A Norfolk artist is encouraging people to celebrate the healing power of the arts by helping to decorate a metal ship at the Norfolk Makers Festival.

The Ship of Light will be displayed at The Forum in Norwich throughout the festival from February 8 to 23, and is part of a project called Creative Odyssey raising money for Children with Cancer UK.

The project was set up by Raveningham-based artist Sarah Cannell whose son Henry was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia in 2016 at the age of seven. His diagnosis turned their world upside down and Henry had to endure three years of intense treatment with severe side effects.

During the first weekend of the festival on February 8 and 9, people are invited to bring the Ship of Light to life by weaving the steel frame with willow and making origami birds and boats to place inside. The completed piece will then be on display for the remainder of the festival before forming part of a lantern parade next month.

Henry, now aged 11, has been in remission for almost a year, although the trauma of his treatment is still ongoing for both him and his family. But through everything, Sarah said it was the strength and healing power of the arts which has helped them through.

She said: “After Henry’s treatment finished he suffered with PTSD and severe separation anxiety and because of this I spent most of last year trying to get him back to school. It was while sitting outside his school that I started doing some drawings and came up with the idea for a ship and lantern parade. I liked the idea of having twinkling lights in a wood and setting things on fire and I wanted to organise something which would make people feel good.

“I truly believe that the arts are a positive response to difficult times – they help to lift our spirits and give us purpose and joy. The Norfolk Makers Festival is an event full of positivity and is perfectly timed at the end of winter to welcome in the spring. It’s a great place to get inspired and learn a new skill.”

Sarah took the drawings from her pad to a workshop and enlisted the help of sculptors Rachael Long and Andy Jarrett to bring the ship to life.

“It looks amazing,” she said. “I can’t quite believe it and I’m really excited to bring it to the festival.

“We will be inviting people to weave the metal structure of the ship with willow to create a big basket hull and Henry will be teaching people how to make origami boats and birds. He’s very creative and paper folding is one of the things he likes to do when he is feeling anxious.”

After the festival, the Ship of Light will be set on fire at a Winter Lantern Parade being organised by Sarah at Beccles Common on March 20 and will become part of the Raveningham Sculpture Trail in August.

Sarah is also running an exhibition of donated artwork at Mandells Gallery in Norwich to raise funds for Children with Cancer UK and materials for the ship and lantern projects. For further information about the Creative Odyssey project visit https://sarahcannell.com/creative-odyssey

The Norfolk Makers Festival, now in its fifth year, celebrates the county’s local crafts people, artists and heritage. It offers 16 days of open exhibitions, free activities, workshops, demonstrations, talks and crafty conversation each day at The Forum from 10am to 4pm.

For more information about all the festival events, as well as the Fringe Festival with more workshops running around the county, visit norfolkmakersfestival.co.uk

The Norfolk Makers Festival is funded by The Forum Trust, the educational charity which runs The Forum.