We asked volunteer Alistair Nixon to write a few words about his experience helping at the school.
Here’s what he told us…
“I’ve now volunteered at the Saltburn School on a few occasions, helping out in the run up the Saltburn Arts Fair at the beginning of August, when the building officially opened.
I was excited when I first heard about the possible transfer of the school to the community, and relieved when I heard that it had been approved.
I’d been a pupil at the school in the early 1990s, when it was Saltburn Primary School, and I have fond memories of it. After all, a primary school is not like a secondary school, which (from my memories at least) is all more or less awkwardness and exams.
To be honest, I’d been itching to go back in there and look around since the day I left. Walking into the school for the first time again, however, it was hard to think it had ever been a functioning school in the first place. The years had not been kind: some electrics were exposed, dust covered most of the floors (which were missing more than a few floorboards), the paint on the walls was cracked and brown with damp and great rectangles on the walls, remaining from where board displays had been torn away, exposed plaster not seen for decades. Some rooms had been vandalised during a break in a few years ago. Debris and artifacts from years gone by cluttered most of the rooms.
My contribution has been abysmally marginal compared to those who have toiled through the days into the evenings to get the building up to scratch. (That work continues, even now.)
I’ve been involved in various tasks, which, running things off the top of my head, has included: painting walls, stripping walls, repainting walls, pulling nails out of floors, moving cupboards, sweeping floors, scraping and then soaping away industrial glue from floors, mopping floors, drying floors (sacrificing a few bath towels in the process) and finally making the odd cup of tea.
The hardest task of all, however, has been trying to remain focused enough not to go wandering off through the old corridors, exploring the empty classrooms, and reminiscing and reflecting on my own memories of the school.
The first time I went up to help out, while I was off ‘exploring’ I was introduced to another former pupil, who was doing precisely the same. She was the grandmother of one of the volunteers helping out. Generations separated us, but it turns out we had both shared the same classroom. We all know the school building, but it’s moments like that you realise just how many of us, spanning generations, that “we” consists of, and how significant a part of Saltburn that this building indeed is.
A school is there to give us the space to grow, expand our horizons, explore new ideas, make a bit more sense of the world around us and the things that we can do in it. The great promise of The Saltburn School is enabling that tradition to continue. It’s so neat you sort of wonder how the school building could ever have become something else.
A great deal more work still needs to be done. I’d recommend to anyone to take a visit and help out. That might be by painting walls and mopping floors. Or it could simply be by wandering off through the classrooms, reminiscing about the school’s past and – more importantly – reflecting upon the possibilities for its future. After all, the Saltburn School is a space in the hands of the community, and if that future is to be shaped by anyone, it’s us.”