Friday, 31 October 2014

Breaking the circle

Phil has been working with Blackpool Arts for Health on pieces for the new mental health facility The Harbour, which is being built on the edge of Blackpool. Over the next few days, we will post some excerpts from Phil's Blackpool blogs from this summer and autumn. A complete set of the blogs and photos is at the Blackpool Arts for Health blogsite.

Phil writes:

A stranger to description

4 August

This third session with the Smartarts group in Blackpool: people worked hard at creative writing exercises, which we took at high speed and high intensity. The level of concentration in the room was almost touchable. I invited folks to write first (in memory of John Cage) for 4 minutes 33 seconds, observing the nature of the noisy town centre 'silence' around them and then their own scurrying thoughts. Pens sped over the paper, people gazing down in concentration, occasionally coming up for air and for more observations.

After that, a short written meditation on moments of peace in their lives. Peace is a shy creature, often a stranger to description: when it has come, what it's made of, how it might be found again. There are many cliches about the desirability of Peace, but stillness can be terrifying as well as restful. What is it that we're asking for, when it is invoked? Then, finally, I asked the writers to illustrate the four seasons with incidents from their own lives, taking us through their personal cycles of growth, fruition, renewal.

Breaking the circle

18 August 2014

The last session of this project, a big final push to make the best of the little time we've had. And yet stay relaxed.

Then a drawing game, making improvisations on the theme of circles that's been the core of this project. Pete wanted some wobbly circles for the designs, something (he explained) to dodge perfectionism and leave some oxygen for the imagination.

Pete put the artworks/poems made thus far onto individual tables for the group to arrange in patterns, as they liked. It was astonishing to see how much they'd created in four short weeks. From little doodles and sketches to poems and collages. As they worked on the arrangements, our official photographer Claire snapped the bustle.

Circles can be relentless things. As well as symbols for renewal, eternity, life cycles, seasons and all that  profound stuff, they can also be a trap. A couple of people have commented that, for them, circles bring to mind cycles of destructive behaviour that go round and round, without end, imprisoning and oppressive. So our final exercise was about breaking circles. A simple little writing  exercise to pop the bubble and bring release for those who felt the need for it. I won't share the exercise right now, but if you happen to be around in thirty years time when the time capsule is opened, you'll know.

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