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Children set to record their own history

Photography is re-focussing an annual art competition staged for primary schools close to the new 1,000-home Peters Village development near Wouldham.

The ‘Why I Love My Valley’ theme used since the competition launched in 2015 has already seen breath-taking creations in many mediums, but this year’s results from the primary schools of Wouldham, Eccles and Burham are even more eagerly anticipated, says one of the head teachers:

"The children are very excited - they always are - but this year is different,” said Jonathan Bassett of St Mark’s in Eccles.

"Firstly, we made a clean sweep of prizes last year, so we know the other schools will come roaring back, but that's what these competitions have been all about; we realised that we had to raise our game for 2017 - and look at the result.

"But the second thing is that previous competitions focused on the past. This time, the children are aware that they will be making their own history by recording it through photography.

And finally, the choice of photography has really changed the dynamic of the competition. We've done sculptures, paintings, drawings and mosaics before; this is a complete departure."

But the contest tradition of generous cash prizes: £3,500 will be spread across first, second and third prize winners and ‘Highly Commended’ entries.

The competition was launched by Peters Village developer Trenport in 2015 to help foster relations between the all-new community and its neighbours.

It was then co-sponsored last year by housebuilder Orbit, and support has widened further for 2018 with Ashberry Homes, Bellway Homes, Hyde New Homes, Westerhill Homes and Baxall Construction – builder of the new Wouldham school – becoming backers too.

Children at the three schools – All Saints Wouldham, Burham Primary, and St Mark’s – are currently working hard on entries, helped by mentoring workshops set up by the competition organisers.

Judging takes place on July 12 and the following have been confirmed for the panel: 2017-18 Mayor of Tonbridge & Malling Council (TMBC) and Burham Parish Council member Cllr Roger Dalton; the area’s PCSO (Police Community Support Officer) Kim Lidbury, TMBC Scrutiny and Partnerships Manager Gill Fox; and Medway Valley photographer Keith Thompson.

The prizegiving will take place on July 16 at All Saints School, Wouldham, with presentations made by current TMBC Mayor Cllr Pam Bates.

Cllr Dalton has been ever-present at past judging and presentations and said: “I cannot praise the promoters and organisers enough. The standard is always amazing but goes up a notch each year too.

“And you need only recall 2017’s outcome, to see the beneficial effect on the children: Eccles school was disappointed with its results in years one and two but roared back last year to make a clean sweep of the prizes – a fantastic sign of the good being done here.”

Trenport Community Liaison Manager Shirley Boards said: “The competition has been a huge success and we are delighted by recognition and support this year from the growing number of housebuilders at Peters Village.”

Competition co-ordinator and mentor Colleen Dunn (pictured left with Eccles pupil Joshua) explained her choice of photography to challenge the children’s creativity this year: “This generation will grow up with photography as second nature thanks to the ubiquitous mobile phone, but digital ‘snaps’ and ‘selfies’ are a tiny part of the potential in these gadgets.

“We want the children to use them more imaginatively to create a living archive of how the Medway Valley is evolving in the 21st century, by picturing people, places and objects, the river and roads, or local wildlife.” Pictured below: Colleen Dunn helps more Eccles pupils 'frame' a good photo