Monday, 31 October 2011

Staff Training

Following on from our project in Four Acre, Phil and I have been asked to run some workshops for a group of staff from Care Homes and Day Centres in St Helens. 

From my point of view what I wanted was the up-skilling of staff who deliver art activities in homes and day centres, and the raising of the bar in the area of creativeness with the overall purpose of giving the service users the feeling of well being.

The feedback I have got from the participants have been very positive indeed. They are enjoying the pace and the atmosphere of the sessions and are liking meeting other people from similar working environments who they can share not only ideas with but practices as well.  The staff enjoyed the card making session and also the discussion about art and its role in well-being.
I believe that your sessions are more than meeting my goal.

Gary Conley
Cultural Co-ordinator

St Helens

Each of our workshop sessions had a different theme, the first looking at Felt Making and how it could be used with participants with a wide range of different skills and abilities.

The second was a look at how we can use Art Postcards in participatory arts, for example adapting the picture and its meaning with paint, collage or scratching. We also used the art cards to start a discussion about engagement with art, or what might be called art appreciation. For this workshop I was inspired by the work done by MoMA (the Museum of Modern Art, New York) who have done some wonderful work with people diagnosed with Dementia engaging them with their collection. There are some very useful free downloadable PDFs from their website.

The third week we investigated embroidery and how it could be used with participants. I invited people to look at embroidered samplers for inspiration, and to try out some ideas for themselves. (pictured in this blog) The room fell silent as the group got totally absorbed in the activity. Like many of the older people we work with in hospital or care homes, many of this group hadn't done any embroidery since school and it came as a revelation. Many of the group left with their samples in hand, explaining they were off to do more at home. Another very satisfying day.

Friday, 14 October 2011

The Dinner Bell

I loved music at school, my favourite musical instrument? the dinner bell. George White

On Thursday morning Joanne and I joined the arts group at Four Acre Library, St Helens. Next week will be my last session- and I am getting serious pangs of sadness. I've been getting so much from this 
group- an education and lots of laughter. 

Joanne and Marion

This week my task was siting back and observing how Joanne got on with facilitating the group. This isn't such an easy job for me, who likes to be in control... as I sat burning to ask questions myself and wanting to join in with my take on the conversation! and it was such a fascinating conversation. We were discussing schooling- the realities for children during and into the 50s.

6 on the backside in front of the whole class if you were naughty Eddie

What struck me again was all the wasted talent and crushed aspirations. A story I have heard before (my father-in-law won a scholarship to a grammar school and couldn't take up the place as his parents didn't have the money for the uniform) was repeated here today, Joan had won a scholarship;

We couldn't afford the clothes, couldn't afford the equipment, the headteacher said to my mother 'you can't afford to come'. Joan

Brenda, Marion and Sid
Marion whose parents did manage to borrow enough money for her to get her uniform, spent the whole time in one oversized coat, brought large when she started school (I never grew any taller than that first day) recalled feeling she never fitted in with the people from the middle class backgrounds. She was always aware of her frayed and darned cuffs. She would run the gaunlet of the other kids going to the local schools, who teased her 'lend us your hat, we're havin soup tonight!' She felt she didnt fit in anywhere.

Norma and Eddy

After the very lively reminiscence, the group used their memories to effect in acrostic poems. The fantastic legacy of the project here is a lively enthusiastic group, who seem willing to try any art or poetry exercise presented to them. Who support each other creatively and socially, and who will continue to meet up weekly long after I am no longer part of the group. I'll miss them all.

Monday, 10 October 2011

circular poems in cycles

As part of the Four Acre project, with St Helens Arts Service, Phil and I are offering training and practical skills for people who want to run art/poetry workshops. Last Thursday, local poet Joanne joined the Chester Lane Library group for some hands-on experience. 

We played with ideas of circular poems, based on the morning reminiscence about Royal Jubilees. We  catered for all points of view on this topic - Royalists and Royalty-dislikers alike.  Most people present were too young to remember 1935 when George mk 5 had his Jubilee; however, many had some memories of the 1977 (Sex Pistol soundtracked) Silver Jubilee. The 2002 one seemed to pass us all by.  The inspiration for the circular poems came from Jubilee souvenir coins - and the notions of societal hierarchy that we inherit.

Joanne talked people through the circular poem idea, then together we helped participants create the circularity of their own short verses. Norma took it in her stride, delighting in the wordplay and helping the others with practical solutions. Sid gave us all much to laugh about as he recounted the celebration of Lady Di's wedding, where as he puts it  'I imbibed to much alcohol'  and ended up losing his teeth  I'm pleased to say they were found the next day in the rockery, they went straight back in, without any further pause for breath. And they still look alright to me.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

The Big Draw

The Big Draw event at St Helens Central Library went really well. In a drop in session in the main library space, I worked with 29 children, parents, grandparents and carers aged from 2 to 85.

Part of the success was down to having a strong but simple idea to work on- something that participants could get hold of and understand easily. Using the theme of dreams of flying, participants drew a feather (bird, angel, dinosaur...)  on one side of a swing tag, and on the reverse wrote a line describing a flying dream. If no dreams could be recalled, then a word that described what it would feel like to fly. The labels then were attached to wings I had made prior to the workshop.

I love to see how given the same tools to draw with, the same material to draw on, everyones drawings are so different, reflecting their personality, their mood, their idea of a feather...

The alternative activity was creating paper-cut feathers from tissue paper, old magazines, wrapping paper etc. A simple task, but one participants seemed to thoroughly enjoy. Many were taken home, the remaining were attached to another pair of wings. 

Friday, 7 October 2011

Czech Conference

Work from our recent project A Little Sentence, is going to be shown by artist Sarah Butterworth in the Czech Republic during a conference held in Most, the Usti Region of the Czech Republic where there is a relatively high crime rate. 

It is being held by the social and psychological centre O.sMOSTY. The conference will bring together youth workers, teachers, artists and prison workers wishing to discover innovative ways of working with prisoners and young people at risk of offending.

If you'd like to find out more about the conference it's on but all in Czech!

Library of Dreams: The Big Draw

Tomorrow, Saturday 8th October, 11.00 till 3.00pm, you can join me and other artists to celebrate The Big Draw 2011, in a day of dream themed drawing activities on paper and screen. The family activities will take place at the MASH Gallery, St Helens Central Library, St Helens.

I will be sharing the space with artists from Library of Dreams, who are running monthly workshop sessions, hoping to collect, share and interpret the dreams of mums, dads, carers, grandparents, children.... and express them through the arts.

The theme for my drawing and making will be dreams of flying....