University of Winchester encourages children to get creative on subject of forced migration

20 Jun 2019
children's drawings of refugees

Schools across Hampshire have taken part in a creative competition to engage children with issues around forced migration and explore what it means for immigrants to be seeking sanctuary.

The competition is based on a book written and published by academics at the University of Winchester and illustrated by a local artist. The Boat Story is aimed at primary-aged children and sets out to challenge perceptions and cultural attitudes towards refugees with a fictional account of a baby who sets sail to find a better life.

Using The Boat Story as a starting point, children were asked to submit ideas on what could come next in the story within the themes of welcoming and inclusion. They did this in the form of narrative writing, poetry, painting, artwork, drama and animation.

"As a University of Sanctuary, in recognition of our work to welcome refugees and asylum seekers, the University of Winchester is a passionate advocate for inclusion and we believe it's important to encourage open dialogue with children on the subject of forced migration," said Andrew Melrose, Professor of Children's Writing at the University of Winchester.

"The competition attracted over 200 responses and the standard of entries was amazing. What came across most of all was the compassion and understanding of these youngsters, which was reflected in their creative work. Stories and pictures showing people being welcomed shone through. The aim is not just to teach children about the world we live in, but also how to see things from other peoples' perspectives and express themselves in a creative way."

Winning entries came from the following schools:

Child's drawing of rainbow and clouds

Ten-year-old, Emma, from Upham C of E School, was one of the competition winners. Below is an extract from her entry:

'Then the leaking, creaking boat turned, and the people saw a small girl coming towards them, with a huge crowd at her heels. She was holding a sign which said, "Welcome to a better life."

The crowd following the girl was so big it knocked over the people with the unwelcoming signs. Slowly, the horrible signs sank into the water, leaving a pool of black ink in the sea.

Then the girl said to the refugees, "We need to learn from you."'

Winners were given a copy of The Boat Story and a framed limited-edition screen print, signed by the illustrator, Stephanie Morris, at a prize-giving ceremony at Breamore School in Fordingbridge on 18 June.

It comes during Refugee Week (17-23 June), a UK wide programme of events celebrating the contribution of refugees to the UK, which coincides with UN World Refugee Day on 20 June.

The Boat Story is a project funded by Arts Council England and the University of Winchester, and is a collaboration between writer Andrew Melrose, Professor of Children's Writing at the University of Winchester, and illustrator Stephanie Morris, with research overseen by Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of Winchester, Jonathan Rooke and project managed by Dr Adelaide Morris, postdoctoral researcher, with Saffron Hooton, an undergraduate, at the University of Winchester.

For more information, visit

Photos above show some of the winning entries in the competition.

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