Friday, 19 February 2016

Hansel and Gretel, the remix

Sing Me to Sleep is a collaboration with homeless people in the UK and Lithuania. Fairytales are retold and embroidered into a quilt.

Phil writes:

This week's fairytale to be remade in the Sing Me to Sleep workshops was Hansel and Gretel. It's of course one of the well-loved children's stories in Europe. It is also a scare-fest, featuring abandoned children, starvation, and cannibalism. It finishes on a happy note of human incineration, in an oven. No wonder it's popular, the Brothers Grimm really pulled out the stops on this one, patching it together from the best chilly bits of a scattering of other stories.

detail of quilt sample, Sing me to Sleep

The theme, as with many of these stories, is survival. This time it's about using cunning to outwit those who are bigger or stronger than you. A theme that many of the homeless people in our group are extremely knowledgeable about. To be streetwise is to be as canny as Hansel and Gretel, in the urban forest.

It was a lighthearted session, strangely enough. I'd been worried that the gore of the story might be a downer. But the general approach was cheery curiosity. The moment that shone through was Phil's joy at constructing his own poem based on H&G and then improvising on it while I recorded him. It was a live remix using two columns of words he'd written down and then read aloud in whatever order pleased him, jumping between the two sets of words. Afterwards he said: "I'm pleased now, I'll be smiling all afternoon about that." As we talked he described being put off writing at school, despite adoring books. Seeing the glee in him made me smile too. It felt like he had made his way through a different kind of dark wood and found part of himself once more.

detail of quilt sample, Sing me to Sleep

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks phil D you see in people and give generous encouragement that is a true sign of a good teacher. I really enjoyed the H&G story/reading project and seeing you bring out the best in the most reluctant of the group.