Arts & Culture for Peace

Inspiration from Coventry Young Ambassadors’ Pilot Projects

This new initiative builds on the highly successful Japan-UK work undertaken initially by Coventry Young Ambassadors working with the UK-Japan team working on the Between the Stones Project.

Over three years, from 2018 to 2021, five Coventry primary schools with links to the ASPnet studied Japanese iconic art forms and created inter-culturally diverse artworks to raise awareness for peace and sustainability. The Coventry schools’ work included the opening, in July 2021, of the Coventry Young Ambassadors’ Japanese Peace Garden by Japan’s Ambassador to the UK and the Lord Mayor of Coventry.

Julie Saito, International Coordinator for ASPnet also sent a message to the Coventry Young Ambassadors congratulating them on their work and indicating that she hoped their work would sow future seeds for peace and sustainability. The new Arts & Culture for Peace Initiative is part of that ‘seed planting’.

Key strengths of the Coventry projects

the significant ‘peace’ content of all three projects (peace trees and tanzaku poem cards, performance pieces and Japanese peace garden).

All projects built on the children’s growing understanding of the history of their city (Coventry International City of Peace) and its tradition of promoting peace and reconciliation

sharing peace initiatives and benefits with, and for, the local community – through local exhibitions and performances:

The children worked with Coventry Cathedral on three occasions to display and perform their work for specific peace-related events:

  • as part of the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day and the end of World War 1 (2018)
  • to mark Hiroshima Day (August 2019)
  • to celebrate a season of Japanese Arts and the opening of their Japanese Peace Garden (2020)

Together with the local Council and the staff and volunteers of the Coventry War Memorial Park – the Civic Park in the city centre, and the Japanese Garden Society, the children contributed to the creation of a Japanese Peace Garden – from idea to reality. The garden’s focus was ‘peace and sustainability’. It is free and is open 365 days of the year for all the people of Coventry and its visitors to enjoy.

the creative efforts of the children and teachers both individual contributions and their collective efforts

For example, the Coventry peace trees were the result of each child creating their own furin (wind chime) from recycled materials and tanzaku (peace poem). These were all hung from peace trees created collectively by the schools working together.

the creative efforts which brought together both the children’s design ideas and contributions working with the Japanese Garden Society who built the garden to reflect these

the recording and sharing of outcomes with others outside of Coventry

And, by laying the foundations for the Arts & Culture for Peace Initiative and inspiring the development of a global e-forest for peace, are contributing to a global aim of promoting peace

Inter-cultural learning and heritage – working with international artists and contributing to the Between the Stones project (the story of Between the Stones although written in English, used traditional Japanese noh techniques and the three cultural forms explored by the children originated from this story.)

The children worked with artists from both Japan and the UK, took their intercultural activities to a new level creatively, and made each one relevant to their local community.

The intercultural play ‘Between the Stones’ explores how one finds peace, beauty and love following tragic loss. It demonstrates the transformative power of gardens and gardening to nurture and heal the soul. Act 1 takes place in one of Japan’s most famous karesansui gardens (Ryoanji Temple Garden) which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Act 2 takes place in a newly created karesansui garden on an island in the West.

I had been curious to see the children’s reaction to Noh Theatre and they were completely mesmerised. It was something so different to anything they have experienced before. I think that they will always remember the experience. In our busy lives as educators we sometimes need to stand back and let the children experience something totally different.

— Rebecca Bollands, Coventry Cities of Peace Schools Projects Coordinator