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North Norfolk school launch building project in memory of former pupil's 'tragic suicide'

PUBLISHED: 09:06 02 May 2019 | UPDATED: 09:06 02 May 2019

Emma  Whalley, a science teacher at North Walsham High School, is planning to build a cob round house at the school in memory of Jess Fairweather. Photo: Submitted by Emma Whalley

Emma Whalley, a science teacher at North Walsham High School, is planning to build a cob round house at the school in memory of Jess Fairweather. Photo: Submitted by Emma Whalley

Emma Whalley

A north Norfolk teacher has said she is overwhelmed by the offers of help she received with plans for a building project in tribute to a former student who took his own life.

Jess Fairweather, left, with his brother Sam, on Cromer Pier. Picture: COURTESY OF SAM FAIRWEATHERJess Fairweather, left, with his brother Sam, on Cromer Pier. Picture: COURTESY OF SAM FAIRWEATHER

Emma Whalley, a science teacher at North Walsham High School (NWHS), is planning to create a quiet space for students after the “tragic suicide” of young ex-pupil Jess Fairweather.

Mr Fairweather was found dead in his room at the University of East Anglia (UEA) last year.

An inquest found the 21-year-old law student had suffered with depression and taken his own life.

And Ms Whalley said she hoped the building would be a testament to his memory, as well as helping students who are struggling.

The building method uses waste materials, mud and straw to create the structures. Photo: Submitted by Emma WhalleyThe building method uses waste materials, mud and straw to create the structures. Photo: Submitted by Emma Whalley

“The school and I were recently affected by the tragic suicide of a young ex-student,” she said.

READ MORE: Emotional farewell is paid to student on day he would have turned 21

“I would like to build a cob round house, as a quiet space for students, in his memory.

“It's something I always wanted to do and when Jess took his life I thought 'it can't keep happening'.

The roundhouse at the high school will be used as a quiet place for students to reflect and to keep their memories in a wall of jars. Photo: Submitted by Emma WhalleyThe roundhouse at the high school will be used as a quiet place for students to reflect and to keep their memories in a wall of jars. Photo: Submitted by Emma Whalley

“I have a passionate and personal interest in mental health issues, particularly those facing our young people today.”

Ms Whalley, who is trained in the cob building method, said it “uses mud and straw to create strong and sculptural structures”.

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She added: “Cob is an incredibly therapeutic form of construction.

“The material is very tactile, forgiving and safe to use, so the students will help with the build.

“I hope parents, carers and the community also try their hand.

“There is an enormous sense of satisfaction knowing you have constructed something beautiful from waste with your bare hands.

“You're absorbed in what you're doing, and you're talking, but it's non-confrontational.”

READ MORE: Former law student stopped seeking help for depression a year before suicide

She also hopes to construct a wall of jars for students to use to privately express their thoughts.

The 45-year-old, from Trunch, shared an appeal for people to help supply building materials online, prompting hundreds of messages.

She said: “I was so moved by the responses. I've even been offered a digger and a man for the day.”

The project, which should be completed by September, needs donations of sub soil, lime mortar, concrete, timber, windows, straw, water bowser, rubble, glass or perspex sheets and paving slabs.

Sponsors and volunteers are also welcome to contact Emma Whalley on whalleye@nwhs.uk.

The free Samaritans helpline can be accessed by calling 116 123 from anywhere in the UK.

READ MORE 'Don't bottle it up' - mother of student who took own life urges others to talk

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