Paul Klee’s ‘Burdened Children’

I teach music to about 400 children each week, aged 5-17. I am sadened daily by the weight that we load on their shoulders each day. I see children crushed with a negative image of adulthood and the world. From year 5 onwards (age 9-10), children are relenentlessly oppressed with exams, and fear of the results. Barely any are encouraged to have any original thought. Jealous of the freedom of children, we adults crush a child’s hopes with our own unfulfilled expectations. 

Deleuze discusses in ‘The Intensive Reduction’ that an artist should ‘render [life] visible’, and that Klee is the master of this. Never have I seen this image of childhood better expressed than in Klee’s picture ‘Belastete Kinder’, that was on display in the Tate a few years ago. 

Klee’s ‘Burdened Children’


Klee’s strength is always, for me, in his simplicity. It requires no further comment. One can stare at it for hours.

What is the answer? There are hundreds of teachers out there who work against this trend of preparing children for ‘real life’. Who let them run around, be weird, sing, shout, cry and imagine. Creative schools, painting academies, youth theatre and opera, dance. The budgets for these organisations are being cut. Head teachers have so much pressure to keep up the mark schemes of STEM subjects, that music, art and dance are sidelined or omitted entirely in our state primary schools. Bright, creative people who could be amazing teachers avoid schools, chasing money in offices instead. Would the country be healthier and happier if we encouraged our children to be funnier and more imaginative than us? Or shall we just clone ourselves, perpetuating this drudgery ad infinitum? Providing children with limitations? 

Let’s preserve innocence! Long live fantasy! Campfires! Imaginary best friends! Quirkiness! 

Grades are not the answer. Surely. Let’s sing and dance. 

Gainsborough’s Daughters. Can be seen for free in the National Gallery.

St. Peter and St. Paul, Kedington

I had the time before a concert on Friday to pop into this sublime building. It is quite simply breathtaking. The Victorians have had their inevitable say in the renovation in the 19th century, but the whole atmosphere and feel of the interior remains remarkably unspoilt. The first part of the church to capture my attention is the children’s school pews at the back, complete with peg hooks. It is like nothing I have seen before in a church, and reminds one that churches always were hubs of community, not merely a ceremonial building used for Sunday Mass. A Minstrel’s Gallery lies between these two sets of pews, that were designed to segregate children by gender. The Master’s seat looks ominously on. One doubts that the lessons were that dynamic.

 

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Children’s School Pews

The church is lit by some bizarre skylights that would be at home in a barn. These are a product of the 19th century but are effective and not too clumsy. They’ve also been beautifully restored. The whole interior, in fact, is tasteful and has not been tampered with or spoilt, as have some famous churches in Suffolk (Framlingham comes to mind). The Barnardiston pew and tombs are untouched, and remind one of Dennington nearer the coast. It is gloriously cluttered. The font lurks awkwardly near a pillar on the north side. Betjeman may have called this a ‘village Westminster Abbey’; it comes with the added delight of a complete lack of insensitive tourists, no entry fee and a feeling of proximity to the past that the Abbey cannot achieve nowadays. It is a well-worn space, and is approachable because of that.

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Font, Nave, Skylights

The village is also delightful. The church seems a hub of the place still. It lies near a brook with a charming meadow path near an old watermill. Pub, shop, new building lie next to 18th century cottages. Beautiful but not affected. This one is a must-see.

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The approach to the Nave. This church is OPEN! Hurrah! 

Stoke by Nayland

Tree of Jesse Door


This church is amazing, and is the community hub of the town. There’s a weekend of concerts there THIS weekend. Children from local primary schools, amateurs and young professionals. Everyone enters the church via that Tree of Jesse door. I love Suffolk’s churches. And they are used in an imaginative way and ensures their survival.