WHAT it means to be British from young people and professional artists who spent months working together is the focus of an exhibition opening at Firstsite this Saturday.

The Britishness Project, initiated by the gallery, adds more perspectives to the debate about the changing face of Britain.

The assembled works include collage, stop-motion animation, sculpture and photography to portray ideas of identity, landscape, sub-culture, politics and democracy.

One of the most standout pieces is the working Nail Bar of Dreams created by artist Richie Moment and Kingswode Hoe School.

T-shirts bearing the slogans like 'I live in Britain. I speak British’ will be displayed alongside a commemorative-style God Save the Tea set and many other provocative works.

Firstsite director, Sally Shaw, said: “The gallery is building its reputation as a place where the most critical issues of our times can be creatively explored and re-examined from a number of fresh perspectives, and in a safe environment that promotes equality, diversity and inclusion.

“The Britishness Project is, without doubt, a very living example of what that ambition means.”


Slogans thought of by Harwich and Dovercourt High School pupils

Visitors will also be able to view a second exhibition led by Colchester’s Gilberd School.

Its Year 9 pupils, working with the Colchester and Ipswich Museums curatorial team, chose artefacts to illustrate the themes tolerance and intolerance.

These include woodcuts and letters related to German prisoner of war Peter Thummler, held at Berechurch Hall Camp, a golly doll and National Socialist Party flag.

The Gilberd's GCSE art students also produced photographs for the main exhibition.

Other Colchester schools involved were St Michael’s Primary, Cherry Tree Primary and the North East Essex Co-operative Academy.

Students from Harwich and Dovercourt High School also collaborated with Everton Wright on animation British Alien.


A still from stop-motion animation British Alien. Picture: Evewright

The film cleverly tells the story of an alien’s exposure to icons of Britishness and how these contribute to our sense of identity.

Ms Shaw added: “For many people, the EU referendum was an opportunity for us to express our views on national identity.

“It was a hugely controversial decision that has many far-reaching implications, not least for the youngest members of our community.

“Through The Britishness Project, we’ve made an opportunity for young people to make their opinions visible in the form of art.

“This vibrant, and at times equally controversial exhibition, puts these opinions in the public realm, allowing them to be tested, challenged and celebrated.”

The launch event is this Friday from 6pm to 9pm.

The exhibition runs until June 17. Click here for more information.