Primary/Bristol: Easton CE Academy

Olivia Plender. Easton String Games, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Foreground Projects.


Easton CE Academy is part of Bristol City Council’s Primary/Bristol series of artist commissions for primary schools commissioned as part of the Primary Capital Education Programme. As part of the development artist Olivia Plender has been commissioned by Foreground to develop a new permanent artwork for Easton CE Academy.


Whilst working with Easton CE Academy Olivia Plender observed the school community to draw out elements of play and learning that span the many ethnic cultures present in the school community. Plender’s research was focused on trying to find a universal metaphor that could be accessible to all the children in the school and create a unifying structure that could also express difference and the dynamic composition of the school.

Plender’s commission for Easton CE Academy draws inspiration from string games or string figures, the most common of which in the UK is ‘cats cradle’. String games are played by weaving a single loop of string on the hands in order to produce intricate patterns. The patterns are named after familiar objects that they resemble such as the cradle, railway tracks, a hat etc. String games appear in most cultures around the world as an activity for both adults and children. In the past they were often played by sailors, who learnt them on their travels and passed them between different countries. Thus the string games link to Bristol’s maritime history as well as the diverse cultures present within Easton CE Academy.

The final art work, resulting from a series of workshops with the school pupils, will take the form of a series of new string figures, a large-scale fabric banner and a small book, both of which will give instruction on how to play the ‘Easton string games’. Both the banner and the book are teaching tools, of sorts, however in a reversal of hierarchies the experts on the string games teachers will be the children who have participated in the workshops. They will act as ambassadors for the artwork both in the school & beyond, as the intention is for the work to travel beyond the school to cultural and community events.

This project has been made possible through funding from Bristol City Council as part of the Primary Capital Education Programme.

Olivia Plender

Olivia Plender's research based practice interrogates the ideological framework around the narration of history and more recently changing attitudes to education and value in the contemporary knowledge economy.

Drawing on social history, many of her projects explore different educational models; ranging from main stream examples such as worlds fairs and television, as well as the alternative structures and systems of knowledge production proposed by fringe social and religious movements.


Based in Frome, Somerset, Foreground brings new art to new audiences across the South West of England. We deliver an ambitious program that spans commissioning new temporary and permanent artworks in the diverse social and physical structures of communities, consultancy and development projects that explore the connectivity between the critical, social and economic aspects of contemporary art.

Easton CE Academy