A blog by Ben Hall who is an animator, illustrator and interactive designer with over 15 years industry experience. He has taught undergraduate students at Leeds Beckett University since 2008.

As an animator and lecturer, I teach on BA (Hons) Graphic Arts and Design - a course with a wide embrace in terms of broad subject scope.

On Graphics, we are interested in pushing the edges of what is considered creative practice and actively encourage exploration at these overlaps.

We regularly run A (sort of) Saturnalia, a workshop where our children lead a session with the students as their subjects.

As one student puts it, ‘children become teachers, and students become children'.

Takeover days are common in both primary and secondary schools, but these are tokenistic displays where the children are never truly free to sidestep convention.

Within the Saturnalia the children devise a lesson-plan and it is our role as adults to fulfil their wishes in play, whatever that might be.

The workshop is disruptive; it's messy, noisy, and inevitably spills out into places where this-isn't-meant-to-happen.

But this is the whole point: the children reintroduce the benefits of play to students and staff, and show how this can take learning and creative practice in unexpected directions, often via chaotic means.

The workshop also reinforces a sense of community, one which is level between children, students and staff.

An image for 2020 submission 'Wither'
An image for 2020 submission 'Wither'

An example of the inclusion of children in my animation practice is Dum Dum (De De Bom) a film I made with my son Robin when he was six years old.

He drew the pictures and I 'animated' them. It's important to say that we didn't set out to make a film.

Our aim was to spend time together on afternoons after school pickup and go for walks, sit in cafes, talk and sometimes draw, which became the footage for the film.

Robin’s drawings informed the animation style, which was completely new for me. Prior to this, my approach to animation was closed, saccharine and subject to over-revision, whereas this film sits closer to performance, communicating the energy and honesty of children’s creativity.

Dum Dum (De De Bom) has been screened locally (at Leeds Young Film Festival) and globally (as far as Taiwan). Most importantly, the film has afforded us travel, allowing us to continue to spend time together in places that we’ve never been to, which was what we set out to do in the first place.

Film festivals are an incredible opportunity for practitioners of all levels to join an inclusive, international community and partnerships that the Leeds School of Arts maintain with events such as Harrogate Film Festival are essential for students and staff to be part of.