Our Stars and Stories project has got off to a celestial start! Since we announced the launch of this partnership project with Derbyshire Virtual School, at the start of the year, there have already been a number of inspirational sessions for the project, designed by four Derbyshire care leavers.
A group of young people in care and care leavers have been working together to create a performance for the Wirksworth Festival this year. They have been working alongside storyteller Maria Whatton, Project Producer Jan Reynolds and astronomer Nick Spall to explore stars and galaxies alongside myths, traditional stories and brand new story ideas, they’ve also learnt about a little-known superstar female astronomer from the 19thcentury!
A grant from the Royal Astronomical Society and the Cooperative Community Dividend Fund bought an indoor home planetarium for the project, allowing for some serious indoor stargazing sessions. The group found galaxies whilst Maria Whatton told associated myths and legends – Selene Moon Goddess, Cepheus, Cassiopeia and Andromedaand Perseus and Medusa. Project Producer, Jan Reynolds was inspired to tell stories about the Great Bear and Nick Spall joined in with, Hercules, Hera and the Milky Way.
Maria Whatton’s telling of the true story of Caroline Herschel (1750-1848), the first woman to be award a Royal Astronomical Society gold medal for her work in science and the first to be paid for her work in astronomy, was an inspiration to everyone and a fascinating insight into the one woman’s achievements and determination. Originally an accomplished musician, under the guidance of her brother, William Herschel, Caroline went on to become a significant mathematician and astronomer who, amongst many other discoveries, discovered eight comets. You can read more about Caroline Herschel’s life here.
One of the members of the performance group, our young apprentice astronomer has now gone on to purchase their own telescope and to take photos of the night sky near their home.
The project has also visited a children’s home with residents taking part in actual outdoor stargazing on a wonderfully clear night. Guided by Nick Spall and using a telescope, the group enjoyed discovering stars, constellations, nebulas, clusters and galaxies, most experiencing such wonders for the first time in their lives – amazing! Here are some of the astronomical sights the group found:
Stars: red giants Betelgeuse and Aldebaran; North Star
Constellations: the Seven Sisters; Orion; Plough; Cassiopeia
The Great Nebula with its star forming gas cloud in Orion (M42)
The Pleiades star cluster (M45) (Seven Sisters)
The Andromeda Galaxy (M31)
A crescent moon with its craters: Maria and Earthlight
The group also dreamed up their own, new galaxies and created their own stories surrounding them – there were quite literally no boundaries with the new, “The Parking Meter” constellation joining Cassiopeia, the Great Bear and the Milky Way. One resident was inspired to create a wonderful piece of calligraphy (which you can see amongst the photographs in this piece).
We will keep you posted with news as we progress towards creating a brand new performance for Wirksworth Festival in September 2018, featuring original work by the young people involved in the project. So to keep up to date, make sure you watch this SPACE!
This project, inspiring young people to explore the world beyond their everyday experience, would not be possible without the partnership we have with the Derbyshire Virtual School and significant funding from Arts Council England as well as Cooperative Community Dividend Fund, the Royal Astronomical Society, Tesco’s Bags of Help, Scopes4SEN, Foundation Derbyshire, Walbrook Trust, William and Griselda Kerr Fund and the National Space Centre.