News

These children's drawings are lighting up their communities for Christmas

From Scotland to Soho, children are designing Christmas lights at the heart of their communities.

Two new lights were added to the Newburgh display this year, including this celebration of the NHS by Lois Murray.

The Big Issue Christmas cover isn’t the only festive tradition to feature artistic child prodigies. In Scotland and in London the skies are lit up with artwork created by local schoolchildren.

In Newburgh, Fife, Christmas gets started early. As soon as the school term begins after Easter, local schoolchildren enter a competition to design a Christmas light for the town’s display – a tradition which has been running since 2002.

Last year, financial difficulties and school closures due to Covid meant that the town wasn’t able to put up a new light – and considered not running the display at all. But when local Poppy McKenzie Smith’s tweets about the display went viral, the crowdfunding page was inundated with donations.

This year, to make up for lost time, two designs were chosen: a rainbow drawn by Lois Murray, aged 11, to commemorate the NHS during the pandemic, and a fairy-light-clad dinosaur drawn by Arlo Nicol, aged 6. The display is once again being supported by a crowdfunding campaign.

Inspired by the Newburgh lights, architect Antonio Capelao asked children from Soho Parish School in London to design a light to represent what the festive period means to them.

Supported by Hannah Peaty, art lead at Soho Parish School, and Joao Rocha of Storm Flowers London, Capelao hosted two Zoom workshops for the school. Three winners from each year group – 21 designs in total – were chosen for the display.

The children helped to curate the installation, but only got to see the winning designs when the lights were switched on by the Mayor of Westminster on November 8.

“Everybody was cheering, really happy and clapping, it was really exciting. They couldn’t believe them,” said Capelao, who has already been asked to run the workshops again next year, when a few more lights will be added. “That’s a sign of how well received it was.”

Capelao regularly runs workshops in schools and emphasised the importance of engaging children in the design process.

“In this country we have one of the most sophisticated design and creative industries in the world. It’s a really big business for the UK,” he said. “So I think engaging kids with conversations about design from a young age gives them a better option of understanding what’s out there in terms of choosing future careers.”

“I’m hoping that they can find solutions to problems by a project learning approach to education, and therefore have the opportunity to be more creative in what they do, and how they learn,” he added.

The school’s headteacher, Louise Ritchie, said: “We’re delighted to be taking part in this innovative project. The children are so excited to see their art in lights, and we hope their contributions will illuminate the school’s place at the heart of the community.”

Next winter, Capelao hopes to run a simultaneous project in New York, and in time to run an exchange of displays between the two locations – showing the London students’ work in New York and vice versa.

Shona Gray, from Newburgh, said: “I just think it’s amazing. A little town like Newburgh has inspired other people to do the same as what we’ve done over so many years.”

Visitors to the Soho display can download a map of the lights and see the children’s original designs here.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Low pay as a trainee bus driver left me desperate. I skipped meals and ended up £46k in debt
james rossi, who faced debt
Cost of living

Low pay as a trainee bus driver left me desperate. I skipped meals and ended up £46k in debt

Tories are gloating that cost of living crisis is over – they're wrong: 'The country is going backwards'
unclaimed benefits/ dwp
Cost of living crisis

Tories are gloating that cost of living crisis is over – they're wrong: 'The country is going backwards'

Labour promises wave of new towns if elected. But will they make a dent in UK's housing crisis?
Angela Rayner announces Labour new town plan
Housing

Labour promises wave of new towns if elected. But will they make a dent in UK's housing crisis?

DWP ramps up AI use to 'bring the future to the welfare system' and push people into work
dwp mel stride
Department for Work and Pensions

DWP ramps up AI use to 'bring the future to the welfare system' and push people into work

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know