Schools Art Project

Queen Mary Sailability

28 May - 14 July

Over the past 10 years, the Sunbury Embroidery Gallery has forged an invaluable and rewarding relationship with the staff, volunteers and pupils of Manor Mead school Shepperton, a school for children with special needs. 

Each year’s project aims to create an art installation based on experiences that have stimulated the pupils’ senses. Inspiration for this year’s project came from two sources:

  • the creative energy and enthusiasm that produced last year’s memorable art work, a direct response to a boat trip on the River Thames and the series of workshops that followed

  • our treasurer Nick Tilt’s volunteer work with Queen Mary Sailability (part of the Queen Mary sailing club) which is a local charity that assists pupils with special needs from various local schools to sail.


Queen Mary Sailability is run by a dedicated team of experienced volunteer sailors with the aim of providing a memorable sailing experience for children and adults who have any form of physical, sensory or learning disability along with the full support and participation of their family or guardians. 


This was a good starting point to create this year’s art piece and to embrace new methods of working with the 8 young pupils from Manor Mead school whose ages ranging from 8-11.

An initial meeting took place at the school. Education artist Stuart Simler who was overseeing the project briefed the staff, volunteers and pupils in order to gain an insight into the pupils' capabilities. 


Following this visit, the morning of 25thApril was set aside for a visit to Queen Mary’s Reservoir. In total, 25 people attended including 8 pupils who were supported by their tutors, volunteers and helpers along with 2 members of staff from the Sunbury Gallery and education artist Stuart Simler. The experience of sailing and being in contact with the various materials and parts that make up a sail boat plus the stimulus of the sounds in this unique open environment would form the basis of the workshops to follow.


Occasionally weather conditions are too bad to allow the boats on the water and this was one of those occasions, the winds were just too strong. Thankfully new learning aids developed by Sailibility proved a great success and the pupils were able to learn the names of various parts of the boat (see visual display photographs). Undaunted by the winds everyone donned life jackets and were given a tour of the Sailing facility before pupils climbed aboard a dinghy on dry land to experience being in a boat and interact with the sailing materials around them. This was a stimulating and fun occasion for everyone.


From this, Stuart led a 4-week project working with the pupils through a series of artistic processes that incorporated the essence of the pupil’s experience at the Sailing Club. This included learning to tie knots used in and around boats.

It was this practice that inspired the first creative outcomes as our young artists worked directly with ropes to frottage from using graphite sticks and compressed charcoals.

Following processes including two collaborative layers; the first was a free-flowing piece which forms the backdrop of the final piece and reflects that watery nature of the reservoir.

This was created during a fun and explorative activity where the Manor Mead group used pipettes to pour and squirt coloured inks down the large-scale paper piece.


The second installment of the artwork is the second group collaboration where the children worked directly onto a roll of transparency (a technique often used on film sets).

Using chalkboard markers, they traced over the images created during the first session of frottaged drawings to bring a contemporary element to the overall artwork, which highlights the tactile connection to their initial visit.

Sounds recordings from the visit are also audible to emphasize a sensory connection to the Sailability project.


The children who have taken part are:

Eamon Aichaine

Maddy Ferraz

Archie Golding

Daniel Applegate 

Malachi Godfrey

Amelia Ramjeeawon

Ellis Wood

Danny Hussain


Helpers are:

Ellie Jackson

Michele Coombes 

Cheryl Lewis

Jack Ray

Noemi Sarkany


With special thanks to:


  • the team at Queen Mary Sailability for their voluntary support.

  • Mark Perton of Perton Signs for the production of the interactive art board.

Project financially supported by The Sunbury Embroidery Gallery.

Queen Mary Sailability

Queen Mary Sailability

Name the Boat Parts

Queen Mary Sailability

Queen Mary Sailability

Drascombe Longboat Zingaroo