The boxes on display at the Whitworth

The Big Draw: Longsight school children share their hopes, dreams and fears in new exhibition


  • 17th century casket inspires new exhibition curated by Longsight school children
  • 9,000 children across 27 schools created the‘We Are 11’ exhibition

The Big Draw is the world’s largest drawing festival and this year is inspired by the theme ‘Play.’ The exhibition currently on display in the Whitworth Art Gallery addresses this theme through the lens of ‘We Are 11.’

The ‘We are 11’ exhibition marks the very first art show of its kind, comprised entirely of pieces carefully selected by school pupils at the school in Longsight.

9,000 children across 27 schools crafted boxes inspired by one of the exhibits at the museum, an embroidered casket made by Hannah Smith in the 1650s when she was aged 11, which is also the original foundation for the ‘We are 11’ exhibition. 

The Big Draw is part of a campaign to encourage children of all ages to take up their pencils and explore learning via a creative medium.

Emma Martin, the creative lead for Stanley Grove Primary Academy said; “The Big Draw is about linking people together through art across the world and linking us as human beings through our creativity.”

Emma believes that creativity is being quashed amongst young people today and that creativity should be fundamental to any persons’ learning.

The celebration of that innate ability for us to draw and for us to create is often forgotten as we get older. School seems to knock that out of you and knock your confidence.

“We all draw, our earliest forms of communication – we go from making sounds and things to drawing, we lose that as we get older. The Big Draw is about connecting people up to the pleasure of that – of recording their lives and just enjoying art and enjoying making.”

Modern day caskets

The exhibition was inspired by a ornate, embroided casket made by Hannah Smith, an 11 year-old girl living in the 17th century. Inside of the casket was a letter detailing her experiences and the exterior is decorated using pictures to illustrate things about her life.

The 17th Century casket was made by  11 year old Hannah Smith
Children drew inspiration from a casket created 400 years ago by an 11 year old called Hannah Smith. 

As part of the big draw, pupils were asked to create their own caskets and decorate them with their own worries and fears, hopes and dreams and aspirations for the future.

The exhibition featured work that expressed childrens worries and fears

NQ also spoke to pupils who were at the gallery, asking them what they liked about The Big Draw.

Daniel, age 8, told NQ he enjoyed making the large cardboard caskets on display in the Whitworth gallery and the fact he got to draw out his hopes and dreams.

Daniel, age 8, holding a stitching he did of a word taken from one of the caskets on display

The ‘We are 11’ exhibition runs in the Whitworth Art Gallery from 6 October – 27 January.