By Daniel McKeown

Dame Evelyn Glennie gave two thumbs up yesterday as a group of schoolchildren (left) showcased a physical interpretation of her chosen word for creativity: ambidextrous.

The performance was at The Place, London, during an open afternoon for creative learning organisation Artis and “living dictionary”’s fortnight-long virtual festival of creativity.

The festival, launched on March 17, has its online home on where definitions are short films of contributors giving their thoughts on a word or subject. A new word associated with the festival’s theme of creativity is uploaded each day throughout the fortnight, with high-profile Artis advisers among the contributors.

Composer Nitin Sawhney chose pluralism (“The existence in a society of groups having distinctive ethnic origin, cultural forms, religions”), while percussionist Dame Evelyn, appropriately enough, chose ambidextrous. “Even I learned quite a lot about the word,” laughed Dame Evelyn after seeing it acted out by children from Randal Cremer Primary, Hackney, and their Artis specialist.

Ambidextrous activities included making an imaginary cup of tea with both hands moving symmetrically and pairs of pupils linking arms and performing tasks with one providing the right hand and one the left.

“It’s this kind of participation and interaction that’s just priceless,” added Dame Evelyn. “They can take so many of those activities into the playground and into the home.  They can take the idea of taking any word they choose and think ‘How can I express that word through the use of space?’”

“You could really see the children’s passion for learning in that session and how stimulating it was,” said Artis chief executive Rebecca Boyle after the performance. “It’s about taking children beyond their everyday experience.”

Edward Baker, chief executive of, explained a little of the thinking behind the living dictionary: “A video dictionary adds a new way of engaging the language. It’s about creative learning and bringing words to life.”

The 12-month-old site attracts 70-100,000 visitors a month and will shortly be going live with a new platform for schools.


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