Enchanted students from NWRC transform children’s play area

North West Regional College Art students pictured with some of the children from the Dry Arch Centre in Limavady as they get the first glimpse of their new playground.  (Picture Martin McKeown).
North West Regional College Art students pictured with some of the children from the Dry Arch Centre in Limavady as they get the first glimpse of their new playground. (Picture Martin McKeown).

A talented group of Art students from North West Regional College’s (NWRC) Limavady Campus have used their skills and creativity to completely transform a children’s outdoor play area at the Dry Arts Children’s Centre.

The students, who are studying for the Level 3 Extended Diploma in Art and Design (Design Crafts), a course accredited by the University of the Arts, London, battled extreme wind and rain during December to complete the project at the centre’s Catherine Street location in Limavady.

The former concrete and drab walls are now a distant memory, and have been replaced with hand painted images on the theme of Enchanted Forest.

Emma Dickson, Course Co-ordinator at NWRC, said the experience of working on a live project for the benefit of the community had been hugely beneficial for the students.

“The area was previously a drab and dark outdoor section that the children played in during the dry season. The Dry Arch Centre had a vision for what they wanted the space to be transformed into.

“They came and spoke to us about their vision to change the area into something bright and colourful and we responded with the theme of the Enchanted Forest. We then provided the creativity and the hands for painting,” she said.

Emma revealed how the students endured the harsh December weather to ensure the playground was finished in time for Christmas. “We couldn’t have picked a worse time of year,” she said. “But the students got on with it. We kept looking out for dry spells to do the painting to ensure that the paint wouldn’t run off the wall. The result has been fantastic. The students have really enjoyed the experience of working on this. It has allowed them the opportunity to bond and work together. It was good for them to work on a real life project and give joy to the children who will benefit. On one of the occasions we were working the students met the children and it was a great reminder to them of what this was all about. “

Sharon White from the Dry Arch Centre says the new backdrop provides the perfect environment for creativity and imagination.

“We are delighted with the new area. Play is so important for children. Before this we did our best but the outdoor area was so dull. I’d like to thank Emma and her team for her work on the project. Emma was able to look at the skills of all the students so they all had their own part to play in the mural.

“The planning was meticulous, and to see it all finished is amazing. It’s been great encouraging communication among the kids as they are all talking about their favourite bits such as the fox and the fairy house. There are great opportunities for creative play when better weather comes in,” she said.

Dawn McKendry from the Dry Arch Centre praised the students for their commitment to the project.

“The students were amazing and worked so hard. They took all the details from the brief and planned really carefully. The students worked in really tough conditions, it was cold and wet. But we got everything that we wanted with the colour, the magic and the fairy tales,” she said.

Level 3 student at NWRC Caroline Barr added: “This was a really exciting project and it was fun to get the chance to make a difference in the local area.

“It was challenging at times because it was freezing and there were times when we could barely feel our fingers, but overall it was worth it and the whole class bonded together.

“Not only did we work as a group but we also had our own individual design components that we had to blend together. Everyone enjoyed it.

“The change is remarkable. This was a great opportunity as an art student and not something you’d normally get the chance to do. It is also one of those differences between college and school - at school you’d not get an opportunity like this, but at college you have that bit more freedom, and it is also a chance to put your maturity into action as you are working with a live client.”

Applications for the 2019/2020 Academic year at NWRC open in early 2019.