Lesson 1: Clacton pigeon mural: Banksy

Looking beyond the seemingly discriminatory tone of Banksy's Clacton pigeon mural, children consider what message Banksy was trying to convey, and alter the image to reflect British Values.

Learning objective

  • To evaluate and analyse creative work using the language of art, craft and design
  • To understand that art can have both meaning and message

National curriculum

Ensure pupils:

  • Become proficient in drawing, painting, sculpture and other art, craft and design techniques
  • Evaluate and analyse creative works using the language of art, craft and design

Pupils should be taught to:

  • To improve their mastery of art and design techniques, including drawing, painting and sculpture with a range of materials [for example, pencil, charcoal, paint, clay]

The DfE advises that the promotion of British Values should be through SMSC (Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural development). Ofsted will also assess these through the wider curriculum.

According to Ofsted, ‘fundamental British Values’ are:

  • Democracy
  • The rule of law
  • Individual liberty
  • Mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs and for those without faith

See Link: 'Young Citizens', which is a charity that helps schools promote SMSC.

 

Success criteria

  • I can evaluate and analyse a work of street art and relate it to the news and current affairs and to British Values
  • I can suggest how an image could be altered to change its message

Cross-curricular links

RSE

• the importance of respecting others, even when they are very different from them (for example, physically, in character, personality or backgrounds), or make different choices or have different preferences or beliefs.

Before the lesson

Note

Please check that this lesson theme and the artist Banksy’s images are appropriate for the children in your class. Scroll to the bottom of the page to see example work from pupils at John Scurr Primary School who are using their art to make new pupils feel welcome in their school.

Watch

  • Teacher video: Banksy
Teacher video: Banksy

© Courtesy of Pest Control Office, Banksy, Clacton-on-Sea, 2014. Photo © Shutterstock / photogeoff

Have ready

Print

  • Activity: Clacton pigeon mural by Banksy (see Classroom resources) – one per pupil

Download classroom resources

Activity: Clacton pigeon mural by Banksy
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Attention grabber

Watch the video on Link: ‘Banksy: Artist or vandal?’ on VideoLink from podcastsinenglish which explains the enigma of the famous street artist.

Watch the short video clip on link: ‘On Demand News – Banksy’s Brexit mural turns heads in Dover’ on VideoLink. This shows people’s reactions to a mural in the town of Dover in Kent, shortly after it was unveiled. After watching this video, explain that in 2019 this mural was anonymously painted over so that it could no longer be seen.

Ask the children what they now know about the famous artist having watched the two video clips. They may now be aware that Banksy:

  • Might be one person, or a group of people.
  • Is described as an anonymous England-based graffiti artist, political activist and film director of unverified identity.
  • Displays his/her/their art on publicly visible surfaces, such as walls.
  • Created an anti-theme park called Dismaland and recently, a hotel in Bethlehem called ‘The Walled Off Hotel’.

 

Key questions

  • Has anyone heard of Banksy?
  • Have you seen any of his work?
  • What is Brexit?
  • Is the mural on the wall in Dover making a statement about Brexit? What is Banksy saying in this artwork?
  • Do you think his work is art?
  • Who does public art belong to?

Main event

Display the Presentation: Clacton pigeon mural by Banksy.

Presentation: Clacton Pigeon Mural by Banksy

Show on your interactive whiteboard

Tell the children the brief story behind Banksy’s pigeon mural.

Banksy painted the pigeon mural on a boathouse wall in Clacton-on-Sea in Essex. The picture shows a group of pigeons holding anti-immigration placards saying, ‘Go back to Africa’, ‘Migrants not welcome’ and ‘Keep off our worms’, while an African swallow looks on.

The mural, which was thought to be worth around £400,000, was destroyed by officials from Tendring District Council, who considered it to be ‘inappropriate, offensive and racist’.

There are a number of online newspaper reports where you can find more information:

 

Ask the children questions such as:

  • What can we see?
  • What types of birds can we see?
  • How are the birds different?
  • What is this image about?
  • Who do the pigeons represent?
  • Who does the swallow represent?
  • Why is immigration in the news so much these days?

 

Encourage the children to consider the ‘racist’ label that the mural has been given by asking:

  • Why did some people think the mural was a racist image? Do you agree? Why/Why not?
  • Thinking about Banksy’s motivations/political stance, the mural is unlikely to be racist to immigrants, but is it still a prejudicial image? Against whom?
  • In the mural, are ‘British Values’ represented in the mural or undermined?
  • Do you think the council should have painted over the mural?

 

Put the children into pairs or larger groups. Give each pair or group a copy of the Activity: Clacton pigeon mural by Banksy. Bearing in mind the absence of ‘British Values’ in the mural, ask each group to look at the piece and discuss how they could change this. The children need to alter the image to a scene that is more welcoming to migrants.  They could do this by:

  • Adding clothes to the pigeons, often referred to as ‘rodents of the sky’ to make them more refined. This would also make them appear more diverse – representative of our multicultural society, as opposed to an angry grey mob/army sharing the same point of view.
  • Add balloons.
  • Add speech bubbles.
  • Sticking pieces of paper on top of the banners and placards to change the writing, for example to read, ‘Welcome to our home’, ‘Room for all’, ‘The more the merrier’.
  • Add another bird to the image, perhaps a baby swallow.

 

The children should use their sketchbooks to work out some ideas and then, working in their groups, agree on changes, and make them on the A3 sheet.

 

Differentiation

Pupils needing extra support: Should be placed within a mixed ability group so there will be support for all learners. May need to use one of the class suggestions for how to alter the pigeon image.

 

Pupils working at greater depth: Should analyse and evaluate the messaging behind the artwork in greater depth. Should be able to come up with their own original ideas about how the message could be altered.

Wrapping up

Ask each group to stand up and share their revised Banksy painting, showing the welcoming side of immigration. They should explain why they made their alterations to the image. Photograph the A3 sheets so that everyone can have a copy for their sketchbook (or reduce to A4 by photocopying).

Assessing pupils' progress and understanding

Pupils with secure understanding indicated by: Understanding why Bansky makes public art with a message and that a message can be changed by subtle revisions.

 

Pupils working at greater depth indicated by: Will connect to the SMSC aspects of this lesson with both empathy and understanding and see the British values in the lesson.

Vocabulary

  • Banksy

  • British Values

  • Graffiti

  • Immigration

  • Mural

  • Public art

  • Racism

Created by:
Susan Coles,  
Art & Design specialist
Susan is an educator, artist and an active advocate and well-known champion of art craft and designTo make, draw or write plans for something. education. Her roles include: Secretary to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Art, Craft, Design Education, Past…
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