Moving On leavers' parade

Patina director Caroline Croft on the event that's a rite of passage before secondary school

On the first Friday of July every year, the streets of Lewes in East Sussex are closed to traffic as more than 450 Year 6 pupils from local schools parade through the town in carnival costume carrying colourful sculptures. The procession culminates in a party in a nearby park where the children combine their sculptures to create a collective art installation as the centrepiece to the celebrations.

The Moving On Parade is a unique rite of passage, a shared experience as they leave primary school. There are other children’s parades, but we’ve never found one that celebrates this important transition.

Enabling the arts

The idea originated in 2001. A group of local parents, teachers and artists came together to ensure children could continue to experience art when the new national curriculum reduced the focus on creativity in schools. The group called themselves Patina (Parents and Teachers in the Arts) and it has since become a registered charity. The outcome was a children’s carnival, and the tradition of the Moving On Parade was born. Six schools participated in the first year, and these days 15 schools from across the area take part.

We select the theme in autumn – we have a strong environmental ethos, so nature themes are popular, but we also love themes relating to the arts, science and the imagination. To choose the theme we speak to children and parents, discuss what’s timely, and think about partnerships and events to help with engagement. These things are important when we’re applying for grants. Then we start on the fundraising. Our small team raises just over 75% of what we need and the Year 6 parents and children raise the rest. They hold fundraisers such as pre-loved fashion shows, raffles, sponsored swims, car washes, non-uniform days, walks and cake sales, often supported by their PTAs. It’s great when they hold entrepreneurship challenges, like giving each child £5 and asking them to make it grow into £10 or more. These funds all go to pay the artists, who are self-employed and are properly compensated for their time.

We work with local funders such as Lewes Town Council, Tapestry Online and the Enjoolata Foundation, which funds organisations that build community. Gifts in kind also make Patina possible. For example, restaurant chain Bill’s, which was founded in Lewes, has given fruit to each of the 9,000 children who have participated in Moving On since 2002, and designer Emma Carlow creates a logo based on each year’s theme. We occasionally work with a national funder if it’s a good fit. Patina has a fabulous team of six carnival artists, who go into the schools to work with the children to create the artwork they wear and carry in the parade. Some of them have been there since the beginning. Our first ever artist Nikki Gunson finally hung up her withies (flexible willow stems) and paintbrushes last year.

Becoming a habit

The Moving On Parade has become a significant part of the town’s cultural calendar. The children, parents and our local community tell us how much they love the tradition. The streets of Lewes are always packed with well-wishers on parade day, cheering the children on and showing their support as our young people step into adolescence.

These are not easy times for young people, so we hope that Moving On gives them an enduring sense of belonging and a creative experience they will remember forever.


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