Imagined Abbey schools workshop days

#ImaginedAbbey practical creative activity days for primary school children were delivered in May 2022 in conjunction with the International Congress on Medieval Studies. Participants explored a significant forgotten workforce of medieval female cultural innovators through the lens of their counterparts living and working in Hastings today.

The notion of serene abbeys with enigmatic atmospheres was imploded in the purposeful, bustling manner of six activities which children cycled round in groups of 10-15. The participants themselves created the noise and bustle of a building bursting with cultural activity.

Children painted fantastical animals in margins with visual artist Yasmin Aishah, created stories with writer Hannah Collisson, sang with musician Ruby Colley and scribed at sloped writing desks with graphic designer Erica Smith. I explored a reading and relating activity referring to the Hastings Museum and Art Gallery’s Marie in the Margins every day object collection with participants. This is a collection assembled by the museum’s Curator of Archaeology, Philip Hadland.

Partner in this project, University of Edinburgh historian Dr Emily Joan Ward, offered a contextual history garden activity in which children explored the diverse eleventh and twelfth-century stories of women and children, stories intertwined with migration.

The pace in the #ImaginedAbbey activities is brisk; there is much to be done. Voices cascade though the building - the sound of purposeful endeavour. Medieval abbeys were places where a hectic workload was tackled in the output of reading materials.

Offering multiple, accessible entry points through various hands on approaches, children experience this #herstory as a work and working class heritage story (

This engagement emphasises the interconnected, informative relationship between heritage site experiences, literature, history, language learning, creative activities and scientific exploration.

Marie in the Margins invites children to feel validated in relating their personal stories to this history through the writing of twelfth-century adventure author, Dame Marie, also know as Marie de France. The diverse array of practical activities address disability and other barriers to access, promoting cohesion and well being.

Hannah Collisson's Writing Workshop
Film by cinematographer Rod Morris

Emily Ward's History Workshop
Film by cinematographer Rod Morris

Erica Smith's Scriptorium Workshop
Film by cinematographer Rod Morris

facebook: Gail Borrow
twitter: @GailBorrow
instagram: abbessgailborrow