality, polished and then arranged in Photoshop. Pupils should be involved as much as possible in creating the designs and deciding on the final layout of the piece.

The resulting imagery will be exhibited in the following ways:

  • Original artworks will form an exhibition in each of the schools.
  • Final digital banners will be printed for a touring exhibition both locally and nationally.
  • Art works will be digitally copied to be shown in a project brochure.

The resulting art work must be made with this in mind, ie, designing the imagery to the banner proportions or with consideration to how photographs of details of the art work / sculptures might appear on the banners.

Each final artwork will be supplied to the Thames Festival Trust as a PSD file to set specifications by 30 June 2020. The original artwork produced by the pupils will be arranged in school for onward use and display.

Project Requirements

  • To take part in the Arts Development week during the w/o 2 March 2020. This will include a project briefing day and time to visit each of the participating schools along with colleagues from Tanzania.
  • To lead a 2hr CPD session with the participating teachers to show them different art skills and how these could be applied to teaching practice
  • To lead 2.5 equivalent days of art in each school and to impart art skills to the participating teachers and to inspire them in the potential of art based learning in the future
  • To design a stunning water / river themed display in each school using the original artwork created
  • To produce a digital artwork (to set spec) for each school group – 10 in total – which includes the contribution of each pupil from the class


  • 2 March 2020: Artist briefing in Coventry.
  • 3 – 6 March 2020: Visits to schools in Coventry to aid planning.
  • 12 March 2020: CPD briefing session with schools.
  • March–June 2020: Art workshops in each of the schools
  • 30 June 2020: All 10 digital banners to be sent to Thames Festival Trust
  • September – November 2020: Touring exhibition.

Person Specification

Artists applying should have:

  • An inspiring creative portfolio.
  • A keen interest or experience of working with young people, including those with special educational needs and providing in-school art workshops.
  • Good knowledge of Photoshop (desirable) – or ability to document art works digitally and make print ready.
  • Good availability during March – June 2020.
  • A current DBS certificate.


£9,800 inclusive of travel and VAT; based on the artist/arts organisation being responsible for own tax and NI on a freelance basis.

Breakdown as follows:

  • £800 Artist development week training and school visits (4 days @ £200 per day).
  • £250 CPD training session (prep and 2hr delivery).
  • £500 planning time with schools (2 days @ £250 per day).
  • £6250 for school workshops with 10 groups (equivalent 25 days @ £250 per day) including mounting school display.
  • £1000 Pulling imagery together and creating 10 digital artworks (4 days @ £250 per day).
  • £1000 materials budget (£100 per school group).

Key Dates

  • Application Deadline: Friday 7 February (no later than 12.00 noon).
  • Interviews: Thursday 13 February at Sherbourne Fields Special School please pencil the date in your diary. The interviews will include an adult panel plus a workshop with newly-trained Young Arts Ambassadors from the network’s schools.
  • Artist Development Week: 2–5 March 2020.
  • CPD Day: 12 March 2020.
  • Workshops: March–June 2020.

How to Apply

Both individuals and arts organisations/companies can apply. All successful applicants will need to evidence their portable DBS or undertake a DBS check, along with any other artists from their organisation. You must carry Public Liability Insurance for all artists.

Please submit a proposal on how you would deliver the commission and your ideas for the creative content.

Please include:

  • Your passion or experience of working with young people, in schools and/or with SEN students.
  • An outline of your approach to the commission, explaining how you will use your artistic skills to engage students with a range of needs and learning styles, and their teachers, enabling them to be part of the team of artists to create quality work to share. Also your thoughts for empowering participating staff through CPD.
  • Examples of previous work – up to 5 images.
  • Two Referees, ideally schools.
  • If an individual artist, please provide an up to date CV; if an organisation please provide an outline of your company’s Aims, Mission, Vision and information on the people involved in this commission.
  • If you are intending to use freelance artists we would like to know who you are proposing to work with and have a copy of their CV.

Please send the above information to Kate Forde by Friday 7 February.