‘Why Us?’ – Arts and Minds tackles racism and prejudice

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Powerful: Overall Arts and Minds 2018 winner Grace Numfor with her artwork Why Us? (All Images: Brendan Kelly/Mousetrap Media)

The annual Arts and Minds competition offers schools the chance to promote equality and diversity and regularly produces inspiring and thought-provoking work by students from across the UK – with 2018 being no different…

Why Us? Three portraits set on a background of words and often upsetting racial slurs has won the overall prize in this year’s Arts and Minds competition.

Run by the NASUWT and supported by SecEd, the annual arts and creative writing competition challenges students from primary, secondary and special schools to produce work tackling themes of racism, prejudice, equality and diversity.

The winning entry was created by year 11 student Grace Numfor, 16, from Ercall Wood Technology College in Telford.

Every year the competition attracts hundreds of entries from across the UK, with a handful of students being selected to attend the finals, which this year took place in London in October.

Every finalist is recognised at the ceremony with television presenter Gok Wan, a keen supporter of the competition, choosing the overall winner.

Mr Wan said of Grace’s work: “This piece is striking. There are so many deep messages going on. The accuracy of the faces portrayed is amazing. I have never met any of these people but I feel I know them. The piece is absolutely beautiful.

“The wording just punches you in the face. It is quite a remarkable thing, it drew me in and got me thinking about something I perhaps don’t want to think about.”

Tough decision: Arts and Minds judge Gok Wan selected Why Us? by student Grace Numfor as the overall winner for 2018

This year’s awards featured a number of entries focused on the Windrush scandal concerning people from the Windrush generation who have been wrongly detained, denied legal rights, threatened with deportation, and, in around 60 cases, wrongly deported from the UK by the Home Office.

Finalists tackling this theme in the art category included Rhiannon Bennington, a year 10 student from Ysgol y Deri in the Vale of Glamorgan, for her work entitled Windrush, Anna Kelly, a year 10 student from Assumption Grammar School in County Down, for The Story behind the Scandal, and students from Conisborough College in London for A Boat in the Sea with a Palm Tree. Windrush Child.

Windrush also featured in the creative writing category. Charlie Read, a year 10 student from Newquay Tretherras School in Newquay, was awarded for a piece entitled Empire Windrush while Alex Stanway, a year 10 student from Greenbank Residential School in Cheshire, was recognised for his piece A long way from home.

In Empire Windrush, Charlie wrote: “Our dreams had been sold. Tears down dark cheeks rolled ... we are doctors and speakers, musicians and teachers and we’ve help shaped the world...”

Windrush Generation: Charlie Read was recognised for Empire Windrush, a piece of creative writing based on the Windrush scandal

The awards also featured the annual Anne Frank Poetry Award, which is run in partnership with the Anne Frank Trust and recognises Arts and Minds entries focused on issues relating to the Holocaust and the life and writing of Anne Frank.

This year’s winner was unveiled as year 12 student Katie Lester from House Hospital Education in Wokingham. Her poem is printed, below.

Never forget: Katie Lester receives this year's Anne Frank Poetry Award from Tim Robertson, chief executive of the Anne Frank Trust

Anne Frank Poetry Award 2018: Winning Entry

I’m hiding

Hiding in the attic. I’m hiding
Hiding the fear I feel. I’m hiding
Hiding from the soldiers. I’m hiding
Hiding from old friends. I’m hiding
Hiding in the dark. I’m hiding
Hiding from the outside world. I’m hiding
Hiding in silence. I’m hiding
Hiding like a mouse. I’m hiding
Hiding from my old life, never to be found

In the dark I feel my sister’s fear
Our hearts racing, the pounding in
My ears breaks the silence
In the dark I hear voices
Voices of workers down below
I stay still and quiet, they cannot know I’m here
In the dark I feel the tears down my face
Crying for the life I’ve lost, now living in fear
In the dark I hear the clock tower chime
Breaking our silence that lasts for hours
At a time
In the dark I see the stars, I make a wish that
Soon the light will come

The fear is real, you hear it in our silence
The sadness is real, you see it in our tears we cry at night
The horror is real, you see it in the news
The terror is real, you hear it in our pounding hearts
The love is real, you see it in our empty, hopeless eyes

Other secondary finalists in the main competition included Emily Mole, a year 11 student from Hydesville Tower School in Walsall, for her art piece Daisy Ebanks, Zarah Connolly, a year 9 student from Fulham Cross Girls School in London, for her writing All the countries in the world, and Kinnary Patankar, a year 9 student from Henrietta Barnett School in London for her writing piece entitled Human.

Notes on a Scandal: Anna Kelly with her winning artwork The Story behind the Scandal, again based on the Windrush revelations

Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary, said: “The judges found it particularly hard to choose the winners, as the standard of entries throughout the competition was very high across all the age groups and categories.

“Pupils and their teachers have worked very hard to produce such highly imaginative entries, and to come up with new and thought-provoking ways to convey the important issues of diversity and equality.


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