A TV star and a talented artist teamed up for a visit to an East Yorkshire primary school.

Royle Family actor Ricky Tomlinson and artist Katrina Gardner showed Year 5 and 6 children at Sproatley CE Academy how they could paint by holding a paintbrush between their toes.

Their appearance at the school was part of an independent film company’s documentary on thalidomide, the drug that caused deaths and severe limb deficiencies in babies 60 years ago. They chose Sproatley, which is part of York-based Ebor Academy Trust, as Katrina’s four children went there.

“Our children were really excited and loved the experience,” said Gill Pepper, head teacher. “I’m proud of them because they were very accepting of Katrina’s disability. And Ricky was a delight and joined in when they tried to paint with their feet too.”

“You’ve heard of Picasso – well I’m Rick-asso,” the actor told the children. He shot to fame as Jim Royle in BBC TV’s The Royle Family and is now a keen amateur artist in his own right.

After hearing Katrina’s story and how she was born without arms but overcame adversity to have four children and bring them up mainly as a single mum, the artist, who lives locally, gave a demonstration of foot painting before the children themselves had a go.

Katrina Gardner is a student artist with the MFPA – the mouth and Foot Painting Artists association – and gives talks to groups. “I love going into schools,” she said. “Children are fascinated and don't hold back in their questions, which is great. It’s really good to break down these barriers.”

The documentary will feature a number of thalidomide victims, including Katrina, and uncovers how they are coping since being born at the end of the 1950s and early 1960s.

Sproatley is part of Ebor, which operates 24 schools in Selby, York and beyond.