Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Feedback from staff training sessions

Just winding arthur+martha work down now, ready for our Christmas break. Gary Conley from St Helens Council just sent us some wonderful feedback sent by participants from the staff training sessions:

Hi Gary

...I found the sessions very helpful and relevant to me as I am commencing training in "Prepare to Teach in Lifelong they prepared me for the voluntary work which I am undertaking, in particular having the experience of going into a day centre occupied by service users was helpful this gave me an insight into what is is like to work with older people...

Lois was very inspirational in particular I enjoyed the embroidery session, as I hope to become a craft teacher, I found myself observing how she delivered the training and this has set the scene for what I could emulate within my voluntary group.  I have since purchased embroidery threads needles , scissors, linen and embroidery hoops so that I now feel fully equipped to try this out and I am thinking of different ways I could introduce embroidery to a group. 

Lois was enthusiastic and inspirational, and was able to convey so much of her experience, and it was very interesting to see the books that she has had published detailing her work.

All in all I thought the whole experience was beneficial and the opportunity was well timed with just starting out to develop a career in training Arts and Crafts.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity, it has been very helpful.

Hi Gary,

We really enjoyed the Arthur and Martha training, Initially we thought we
would not really be able to use any of the ideas, wrong, Margaret and
myself are going to be looking at incorporating some of the activities with
our Service users. I have already tried the creative writing exercise with
one of the service users.

We thought the training was just right and both Lois and Phil were very informative and gave us lots of ideas.

If any further training comes up would you please let us know.

Hi Gary,

For me, as a poet, the training sessions with the Arthur and Martha artists Lois and Phil, have given me an insight into how I can enhance my own workshops by including art techniques alongside poetry as part of my practice. It has also been interesting to find out how poetry exercises have been used successfully with groups of older people with whom I have started to work as a writer myself. Lois and Phil created a relaxed and friendly atmosphere while delivering informative and quality workshops and valuing the contributions and feedback of participants. It was particularly rewarding for me to be able to get professional advice and feedback on my workshop structure and practice from two established and highly regarded art practitioners at this stage of my professional development. I would recommend that anyone aiming for best practice in using art particularly with older people to take the opportunity to attend workshops or to shadow these artists.

Thanks for inviting me to the training

Tuesday, 20 December 2011


There's rain snaking down the windows and the wind is ice-flavoured. I'm in a cafe in Manchester, wishing my toes were warmer and less wet, but otherwise cheerful. It's the end of the year - arthur+martha will take a holiday interlude until our various projects start up in January. This blog is by way of a hello to the many people we've spent time with in 2011 - and with it comes the wish of warmth, emotional and actual.

It's been a bustle of a year - Lois and I started 2011 working with young carers in Warrington, a very sweet-hearted group, whose lives called on them to be adult beyond the capability of many grown-ups. Then we entered another and very different world, during our project with homeless people in Manchester and Bury. We invited homeless and vulnerable-housed people to customise tourist postcards of Manchester, showing an often unnoticed face of the city. This work was exhibited in the Bury Text Festival and on the BBC Big Screen in the city centre. Then in St Helens, working at Four Acre, we had the great pleasure of helping to start a creative group for older people, some of whom had become very isolated.

In all of these walks of life we met kindness, humour and insight although it sometimes had harsh surroundings. In fact, the remarkable grace that many people showed was both humbling and uplifting. I complain about wet feet, but am sitting in a comfortable room, within a comfortable life.

Despite their uncomfortable lives, participants often make pieces that are artistically ambitious, tough, fragile, funny and emotive. The fact that they may have been dismissed by society in general does not diminish their inherent talent. In fact the power of their work often derives from the outsider perspective that people bring and their determination to find a way to express it.

We would like to thank all who've made work and shared their humour, creativity, the day-to-day of their lives. We also wish to acknowledge the kind help of several individuals this year - Penny Anderson, Steve Giasson, Owen Hutchings, Joanne our poetical support in St Helens and Joan Birkett our artistical one, Gemma Cameron and finally Rebecca Guest, editor extraordinary.

Happy winterlude one and all.