Flag it Up!

Heathrow is commonly known as an airport, but for many it is a home…

Hundreds of flags based around the theme of ‘home’ were made by the children of the Heathrow Villages, and put up on every lamppost in the area. We then had a parade through the villages, celebrating our home, community and future.



Flag It Up! was Heathrow Arts (Harts) childrens’ spring project running from February – May 2015; in and around Harmondsworth, Sipson and Harlington. We invited every child in the villages to design and make a flag with the theme of  ‘home and community’ – encouraging imagination, whilst instilling a sense of pride and belonging.

The Flag Artwork was created by children from: Asquith Nursery, Cherry Lane Children’s Centre, Cherry Lane School, Co-operative Nursery, Grow Heathrow, Harlington Baby and Toddlers Group, Harmondsworth Primary School, Harlington Baptist Church, Heathrow Primary School,  Littlebrooks Nursery, St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church and William Byrd Primary School.

Click on each school to view their flags.

The Flags were hung up on every lamp post linking Harmondsworth, Sipson and Harlington!

The project’s grand finale took place on 29th May 2015 , in the form of the Flag it Up! parade; a celebration of our children’s creativity to coincide with International Children’s Day on 1st June.



Lola’s Flag. Adorning a lamp post in Sipson


The first ever HARTS meeting generated many wonderful but seemingly impossible ideas. One of these was “inter-village-flag-making”, whatever that meant…?!

So, one uneventful evening, whilst putting the world to rights over tea and cake, we had the idea that our children could make flags, representing what home and community meant to them. Then, if our children made flags, why couldn’t we ask all the children in the villages to make flags? And, then let’s hang them all on the lamp posts! Oh, and then let’s have a parade!  Why not have some crafts for the children to do along the way and maybe a brass band? Great!……

How It All Began

The first ever HARTS meeting generated many wonderful but seemingly impossible ideas. One of these was “inter-village-flag-making”, whatever that meant…?!

So, one uneventful evening, whilst putting the world to rights over tea and cake, we had the idea that our children could make flags, representing what home and community meant to them. Then, if our children made flags, why couldn’t we ask all the children in the villages to make flags? And, then let’s hang them all on the lamp posts! Oh, and then let’s have a parade!  Why not have some crafts for the children to do along the way and maybe a brass band? Great!

A few weeks (and cakes) later, this utterly ridiculous idea took shape and was to happen during Hillingdon Arts Week at the end of May. Unfortunately The Arts Week was postponed until Autumn so we came up with an even better reason to celebrate – International Children’s Day.

Our first step was to source materials as ideally the flags should be made of colourful fabric. We started by asking for donations from our local community groups and quite soon we had our first bag of clothes to cut up. Carole, Cherry Lane Children’s Centre Manager, donated her tropical 80’s blouses, along with some old blind fabric, which became our first flag backgrounds. Multi-coloured quilting remnants came from Mary at Harlington Toddlers Group and after many years in her cupboard, found new life as dinosaurs and aeroplanes. Hayes Curtain Shop and Tailors provided us with spare curtain linings for backgrounds and shiny sari scraps for sunshines, moons and stars. Christine from Harlington Hospice furnished us with hundreds of upholstery samples for tree trunks, tractors and hearts. Holy material appeared from St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church. Pauline from the Women’s Institute, Kate from the Harlington Community Choir delighted us with ribbons and wonderous girly sparkly things. The Fabric Warehouse in West Drayton came up trumps with a bag of remnants with animal patterns and in no time at all, the shed was full of material…

We invited the children from different establishments to take part in our project with the aim of brightening up the villages by putting the flags on the lamp posts.

Cherry Lane Children’s Centre

The staff at Cherry Lane Children’s Centre welcomed the idea with enthusiasm and we were soon invited to do flag workshops. Armed with pre-cut backgrounds, a box of plain fabric and a box of patterned, we were fully booked with 25 children in the morning and 25 in the afternoon. The parents and children were working together lovingly creating instant masterpieces, surprising us and themselves with the results. We couldn’t wait for the next workshop which was arranged for during the Easter holiday, with another 50 children booked. This was followed closely by a special Dad’s group Saturday workshop, which produced some precious results.  Some siblings worked together on family flags and altogether we had an impressive total of 57 glorious Cherry Lane flags! Our Project was already beautiful… View flags

Harlington Baby and Toddler Group

Our fabric boxes had been joined by the bottom half of an old leather costume trunk, found full of old material in a School outbuilding by Caretaker Steve from the Community Choir. Our workshop here produced 8 lovely flags both before and after tea and biscuits. The children were free to run or scoot around, slide and climb in the spacious St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church Hall, while their Mummies were in our “Cutting Corner” with the sharp scissors. View flags

Grow Heathrow 5th Birthday Party

We were invited to do a flag workshop as one of their Children’s Activities. There were families there from near and far and we found ourselves going soft and letting those from afar, take their flags home… However, the 6 we managed to cling on to, were impressive. View flags

Asquith Nursery

The Children managed to decorate 20 flags in a week, all by themselves with various stickers and fabric scraps. Perhaps not durable on a lamp post for too long in wet weather, but an admirable effort from the little ones. View flags

Co-operative Nursery

Truly representing co-operation, home and togetherness, 3 wonderful flags were produced by staff and the 0-2, 2-3 and 3-5 year old’s. View flags

Littlebrook Nursery 

So much thought and effort went into these fine flags! Each one beautiful, with different themes and a joy for the children to help create. The nursery took the flag making seriously, with great relish- and  results! View flags

Harmondsworth Primary School

This wonderfully artistic school invited us to do three workshops with the nursery and year 1 pupils producing 42  flags. We spread ourselves out over the school hall floor. When the children arrived they stared in amazement at the Harlington Toddler’s flags, which we brought in as examples. Superheroes was the common theme for the boys whereas the girls favoured houses and all things shiny. View flags

Heathrow Primary School

Heathrow Primary School decided to give our flag project as an Easter holiday homework. The promise of the reward of five dojo points tempted only 12 pupils. The most stunning flag, was decorated with tissue paper and we vowed to find the way to protect it from the element during its time on the lamp post. The new headmaster aided us with the solution… View flags

William Byrd Primary School

William Byrd Primary School also decided to give our flag project as an Easter holiday homework. What an extraordinary response we got! We collected literary bin bags full of flags! All differently decorated: a few of all fabric, pen on fabric, paint fabric, even tin foil, cotton wool and family photographs; drawings on paper of all different sizes from A5 to pillow case size. Themes ranged from community litter picking, world peace to family dinner. Mulititudes of international flags heighted the diversity of our community. The children’s messages of hope for the future and lessons for the society were on every flag. View flags

Cherry Lane Primary School

After the Children Centre’s amazing performance the Primary School took a box of rainbow fabric and created a lovely flag for each year. They managed to fit the community flag making into their curriculum aiming to incorporate concepts of geography, history, science, art and design into their group work. View flags

Harlington Baptist Church 

The Y4J (Youth for Jesus) Club embraced the idea wholeheartedly, creating two stunning flags, celebrating the love of God. View flags

Harlingon St Peter and St Paul’s Discoverers

St. Peter and St. Paul’s successfully fitted their flag-making into their Sunday School’s schedule, with symbols of Christianity and peace. View flag

Shared Community Sewing Showed Success

In order for the flags to endure at least a week of the elements (let alone the four weeks that we had in mind), we needed to hem and over-sew the fabric flags, waterproof the fragile paper/paint/penned flags, as well as preparing a channel for the bamboo flag-poles .Eventually, with 331 flags collected, we soon realised that we could not do this mammoth task alone, although our sewing machines ploughed through half of them. So, after copious amounts of enthusiastic bobbin-winding, singing, thread breaking, needle-snapping, tea and cake, we finally organised some help.

Our first Community Sewing Session took place in St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church Hall, as our first mural was being painted outside. The ladies had a great view of the Wall of Creation being created and one by one, the remainder of the flag mountain started to be conquered. Jenny, Pauline, Mary, Jan, Peggy and Hazel zoomed away merrily, each flag promoting more discussion.

The last 100 flags needed hemming and channelling, so for this, we called upon reinforcements – the Hayes Asian Women’s Sewing Association in the Austin Estate. Saida took charge and created an efficient production line of preparation, sewing and quality control and within only two hours, the final fabric flags were done.


Once all the sewing work was done, Bill from the Photographic Club expertly photographed each flag in a flash.


Then, we had to don the masks and spray the painted/penned flags with waterproofer. The paper flags required laminating and William Byrd helped with this.  The mixed source larger ones which didn’t fit in the laminator, were the trickiest of all – Heathrow Primary School’s Headmaster suggested we protect them with sticky-back-plastic and we had to keep our fingers crossed for good weather.


After stripping Hayes bare of bamboo sticks, we borrowed our neighbour John’s work bench and saw and cut each stick to size, customising each stick to the individual flag. Then we painted the ends of the sticks, a different colour for each group/institution – perhaps unnecessary work but important to stay organised. The next job was to pierce and intertwine the cable ties through the flags and around the sticks to keep them erect on the lamp posts.  More unnecessary work followed as we counted the lamp posts whilst walking the routes and putting colour coordinated stickers on each one. Each institution had its own set of nearby lamp posts to be proud of.


The week before the parade came. As if we weren’t exhausted enough, we still had to put the flags up in the villages and sew the advertising banners to save money on printing.  Each banner consumed another 6 hours of our lives! We put up our very first flag outside the Harmondsworth Primary School. It looked fantastic! Then we put up another one and another…and in two hours we had done Harmondsworth. The next day we did half of Sipson and on Tuesday Cherry Lane Children Centre invited the parents to hang their own children’s flags up with a step ladder. Sipson was finished which left over 100 flags to put in Harlington. We were lucky to have some cycling volunteers from Grow Heathrow to help us on Thursday. Within 2 hours all the flags in Harlington were up and ready for the parade.


The Parade


It rained. Heavily. That might have put a few people off  but the hardy ones that came had great fun. We dithered for a while at first; to bravely soldier on outside or to set up in the comfort of the dry Church Hall? We did both; the well waterproofed paraders stayed outside with the music and inside, the dry children made bunting (out of the flag-making scraps) and painted an enormous Harmondsworth banner.  The Safer Neighbourhood Policewoman met with the children and parents while flag-themed face-painting began. The cups of tea were being poured by the kind volunteers from St. Mary’s while the rain continued to pour on the bicycle-powered sound system (provided and operated by a wonderful, strong-legged, squirrel-face-painted chap from Grow Heathrow).  The Harlington Hospice mini-bus arrived to stand-by/take any unable-bodied paraders/transport buggies and it looked like the rain was subsiding a little…  We waited an extra 10 minutes just in case and Cherry Lane CC’s Walk Leaders briefed us on the safety rules of the walk, then we added some daft rules involving the blowing of kazoos, silly walks and the shouting of “Flag It Up!” every time we walked past one of the children’s masterpieces.  So, we set off, Harmondsworth Banner outstretched (the paint was still wet so it may have run a little), bunting aloft, the local SHE representatives proudly holding their waterproof banner, a Transition Heathrow banner to the rear, the parents and children safely being guided by our Walk Leaders on the pavement, soggy squirreled sound-system providing the pace, kazoo in hand, “Flag It Up!” being shouted enthusiastically (at first) by at least 20 happy Paraders! There was a BBC London reporter filming us setting off and another one randomly asking us about air pollution!? (not remotely interested in the children’s flags!). We walked down Harmondsworth Lane toward Sipson, the children splashing in puddles and doing silly walks and eventually, the rain stopped, phew!



Hooray! It was lunchtime when we arrived at Sipson and we were welcomed by Grow Heathrow, who provided a magnificent buffet for the bedraggled Paraders. We set up the paint for the Sipson Banner and a table for paper-flag-making. Our Magical Surprise Visitors appeared, in the form of Disney’s Rapunzel, Belle and Snow White – the children’s faces lit up the gloomy sky and all the clouds disappeared for a while… The Paraders ate well and were then treated to a guided tour of the site. The Uxbridge Gazette reporter took some photographs. The Princesses then assisted in the wild-flower-seed-bomb-making-session and donned shiny plastic gloves and dazzling bin-bags to lead the litter-picking along Sipson Lane for the second leg of our flag parade! We walked, then sun came out, the sound-system was furiously peddled, litter was picked, “Flag It Up!” was shouted rarely but several silly walks were still attempted.


We reached the outskirts of Harlington and invited the children to have an exciting ride in the mini-bus! We arrived at our destination; the Mural painted on the wall of St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church Hall. As the celebratory photographs were being taken, the Heavens opened once more and the local Ice-Cream Van’s takings plummeted as everyone headed indoors…

The soggy Paraders were met by the welcoming aroma of candy-floss and popcorn; Kelly was ready for the children’s appetites and Kate was ready for the adults with an urn of hot tea, paired wonderfully with Jenny’s home-made cakes. The Pricesses continued to enthrall the little ones and waiting in the corner, filled with anticipation, were the story-tellers from Harlington Library with tales of wonderous creatures and their adventures. Sipson-enriched compost served to root Harlington-planted pumpkins in the planting plot, permacultured by Grow Heathrow. Lidia set up her Flag Face-Painting table once more and unexpected competition in the form of an Animal Faced, Animal Face-Painting table being set up in the opposite corner.

The final HARLINGTON banner was painted by the children during the speeches and the Paraders were invited to write their thoughts about the beautiful Mural, creating yet another artistic masterpiece. The music played while the children played with the Harlington Baby and Toddlers slide, scooters and pedal cars and nobody wanted the fairytale to end.  But the Princesses got back into their coach bound for the Kingdom and all the little children had to go home… It was a great day. The End.