Charterhouse & The Village school

Marc Woodhead – Visual artist educator

Luke Crookes – Musician and cross-arts workshop leader

To imagine the perception of a pupil with PMLDs moving into and through the different historical rooms and spaces of the Charterhouse Museum and cloistered gardens for the first time, seemed such a privilege to me. What would they see? What would they feel? What would they experience?  What would it mean to them?

All of these questions were at the forefront of my mind when planning and facilitating the project for PMLD pupils and staff (Jenny and Dierdre) from The Village School, at Charterhouse, with musician and cross arts educator Luke Crookes, and Cynthia and Emily at Charterhouse. 

To comprehend an encounter, between a PMLD student, and the wondrous spaces at Charterhouse Museum, is to imagine another view of the museum, a different perspective of the world, the event itself becomes full of potential and mystery. And to begin to interpret the responses of the students requires working closely with the experts, the wonderful staff at The Village School like Dierdre and Jenny.

I felt incredibly lucky to be able to collaborate with Luke Crookes on this project as my primary expertise is interpreting the visual world, a love of painting, of history and ideas. Luke responds to the pupils live in the space, playing bassoon, also recording and sampling the voices and noises of the students, creating layers of music and soundscapes, that evoke and reflect both, the student’s personalities, and their responses to the spaces of the museum. 

With the help of Cynthia and Emily, Luke and I had become fascinated by the different layers of history at Charterhouse. We were amazed by the atmospheres of each room, and the surfaces of the walls in the museum, the stones, block-work, bricks, wooden panels and columns, the wallpaper, the tapestries, the textures, colours, the windows, the light, the stained glass, icons, and how all of these elements change the feeling and temperature and speak about the history of each room.

We focused in on two historic rooms in Charterhouse for the Village School project. 

As the children and staff arrived at the Charterhouse we sang Tudor style name songs in the carpark and then processed into the building to the sound of Tudor style bassoon playing.

Firstly, in the Norfolk Cloister, we evoked the sombre and enchanting mood of the Carthusian Monastery, we dressed each student in white Carthusian hooded robes (created by . . .), we held palm leaves created at The Village School, Luke played drones and we chanted vocal sounds. We sang each of the children’s names and had a little bassoon improvisation reflecting each child’s mood. Luke echoed the student’s vocal sounds into the space by sampling their voices along with the sound of monastic bells as we processed slowly through the cloister, moving in and out of the diagonal shafts of morning light falling across the stones. It was magical.

Secondly, in The Great Chamber, we had fun. We decorated Tudor pennant flags using hand over hand printing of simple cut our heraldic shapes on to grey card. We used a huge flag Dierdre’s students had painted at The Village School, to welcome each student in to this grand space by singing a personalised fanfare of the children’s special qualities. Each member of staff interacted with the children through percussion playing to Tudor music and bassoon improvising, as we all sang “we’re all going to the Charterhouse, to the Charterhouse we will go”. Jenny, Luke and Cynthia created a Tudor dance performed in the Great Chamber space. We finished with a joyful Tudor joust holding the pennant flags and charging across the great chamber to music and cheers.

A truly collaborative project. To witness the students of The Village School encountering and responding to Charterhouse was such a gift, because, to imagine the perception of their experience offered a completely different perspective, an alternative view of the museum, of reality.


ROOM – Great Hall.
ACTIVITY – Grand Arrival – the students arrive in the room one by one.
MUSIC/SOUNDSCAPE – Personalised Fanfare.
PROP – Personalised Heraldic Flag.
ART – Personalised Heraldic Flag (colours and shapes), Personalised Heraldic broach.
MOVEMENT – Slow, walking, procession. Each child has a rhythmic phrase that reflects their name and character traits.
RATIONALE – We celebrate our group and individual identities.

TRANSITION – Magical Transforming Sounds. Sounds of doors creaking and locks unlocking. Tudor lyre plays a magical motif.

ROOM – Old Library.
ACTIVITY – Opening books and whispering.
MUSIC/SOUNDSCAPE – Amplified quiet whispering (we record, if possible, the children whispering, and playback) when the children open a book.
PROP – Old leather bound books, voices
MOVEMENT – Searching, soft & gentle. Hands cupping eats to listen to whispers. Staff whisper into the children’s ears.
RATIONALE – we evoke the space, the history of the space, and the people that have used this space through books and whispering

TRANSITION – Magical Transforming Sounds. Sounds of doors creaking and locks unlocking. Tudor lyre plays a magical motif.

ROOM – Norfolk Cloister
ACTIVITY – Somber and enchanting procession and movement
MUSIC/SOUNDSCAPE – Gregorian chant, echoing. Drone. Staff humming.
PROP – Monks costumes, Voices
ART – Palm Leaves (?), or something we pass along the procession, like a scroll (?)
MOVEMENT – Still and meditative.
RATIONALE – We evoke the somber history of the monks in the monastery

TRANSITION – Magical Transforming Sounds. Sounds of doors creaking and locks unlocking. Tudor lyre plays a magical motif.

ROOM – Great Chamber (First Floor)
ACTIVITY – Tudor Dance, The Joust
MUSIC/SOUNDSCAPE – Brass fanfares. Dance with tambours. Jousting driving energy rhythms.
PROP – Tudor Costume, Personalised Heraldic Flags, Personalised Bunting for the Joust, confetti. Piano, Bassoon
ART – Personalised Heraldic Flags, Personalised bunting (?), Personalised Heraldic broach
MOVEMENT – Grand fanfare arrival. Swing movements and dancing. Quickly charging. Wheelchairs moving in time to the music.
RATIONALE – Evoking the joyous history of the Great Chamber – party time!

TRANSITION – Magical Transforming Sounds. Sounds of doors creaking and locks unlocking. Tudor lyre plays a magical motif.

ROOM – Chapel
ACTIVITY – Colour and Light Soundscape
MUSIC/SOUNDSCAPE – Warm harmonies, held chords with heavenly legato melodies.
PROP – Soft heavenly material. Coloured plastic paper to place over the children’s eyes to reflect the stained glass.
MOVEMENT – Looking at the colours in the Chapel stained glass and icon paintings, absorbing the atmosphere of the space through the soundscape. Prayer like.
RATIONALE – An uplifting end inspired by the colours of the stained glass and icon paintings.

Here are some of the development.





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