Animal book art takes St Marychurch by storm

Shoppers in St Marychurch Precinct have been flocking to the Animals in Distress charity shop to purchase ‘Animal Book Art’:craft animals made out of books, created and designed by James Pilgrim, an11-year-old pupil at The Abbey School in St Marychurch. Currently 23 have been sold, raising £115 and there are orders for more!

James is creating and selling the craft animal models to raise money for Animals in Distress which is his chosen charity for his Torbay and Devon Civic Award. James, an animal and nature lover, was inspired to support the charity when he heard how many pets, purchased during Covid, had been abandoned. ‘They gave their love and were deserted,’ he said, explaining how he wanted to help. James speaks warmly of the charity shop in St Marychurch, especially manager Hayley Watkins, who, he says devotes her life to this charity. James searched online for craft ideas and options, supported by his mum who has also been teaching him to knit and sew, and came up with his innovative idea.

James already has a deep sense of civic pride in his community and a love of the moors and the sea around him. For his Torbay and Devon Civic Award he is also learning to bell-ring at St Marychurch church tower and has organised a litter-pick in Barton and St Marychurch. ‘If we all pick up a piece of litter, this will make a big difference,’ he commented. As Head Boy at The Abbey School, James laid the wreath at the St Marychurch Armistice service in the precinct counting towards the Community Active Citizenship section of the award and recently, inspired by his hero David Attenborough, wrote to Kevin Foster MP outlining his concerns for Watcombe Beach. ‘It’s being allowed to just crumble away,’ hesaid. ‘Someone needs to do something! We need to protect the environment for future generations.’ Most days James, and his brothers, are walking to school and back home to his home in Barton for his Pledge to The Planet for the Torbay and Devon Civic Award. ‘It helps the planet,’ heremarked, ‘And when you walk, you talk to people and make links with them,’ he explained. James knows his neighbourhood and regularly visits a neighbour with rheumatoid arthritis, bringing him treats to eat and watching football with him. James doesn’t have a favourite football team yet but says that if he had to choose one it would definitely be Torquay United!

Hayley Watkins, manager of the St Marychurch Animals in Distress shop is delighted with the success of James’ Animal Book Art.‘We sometimes hear of negative things that young people are doing,’ she said. ‘So, it’s fantastic to see children like James being inspired to do community things like this and influencing others to want to help really good causes like ours.’

Proud mum Karen Pilgrim is enjoying James’ participation in the Torbay and Devon Civic Award. ‘It’s great to have an opportunity for children to focus on doing good,’ she commented.‘Sometimes, all those positive things their children have been doing all along have perhaps gone unnoticed in their day to day lives, and the Civic Award allows parents and families to actually appreciate them and support them.’

The Torbay and Devon Civic Award, established by Karen Thomson, former teacher and now Educational Consultant, is an award for pupils in their final year of primary school and aims to  balance the curriculum in Y6 with Character and Values Education to help children become well-rounded, confident and caring individuals who strive to make a difference in their various communities and are prepared to take responsibility for change.Karen was inspired to create the award by a deep belief that education should develop children’s attitudes and values as well as transferable skills to equip them for a future none of us can yet imagine. The Torbay and Devon Civic Award is twenty years old this year, and commemorative items are planned! Currently 40 primary schools are taking part and over 700 children are enrolled for the year.


Pictured here are Hayley Watkins, Manager of Animals In Distress, St Marychurch, James Pilgrim and Karen Thomson, Founder and Co-ordinator of the Torbay and Devon Civic Award



The Torbay & Devon Civic Award does not allow the downloading of images from our website. To request a image please contact the relevant school who will get in touch with us.