FROM MOURNING INTO MORNING

THE BROADER PICTURE
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The Independent Culture
One Morning, nearly a year ago, I walked around the school where I teach, counting the ways in and out. It was fire we'd always been scared of; getting children out - not keeping adults away. The day before, 16 children and their teacher had been murdered at Dunblane. The children were the same age as those in the class I have taught for the past 18 months. For a long time before that day, I had been wondering how near a piece of news would have to be before it really hit me. It turned out to be hundreds of miles away, but it couldn't have felt closer.

I trained as a painter before becoming a teacher, and as an artist I've always felt that you have little choice over your subject matter: I wanted to make a piece of work about Dunblane. "Morning" is a sequence of photographs of a boy dressing and being dressed for school - a record of something incidental, everyday, taken for granted. Too often, family photographs record the days away, the days out, not the days in. Looking through pictures from my childhood, it is sometimes the incidental details - a patch of wallpaper in the background; the colour of paint on a front door - which prompt memories to return. Invaluable as a record of shared experiences, photographs provide us with a sense of stilled life, of time trapped, of a past just out of reach. We all have clocks we have wished to turn back an hour. "Morning" is an attempt to picture what would have been some of the last moments of intimacy between a parent and a child. It is intended to stand as a tribute to the victims of Dunblane and to all those who suffered as a result of the murders.

Reading the reports of the tragedy at the time, little details were too familiar, too easy to picture: the time the school assembly finished; the children walking to the gym, already changed for PE. It might have been any one of 20,000 schools across the country. Had the attack taken place in our school, an inner-London primary, the news reports would have focused on the deprivation of the surrounding streets and estates, on the ease of access to the school, on the slumped drunks outside and the gun shop down the road. We would have wondered how it hadn't happened sooner. When the peace of a place like Dunblane is shattered, it's harder to find an explanation.

The murders made something clear to me. Despite the pressures of teaching, I love working with the children - I love the children - and I know nothing matters more than their safety. The next day in the classroom we talked. Calm but confused, some were unaware that Hamilton was dead, and thought they might be in danger. One child, mystified, told me how the night before his mother had prayed with him and his sister. It was hard to measure exactly how the children were affected, how far away the news still was for them. Like every other teacher I've spoken to, I reassured the children of their safety; this was something which had never happened before and would never happen again. But I can't help feeling that the fact this has happened once makes it more, not less, likely to happen again; that the perception of children as victims of violence leads, in turn, to more violence against children. I want to believe that Dunblane will be unforgettable; I worry that it won't be.

That morning I had watched people walking past the wire fences of the playground, thinking how little we could really do to protect the children. I was reminded of a recent class outing to Oxford Street, to see Father Christmas. Squeezed three to a seat upstairs on the number 74, the children were safe. Once off the bus and on the street, every passer-by looked and felt like a threat, and for 20 minutes all I could do was count 27 heads. Now, feeling the children to be more fragile than ever, I worried that their view of the world would be changed, that they were being made to grow up too fast and know too much too soon. I remember the first child to arrive that morning was Lisa, from my class, always in early: running, laughing, shouting in the empty playground, in cold sunshine, in a world making her less welcome every day.

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