Lewes Moving On organiser ‘delighted’ as event returns with revised format

Year six primary school leavers were celebrated in Lewes on Friday (July 2) as the town’s Moving On tradition returned.

Thursday, 8th July 2021, 10:18 am
Updated Thursday, 8th July 2021, 11:02 am
A year six primary school leaver at the morning Moving On parade. Photograph: Justin Lycett/ hn18902 (16)

Arts charity Patina (parents and teachers in the arts) held the rite of passage – which marks students’ transition to secondary school – with a revised format following the extension of lockdown restrictions.

Measures to reduce crowd numbers and minimise risks, saw it host two smaller parades across the day instead of one and the event held in and around the Paddock, not through the High Street.

Summing up the event, now in its 20th year, Patina’s director Caroline Croft said: “It went really, really well. We’re delighted.”

Lewes and Peacehaven town crier Jon Borthwick at Lewes Moving On 2021. Photograph: Justin Lycett/ hn18902 (43)

She added that a friend who lives along this year’s route, and whose children have taken part in Moving On, called it an ‘explosion of happiness in the face of adversity’.

“It was a complicated one to pull off in a pandemic but everyone really wanted it to happen, were willing it to happen, and were very supportive.”

Current government guidelines on outdoor school events, such as sports days, require existing restrictions, for example class and year-group bubbles, to be maintained. Spectators must follow social distancing and legal gathering limits – outdoors that is groups of up to 30, with multiple groups potentially permitted if they do not mix and depending on the size of the area.

Other measures in place on Friday to meet regulations included limiting parents, guardians or carers watching to a maximum of two per child, preferably one; asking other members of the public not to attend; and staggering the arrival of schools to the event’s base at the Paddock.

Pupils from Chailey Heritage School at Moving On 2021. Photograph: Justin Lycett/ hn18902 (17)

Children also paraded on one side of the road, with spectators on the other, and pavements along the route were marked into zones, so those watching could keep in groups of up to 30.

Ms Croft said: “There were a lot of measures in place to keep everyone safe, which was top priority.”

She said that there were ‘so many acts of kindness’ to enable it to go ahead.

“Moving On is just such a big show of kindness really. So many people help us make it happen.”

Year six primary school leavers ate Moving On 2021. Photograph: Justin Lycett/ hn18902 (26)

The parades saw schools walk from the Paddock via Bradford Road, The Avenue and back into the Paddock.

The morning event featured about 250 children from seven primary schools in the Lewes district – Southover, South Malling, Iford & Kingston, Western Road, Wallands, Chailey Heritage and St Pancras.

In the afternoon, it was the turn of about 210 pupils from nine schools – Lewes Old Grammar Junior, Barcombe, East Hoathly, Firle, Laughton, Hamsey, Plumpton, Ringmer and Uckfield’s Annan School.

For 2021, the life of trees, woodland species and stories set in woodland served as inspiration for costumes, with the event titled Wild in the Woods.

The 'wish tree' at the morning Lewes Moving On event. Photograph: Justin Lycett/ hn18902 (49)

Students worked with Patina’s six artists under social distance measures to create pieces, with costumes ranging from bluebells and butterflies to toadstools and hedgehogs.

Instead of large-scale artworks, each school made a branch of a tree to carry, on which students attached wishes for the future; the branches came together to form a ‘wish tree’, symbolising togetherness and hope.

Ms Croft said the costumes were ‘gorgeous as always’. “Collectively it looked like a gorgeous woodlands – really, really beautiful,” she said.

She added: “The children really invested in those wishes.”

One child wrote, ‘I wish that in the future everyone is equal’. Another, ‘I wish for climate change to end and for it to never happen again. And to meet a unicorn’.

A third wrote, ‘I wish my chicken would stop being so noisy because I want more sleep’.

Pupils at Moving On 2021. Photograph: Justin Lycett/ hn18902 (14)

At the event was Lewes and Peacehaven town crier Jon Borthwick. Mayor of Lewes councillor Stephen Catlin and mayoress and deputy mayor councillor Shirley-Anne Sains were also invited to the celebration.

Cllr Catlin said it was a ‘fantastic day’ and that they were ‘delighted to attend this wonderful event’ that showed ‘so much skill in those transitioning to the senior school level’.

Adding: “The smaller crowd this year due to Covid made up in enthusiasm for the participants what it may have been missing in numbers.

“I’m really pleased to have been invited to attend and had a thoroughly enjoyable time.”

Parent Flora Baynes said Moving On is ‘the most wonderful occasion that brings the children, schools and parents together’.

Flora said: “Seeing our children walk down The Avenue on Friday with their butterfly wings fluttering and chanting ‘Who are we? Iford & Kingston’ with huge smiles across their faces is a memory so special to my heart. I shall never forget it.”

It is the second year that Patina has had to rethink Moving On due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last year’s parade was cancelled and celebrations were held online. Schools were also encouraged to have mini parades and parties on the day of what would have been Moving On.

Headmistress of Lewes Old Grammar Junior School Carrie Whyte, said they ‘were so happy to see it revived this year’.

Mrs Whyte said: “Without doubt, this has been a difficult, sometimes confusing time for young children who have been denied the opportunities for play and exploration outside that every child should have.

“What better theme for the Moving On parade this year than going wild in the woods – a place that has always represented excitement and play for children everywhere.”

Patina is hoping to create a book of the pupils’ wishes and a film of the parades to share with the community.

Looking ahead, Ms Croft said that the 2020 leavers will be included in a future event.

“We will make it happen at some point,” she said.

“They will get their parade somehow, by hook or by crook, but this year was not the year. It was challenging enough.”