Who can be heroes? Gallery of Living History Schools Competition to give children the chance to celebrate unsung community heroes

Andy Serkis standing outside holding a piece of paper

Andy Serkis at the unveiling of the tree of peace statue in 2022

University news

Monday 05 February 2024

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Creative schoolchildren are competing to design a unique piece for the heart of Coventry to celebrate an unsung hero of the community, as part of this year’s Gallery of Living History (GOLH) Schools Competition.

Championed by award-winning actor and film director Andy Serkis and supported by Coventry University, The GOLH Schools Competition gives children the chance to create a visual soundscape installation telling the story of their chosen hero or heroine.

The soundscapes will make use of augmented reality. This year the public can use their phones or other devices to open up elements such as video, text or 3D models and will be asked to help with the voting.

To win this year’s competition schools are being asked to consider why their chosen person should be memorialised and to create strong statements to reinforce their choice of hero.

The shortlisted entries will be put on the GOLH website for the public to vote between 22 April - 3 May 2024, before an expert judging panel will decide the overall winner taking the public vote into consideration.

Schools participating in the competition have now been shortlisted, with pupils from across the Midlands taking part.

It is the second year GOLH has run the Schools Competition, with children from Sidney Stringer Academy designing the winning entry of a unique tree of peace statue in 2022. Installed on a plinth at Starley Gardens in Coventry city centre it celebrates all the unsung people who collaborated over centuries to build the City of Coventry.

The winning entry in this year’s competition will see their sound-based entry installed on screens in the plinth on which the tree statue sits.

The competition requires the participants to recognise the importance of listening to and engaging with others, rather than pursuing a singular route that only recognises one argument.

Coventry University is supporting the competition by hosting a series of workshops for the schools taking part, designed to showcase the possibilities of using augmented reality and help pupils develop their skills in this area.

Students from Coventry University will play a key role in these workshops, helping to pass on their knowledge to youngsters.

What we’re looking for in this is to tell the stories of unsung heroes. We often see statues and monuments to kings and queens, but what we want is to unearth the untold stories in our communities. The students will be working in teams of at least three, so the competition really encourages collaboration.

Andy’s involvement in this competition is fantastic, he has a real interest in how and why we memorialise and it’s great for the students taking part to have the involvement of someone from the industry who has worked on so many amazing projects, playing an incredible variety of different roles. As well as that Andy is a natural storyteller with a great passion for what he does.

Dr Bianca Wright, who is co-ordinating Coventry University’s involvement in the competition

The aim of this project is to celebrate those who have been marginalised, those whose contributions have historically been ignored and deemed unimportant because of their gender, their race or their class.

It has often been the case that historians focus on the lives of the Royal family, politicians and generals, but we shouldn’t limit who we choose to memorialise to just this small group, the past is about all of us and the contributions of everyone to society.

We're thrilled to be working with Andy, who has such a passion for telling stories and to be giving young people the chance to memorialise their local heroes.

Coventry University Chancellor Dr Margaret Casely-Hayford CBE

Our previous Schools Competition attracted some amazing entries and gave young people the chance to really think deeply about how and why people and events are memorialised.

This year the entrants will get the opportunity to use technology such as augmented reality to help bring their visual soundscapes to life and I’m really looking forward to seeing the creative ideas they come up with to celebrate their local heroes.

Andy Serkis

The winners of this year’s Gallery of Living History Competition will be revealed in May, with the winning entry being installed on the plinth in June.

Entries to the competition are now closed but you can find out more by visiting the Gallery of Living History website.