The Collett School at The House of Commons

Exhibition on Speaker's Green

Taking The Collett School History Project to the House of Commons has been the highlight of the year so far. As Lucy and I come to the end of working with this wonderful special needs school in Hemel Hempstead we reflect on this triumphant finale.

After a year of collecting oral histories to celebrate the school’s 50th Anniversary, we succeeded in our ultimate goal for the project, which was to take the exhibition to Westminster and relay the amazing stories of the school to Ministers and MPs.

It goes without saying that, being invited to display our work at the seat of Government was a huge honour. Lucy and I were really thrilled about that and it’s going to be hard to top Speaker’s Green as a venue for one of our exhibitions.

What was particularly amazing was having the palace of Westminster as a dramatic backdrop. Suddenly our scaffolding structure, which only just squeezed into the school’s playground, looked like a tiny toy next to Barry and Pugin’s magnificent architecture.

However, the greatest joy in the whole event was seeing how much it meant to the teachers and children from The Collett School. To have the honour of representing 50 years of special needs education, and having their voices and experiences heard in Westminster, was very exciting indeed.

The school’s local MP, Mike Penning, who arranged for the exhibition to take place in Parliament, explained why he wanted to bring the exhibition to Speaker’s Green:

“The Collett School is a very special school and has a very special place in my heart. I visit as often as I can and I run my annual Christmas card competition with the children of the school. This is a great opportunity for Ministers and MPs to hear first-hand the untold stories of the pupils of this great school. This is the first time ever that an exhibition of this nature has been held on Speaker’s Green and it was a wonderful experience for the children and a great opportunity for my Parliamentary colleagues to learn more about special needs education and the experiences of those who have left the school and the difference it has made to their lives.”

HoC-Written-PostcardsStephen Hoult-Allen, Head Teacher of The Collett School was thrilled that the school was offered this opportunity:

“It was fantastic for our pupils, past and present, to share our story with so many MPs at the exhibition of our oral histories project at Parliament. Our pupils were fantastic ambassadors for the school and people with learning difficulties, taking pride in their achievements, hopes and aspirations for contributing to our mainstream world.”

Thanks to Mike Penning’s efforts we had over 30 MPs show up on the day, Wednesday 24th June, and even Boris Johnson made an appearance. We were delighted by the positive response the exhibition received. You can read about what the MPs thought over on the portfolio page.


On returning back to school it was wonderful to hear the children’s reaction to their visit to Westminster. We hope that the excitement of meeting MPs while representing their school will stay with them for years to come. Here are a few of their responses.

Billy (14): “It was an amazing experience meeting MPs and Ministers at the Houses of Parliament.”

Rose (15): “It was absolutely awesome. I enjoyed telling people about our school.”

Connor (9): “I liked seeing Big Ben. I talked to the MPs and told them about the school.”

Jordan (10): “We got to see Big Ben, we told the MPs about our school and showed them around our exhibition.”



“Feels like we’re fluttering around in a child’s imagination.
So glad the exhibition shows the kindness and warmth of children.
I think us grown ups with posh shoes have a lot to learn.”

Visitor’s feedback at The Butterfly Effect Schools Exhibition


We create communication strategies that explore global themes for local audiences. Our engaging narrative structures shape bespoke events that bubble with energy and imagination. Combining expertise and creativity we generate maximum impact for clients and participants.



We design exhibitions and installations to communicate the human experience behind complex contemporary issues. Our mission is to connect people emotionally with social, cultural and environmental challenges. Each project aims for increased personal understanding and agency.






We provide space for sharing and reflection in lively workshop environments. Through playful, creative activities we promote participation and connection. Using embodied learning and rigorous analysis we invite people to think and express themselves in new ways.ART-SCIENCE THINKING

The Butterfly Effect Introductory Workshops


In the last few weeks we have done four workshops at Happisburgh primary school, Ellingham primary school, Hopton primary school and Thurlton primary school which have all gone brilliantly. In January we’ll be doing workshops with Ludham Primary, Rockland St Mary primary, Kinsale Junior School, Coltishall primary, and Ormesby Junior School. Finally, in February we’ll deliver our final workshop to the project’s 10th school Greenacre primary in Great Yarmouth.

In these workshops we are introducing our bespoke education packs to individual classes, and sometimes the whole of the Key Stage 2 year groups, with a series of activities to get children thinking about what The Norfolk and Suffolk Broads are, how they came to be, and what they are used for.

There have been some great conversations in all directions, between us and the children, between teachers and children, between us and teachers, and of course, amongst the children themselves.


They were very enthusiastic about discovering where they were located on the map. For some of them The Broads were very familiar, being in their back yards so to speak, and for others The Broads were a whole new concept, even though they live and go to school in the Broadland area.


At Hopton we had ninety kids take part. Yes that’s right, 90! They are taking an interesting approach to the project, with teacher Beth Palmer  running a lunchtime club for pupils who are interested in learning more about The Broads. It’s wonderful to see all the different approaches by the various schools.

Anna Clayton has been a brilliant assistant, recording conversations with the kid and commanding the workshops like a pro. She is very good at listening and drawing conversation out of even the shyest young ones.

We have seen an excellent selection of drawings from pupils. This was clearly their favourite part of the workshop and they would have drawn boats, butterflies and windmills all day, if we’d let them.

We’re very much looking forward to coming back in a few months time to see how everyone has got on with The Butterfly Effect project and we’re excited to be able to take their work to Norwich for a public exhibition. Details to be announced soon.

Good luck to all the schools in the project. We hope you enjoy your time with The Butterfly Effect and enjoy finding new connections with your local landscape.

The Black Cloud Citizen Scientist League

Thanks to a tip off from @hugh_knowles of Forum For The Future we’ve been looking at the intriguingly named Black Cloud Citizen Scientist League, which examines pollution through collecting a variety of data. We’ve learned from the Citizen Sensing blog that the project is headed by Berkeley Art Studio Professor Greg Niemeyer. He has designed a small box called ‘PuffTron’ that measures CO2, volatile organic compounds, light, noise, heat and damp.

Aimed at measuring pollution and visualising levels of data, the twenty five eyes of the character on the box light up in varying colours to display levels of the elements. As Citizen Sensing explain, “a server collects the data and delivers interesting visualizations to the web site.” Based on a myth of the ‘black cloud‘ Niemeyer and his colleagues believe this tool encourages conversation around pollution and how we are involved.

‘PuffTrons’ were distributed in local communities in the San Francisco area, where local businesses and school children collected some surprising results, including high levels of CO2 in classrooms even before school, which could unknowingly cause sleepiness and headaches.

Below is a short KCET video on the project which very enthusiastically describes the process of how the PuffTron works and its effect on people.

Worth a watch!

We think this project is relevant to the current issue of London Air Quality for the 2012 Olympics, and could be a great way to encourage people to make changes through tracking their own data. Certainly the list of schools close to main roads, recently published by Campaign for Clean Air in London, could find them very useful for measuring pollution levels in their buildings and playgrounds.

Invisible Dust Project – Double Pendulum

More news on creative air quality projects today. We mentioned the Invisible Dust series yesterday in our post on Helen Storey’s Catalytic Clothing. Here’s a bit more info on what it’s all about.

The project, funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Arts Council England, includes a number of public art installations aiming to highlight the effects of air pollution on our health and environment. Artists involved include Faisal Abdu’Allah, HeHe (they of the Nuage Vert) and Dryden Goodwin.

Bringing artists, scientists and sports professionals together this public arts project examines the involuntary process of breathing. It aims to explore how factors such as physical attributes, gender, class and geography affects our breathing and the way we move.

The first artwork on show as part of Invisible Dust is Faisal Abdu’Allah’s work ‘Double Pendulum’ at the View Tube on the Olympic site  29th June – 17th July 2011.

The film can now be seen on the Guardian site.

Double Pendulum takes a critical look at the effect of London’s poor air quality on athletes. If no action is taken to remedy this controversial issue the result may be Britain being fines up to £175m by the International Olympic Committee. But as Double Pendulum highlights it’s not just athletes affected by air pollution, but all of us, especially children.

In relation to this the Campaign for Clean Air in London have recently published a list of schools that are within 150 meters of a road carrying more than 10,000 vehicles per day. Drawing attention to the long term effects of exposure to air pollution, particularly in children, resulting in seriously debilitating conditions such as asthma.

Catalytic Clothing Improves Air Quality

While working on our London Air Quality project we’re excited to see fashion is also getting involved in finding solutions. In an amazing piece of high tech innovation, Helen Storey and Tony Ryan have brought science and art together to explore how clothing and textiles can be used to purify air as we walk. The idea of ‘Catalytic Clothing’ is to harnesses the power of a photocatalyst, to break down airborne pollutants, acting as a ‘catalytic surface’.

See their beautiful film starring an air purifying clad Erin O’Connor moving balletically to a Radiohead soundtrack:

On the political side of things the debate around Air Quality is growing. Caroline Lucas wrote an article for Guardian yesterday on the severity of the situation. She says the Government is still lacking the urgency needed to investigate solutions rather than begging for more time. The current threat from the air we breathe is not the obvious smog cloud from the 1950’s, but an unseen pollutant.

Our air quality project collaborator Professor Frank Kelly of the Environmental Research group at King’s College London warned: “we have this new problem that we cannot see: it is tiny particles of nitrogen dioxide.” With this invisibility issue comes the lack of public communication on the dangers of high levels of these pollutants present. Designing engaging communications around Air Quality in our urban environments is what we’re working on here at Creative Data.

However, we are now seeing encouraging movement in the public space on this topic. There’s the interesting Invisible Dust art project and last week a Healthy Air Campaign was launched – a coalition including Asthma UK, Campaign for Better Transport and Friends of the Earth. What’s more we’re writing all this today on the day that UK environmental group Climate Rush is staging an air quality protest in London.

This evening Mayoral candidate Jenny Jones will lead a roadblock protest with cyclists hitting London’s streets to stage a “die-in” at the city’s busiest junctions. The protesters plan to play dead for up to 29 minutes, to symbolise the 29 000 premature deaths attributed to poor air quality in the UK – nearly 5% of all annual UK deaths.

Chromaroma – London Underground Visualisation Game

We’re excited to have found the Chromaroma project, a game that makes travelling in London engagingly colourful. Released by digital production company Mudlark, it tracks journey data from Oyster cards on the London Underground. Every time people use their oyster cards, data is recorded by TFL.

When you tap in and out at stations your route and journeys are recorded. This data capture allows ‘players’ to take part in the Chromaroma game. Your journeys can be visualised over time, creating a colourful graphic personal record of your daily journeys.

This is the gamification of commuting. As well as graphically mapping your travel there are also challenges on Chromaroma – competing for the fastest journey times between stations, for instance. It also awards points for getting off a stop early and walking, cycling or travelling outside of rush hour, encouraging exercise and smarter commuting.

Chromaroma is somewhat like the Nike Grid project, which tracked individuals running paths, in its use of real world activity mixed with online gaming and data visualisation. We’re inspired by these kind of projects because in our London Air Quality Project we want to create interactive data layers over urban daily commuter patterns to communicate the levels of pollution in the environment.

Nike Grid visualisation of running paths.

The current Chromaroma season fnishes this Sunday, while the team take a break and update the site with new Missions and Collections for the coming season: beginning again on the 4th of July. Exciting stuff, look out for the new challenges!