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Crossing Borders – A Festival of Plates

With an increased interest in the art project “Crossing Borders – A festival of Plates” devised by Chelsea Community Hospital School (CCHS) in partnership with UNRWA Schools in Gaza, we would like to draw your attention to the story behind the project and to clear up any misinterpretations and speculations which might have arisen.

Background to the Project

Crossing Borders - A Festival of Plates” was devised by the staff and students of Chelsea Community Hospital School in partnership with the staff and students of UNRWA Beit Lahiya Preparatory Girls School, and Jabalia Preparatory Boys School, in Gaza. The project was one of a number of projects created between the schools over a number of years. The aim of our collaborations was for the young people involved to build a cultural understanding, by sharing with each other their traditions and interests through engagement in educational projects. 

This project was created in 2012 in response to a visit by students from CCHS to Leighton House in west London where they saw on display many plates from across the Middle East. The students decided to make their own plates here in London, which they then glazed with designs inspired by their Leighton House visit. The next stage was to ask the young people in Gaza to produce drawings and a short text about Palestinian traditions. Scans of these drawings (not originals) were sent to CCHS and using a transfer process the drawings were positioned onto the plates that our students had made. CCHS has never been in ownership or received any of the original drawings.

Exhibiting the project at Noor festival

In autumn 2012 Leighton House was to become one of the venues for the Noor Festival and they kindly agreed for CCHS to exhibit the ceramic plates that the children had made and a second project titled, ‘Home or Return’. Both of these projects were exhibited alongside the museums’ permanent collection, and in addition to this CCHS also presented a workshop and a conversation with teachers and young people in Gaza via a video call. These events were open to the public with topics of conversation often comparing daily lives.

The children’s work was received extremely well and stayed on display at Leighton House for the duration of the Noor Festival. Due to the fragile nature of the ceramic plates some of the plates were unfortunately damaged over time, so it was decided to use photographs of the work for future display, along with some text explaining the project.

Exhibiting the project at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital

Following the success of the “Crossing Borders – A Festival of Plates” at Leighton House it was the photographs of the ceramic plates that were given a temporary home on display, at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in 2012.

For context CCHS has six different school sites with one of these sites located within the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. The hospital and school are independent organisations, despite the fact that the school works with paediatric patients and has a classroom housed in the hospital. As such, although CCHS has provided the hospital with numerous artworks to be displayed it has ultimately been the responsibility of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital to determine the location and duration of the display of any such work.

The removal of the exhibition from Chelsea and Westminster Hospital

The agreement for the photographs to be on display was only ever to be temporary but they stayed on display for 10 years, until 2022, when the work was taken down by the hospital.

CCHS had no involvement in the decision for the photographs to be taken down.

The future of the exhibition

The original artwork produced by children at CCHS, for “Crossing Borders – A Festival of Plates” is, and always has been, in the possession of the children who created the art work. Since the hospital’s decision to decommission the photographs of the art work on display at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, the photographs have been returned to CCHS where they are currently being displayed internally.

This was a powerful project with the photographs being part of an educational project by school children to gain a cultural understanding of life and traditions in Gaza.

We are extremely keen to exhibit the work for public display elsewhere for educational purposes. CCHS has replied to all letters of support received and has carefully considered all offers to relocate the photographs.