Tom’s Ship of Stories

We are currently working on a EYFS version of our acclaimed performance which was a partnership with The Horniman Museum and Gardens, the National Maritime Museum, The Cutty Sark and South London special schools. This exciting project was funded by the Arts Council


Building on the work of Welcome to Cottonopolis, we delivered R&D workshops in 3 special schools, each one of them linked to one of the museums and devised a multi-sensory professional performance which has been performed at all of the museums. The story links the collections of all 3 museums.

The project kicked off with a creative playday and focus group at the Horniman Museum for artists, teachers and museum professionals. We were very excited to be working with a music therapist and digital artist on the project.

Work began in Brent Knoll school – we developed a story with the children about a 19th Century apprentice who gets a job on board a Clipper and leaves his family and friends to see the world. On route he experiences hardships, learns sea shanties, meets new friends in different countries and receives a precious gift to take home.

In our next schools: Willowdene and Stephen Hawkins, we tried out sensory ways of telling the story, creating the atmosphere of the sea and decided that the destination of the voyage was China.

In each school the needs of the children was different, from academically able children with autism to children with complex needs and severe learning disabilities. We were able to try out many different ways of storytelling and participation that were accessible to all.

The resulting performances at the museums have been very successful.

Special Educational Needs Drama Performance on Cutty Sark, Tween decks.

Special Educational Needs Drama Performance on Cutty Sark, Tween decks.

Some teachers comments:

“Very well thought through, addressing the auditory, sensory and visual needs of the audience”

“The whole performance was fantastic, the children were extremely engaged”

“It was lovely to come to something that was pitched at just the right level”

We are currently working on the next phase of the project. We’re working with the museums to develop their own sessions created specifically for special needs groups drawing on the techniques we’ve used in Tom’s Ship and the many things we’ve learned.

Read more about the project in this blog for the Museum’s Disability Co-operative Network