The artistic flair of a group of classmates has won high praise from a wildlife expert who selected their “moving collection” to illustrate a new book.
Artwork from pupils at St Colman’s High and Sixth Form College in Ballynahinch features in a wildlife crime novel aimed at helping end badger baiting.
A Badger’s Tale by Geoff Francis celebrates the value of the badger to the countryside and also raises questions about what happens to it at the hands of humans.
Its publication was sponsored by the Naturewatch Foundation, which ran an illustration competition for schools.
TV presenter and naturalist Chris Packham selected his favourite 21 illustrations to appear in the book – eight from St Colman’s pupils.
The wildlife crime mystery novel is a challenging story about a rejected young boy who finds sanctuary and purpose with a clan of badgers, only to find it threatened by a gang of hunters.
Alongside a pertinent tale, the story includes additional information to educate teenagers on the natural history of the badger, illegal persecution, law that protects them, and aims to recruit help and understanding among younger people.
Art teacher Ceceila Halleron said native badgers were often be a much-maligned creature.
“That has most definitely not been the case in St Colman’s. Indeed, badgers have been the focus and quite a `cause celebre’ of a recent creative endeavour for Year 10 Art and Design students. The year group submitted their drawings, paintings and lino-prints of badgers to the Naturewatch badger illustration competition,” she said.
“The Year 10 students from St Colman’s achieved an amazing outcome, as from the 21 illustrations in the novel, eight out of those selected were from St Colman entries. The art department and staff of St Colman’s are very proud of all the students who entered the competition and of those eight students who are now published artists. Maybe they will become the Irish illustrators of the future.”
Mr Packham said the quality, styles and creative perceptions “were staggering, and incredibly inspiring”.
He praised the St Colman’s pupils for helping to raise awareness of “a shy, fiercely loyal and strikingly beautiful animal that desperately needs our protection”.
“What a moving collection of artwork. Each piece revealing a little what badgers mean to these extraordinary young artists,” he said.
“As well as a breathtaking array of head shots using all kinds of materials and techniques, we received illustrations of badgers peering out of setts, among woodland flora and fauna, scratching, cuddling up, calling out, climbing, sleeping, and even making magic and protesting.
“The huge variety of styles and creative perceptions made my job rather challenging, though that isn’t at all a bad thing, quite the opposite – it’s inspiring.”