The following is a list of all entries from the Creative Partnerships category.
2012 certainly has been an eventful year here at the Potting Shed! There have been lots of memorable events over the course of the year and some exciting things to look forward to. Here are some of the highlights…
January saw the start of the wider community phase of Somerstown Stories. This project had already been nearly two years in the making, so it was both daunting and exciting to see it hit the streets of Somerstown.
Work continued from the highly successful launch of the project at Somers Park Primary School during the preceding autumn term. The opportunity for partnership work was very exciting, and a wide range of local groups and organisations got involved including Southsea Community Centre, SureStart, Portsmouth Film Society, three local churches (St Luke’s, St Peter’s & The Kings Church), Omega Street Centre and two separate departments (Architecture and Creative & Performing Arts) within the University of Portsmouth.
During the course of the project we realised there would an underspend in the budget, but we quickly put the money to good use by running some extra events and funding a book*. One of the best events was the Museum of Somerstown – a temporary exhibition in an empty shop in Somerstown. We saw over 200 visitors over the course of the four days it was open – a fantastic response, aided in no small part by a great article in The News and interviews on Express FM.
Somerstown Stories as a project continues to generate interest, particularly through the Facebook page and there are plans to carry out some follow-up work in partnership with the University of Portsmouth as part of their community engagement work.
Other projects this year included Storytelling Club at Stamshaw Infants school. This involved running an after-school club for 5 weeks, helping the children to explore facets of storytelling and then to write their own original stories. These stories were printed in a specially made book, entitled ‘The Story Chest’.
I also had the opportunity to get involved in a cultural Olympiad project called Dysarticulate. This was supported by legacy funding from the Creative Partnerships programme.
Working with local artist Jon Adams, I ran workshops in four different schools, facilitating flag making, using pages from recycled books. I can honestly say that every flag was unique and there were so many different ways to approach the work! Everyone was included, no matter what they felt their artistic skills were like.
The summer saw a change of pace with a return to North End Playscheme. This week-long children’s activity scheme has been running for nearly twenty years and is almost entirely staffed by volunteers. Here I exercised my storytelling skills once again with a suitably Olympic themed tale of daring-do entitled: “Lucy and the Race to Save the Olympics!” Lucy is a character I created years ago for a similar playscheme in London, and she often features if I’m doing a serialised story, as this one was. The afternoon saw a subtle shift from Storyteller to Administrator and First Aider, but as you might expect, Playscheme is always “all hands on deck!”
The autumn term has seen several days unpaid work go into finishing the Somerstown Stories book, which should be available in Jan/Feb 2013. There has also been some work for the University of Portsmouth, beginning to develop some community engagement work, and for the embryonic UK Community Partner Network a national group, supported by the National Centre for Co-ordinating Public Engagement (NCCPE) which seeks to nurture and support community groups and organisations who work with universities:
2012 has been a diverse year, and in a climate of spending cuts and increased pressures on education and the arts, it feels like no small achievement to have made it this far! 2013 is full of curious uncertainty, with ideas in the pipeline waiting to come to fruition. To find out more you can also visit the new Facebook page: http://ow.ly/gzbKr which also includes information about my photography and textile craft work or follow me on Twitter: @sharonaverona
Inspiration can strike at any time and in any place, and The Rig is no exception!
Set on an isolated rig off the coast of California, The Rig tells the story of a handful of unlikely characters and their struggle to survive on a structure that is literally falling apart. Despite battling with the elements and their own personal tragedy, each person comes to find their own small corner of peace aboard this unlikely refuge.
I was inspired to write this piece, after seeing a sculpture created by local artist Chris Jenkins. Chris was working at Admiral Lord Nelson School at the time, taking part in a collaborative residency-style project, funded by Creative Partnerships. Like many of the stories I am working on, this one has been fermenting in my head for a number of months, but I was hit with inspiration for the details of a particular scene and decided to write it up.
Chris’ sculpture is crammed full of unexpected details, which are intriguing and add helpful stimulus whilst trying to write. To me it feels as if the whole things has been made and re-made over and over again, as haphazard repairs have had to be made, using whatever materials could be found.
I’ve written a chapter from the story, which takes place about halfway through the story arc, and you can read it here: The Rig
You can find out more about Chris’ work here: http://www.chris-jenkins.com/
The photo on the right shows children from Chichester waving their flags before going to install them in Priory Park. The flags were collected and will be used again when the Olympic Torch comes to the city on July 17th.
Find out more here: http://www.dysarticulatedschools.org/tag/st-pauls-catholic-primary/
Today was the long awaited Creativity Conference, which took place at St Thomas’ Cathedral in Old Portsmouth. It was a legacy from the Creative Partnerships programme, which I used to work for, as a Creative Agent and you can look back through previous posts to find out more about that work.
However, it was something that happened during the afternoon that I want to reflect on here, and that was the address given by Kristen Birkland from the Kaospilots.
She talked about creativity and ways of nurturing creativity. She used a creation story to illustrate how and where creativity can be seen and understood, and the commentators and people on twitter quite rightly commented that she ‘mesmerised’ and ‘captivated’ the audience.
Having visited Aarhus and the Kaospilots school myself last year, I was forcibly reminded of my visit there, and it felt to me like suddenly breathing in again after having held my breath for a long time. I don’t know if you’ve ever done that: held your breath without realising it, because you were concentrated or absorbed by something. Not for any length of time, but just a few moments, until you suddenly realise what you’re doing – and you breathe in again and feel that life-giving revitalising air swoop into your lungs.
Spending time with the Kaospilots and with other people who have been there – all dreamers in their different ways, is life-giving to me. Food for the soul. And there were a lot of moments in those keynote speeches, when what was being shared really resonated with me…which brings us to the singing bowl.
I daresay you were wondering why I’ve included it? Maybe by now you were inventing your own reasons and theories as to why? The answer is two-fold:
Firstly because Richard Sant, the Director for Creative Enterprise at the University of Portsmouth had one at the conference today, and he chimed it whenever a session was due to finish. And it struck me what a fabulous illustration it is of the second and more important reason:
About how a singing bowl actually works:
The tone is caused by the bowl vibrating. You can see this fairly clearly in the first section of the video when the large bowl is struck. The way in which the bowl is hit or rubbed makes the bowl oscillate – that is it wobbles in a oval shape, and that is what causes the sound. It is a very clear sound and it carries very effectively across a large space.
Much of what I heard today – and particularly in Kristen’s talk, resonated with me. It caused an answering vibration which I heard, felt and understood. And yet I hadn’t appreciated how much I’d missed it, until I heard it again.
The challenge of any conference, training or retreat is: how are you going to apply what you’ve learnt when you get back? How will you make it stick? I think for me, I need to action some things I’ve been mulling over for a while, including writing my paper on education entitled: ‘The Writer, The Illustrator and General MacNamara’, which I’ll post here when its finished. Another action is to work harder at making time to reflect. Making it a priority to create space for daydreaming, doodling, meditating and reflecting. It’s too, too easy to get caught up in the ‘doing’ part, but always far harder to employ the discipline of stopping, pausing and being still.
Perhaps I’d better invest in a singing bowl while I’m at it…?
Had a great day at Portsmouth High School today running their Dysarticulate event. Around 70 girls from Year 8 & Year 4 worked together throughout the day to make over 860 flags from pages of recycled books, and installing them across the Senior and Junior school sites.
A selection of photos is shown here:
For more images, and to see how it fits into the bigger programme of Dysarticulate events across Hampshire, click here and search for Portsmouth High School:
This is a project linked to the Cultural Olympiad, and is the work of Jon Adams, whom I will have the pleasure of meeting on Monday at Portsmouth High School, when a day of Dysarticulate will be taking place.
To find out more about this fast-growing and engaging piece of public art, take a look here: http://www.dysarticulatedschools.org/
I visited Admiral Lord Nelson School (ALNS) on Friday, where they were having their last PD (personal development) day of the year. Its the only occasion during the entire year when ALL the CP practitioners have been in one place at one time, and it seemed too good an opportunity to miss!
I’ve been working at ALNS for two years now, as part of my work with Creative Partnerships, and its been a real priviledge, as it has at many of my other schools, to be part of a piece of work that has been of real benefit to the staff, students and practitioners.
In some ways, CP work raises more questions than it answers, and this is no bad thing. If an individual or organisation questions something, its because the answer matters to them. Something has been triggered: a thought process or engagement, which won’t rest until its resolved or balanced out in some way. Questions (even those that appear aggressive or negative) indicate engagement and that is a valuable energy that can be put to good use. As my former youth pastor and theologian put it once: “the opposite of faith isn’t doubt; its apathy”.
So how does that relate to creativity in education? Well, if the opposite of faith in creativity is apathy about it, then questioning the value and output of creative approaches in education suggests a desire to see if it really does work? It suggests an engaged and inquisitive mind that sees potential that it can’t quite articulate, or benefits its can’t quite quantify. One of the Senior Leadership team explained to me, in an honest interview: “I still don’t understand it, but I know its important. I know we need it and the students need it and it makes a difference.”
I think Creative Partnerships set out to be a catalyst: to introduce experienced creative practitioners into a community already thrumming with latent creativity, and see what happened next. The results were very often surprising, funny, engaging, moving and not a small bit challenging too.
I have benefited personally from my time working with CP, and this has been particularly true at ALNS: both organisations have enabled me to value and almost re-discover my own creativity, and I have seen for myself how much can be achieved through an atmosphere that cultivates and values relationships built on trust, and creativity. For to be creative requires risk, and those risks need to be supported by trust, otherwise the endeavour will fail and most of the benefits will be lost.
So adieu ALNS and my other CP schools…perhaps fortune will favour us, and we shall meet again.
Creative practitioners working at ALNS this year were:
Tim Johnson: artist, photographer, basket-maker http://www.timjohnsonartist.com/blog/
Chris Jenkins: scuplture, willow work http://www.chris-jenkins.com/
Borbonesa: book artists & designers http://www.borbonesa.co.uk/
Another succesful project completed and the evaluation finished for the CP work at St Paul’s school.
Although this is a phrase you sometimes hear attached to naughty children, actually I’m referring to the satisfaction I get out of seeing the project through to completion and hearing all the positive feedback and benefit the school gets out of it, teachers, pupils and practitioners.
It’s great knowing that all the hard work and effort that everyone put in has been worthwhile. The school is well on track to an excellent OFSTED and CP (and I) have been a part of that.
And that is worth treasuring.
PS Since this was posted, I got some really encouraging feedback from St Mark’s School where I did the collaborative story-telling about the winged lion:
“The teachers were really impressed with Sharon’s very detailed planning as they knew exactly what to expect which made them feel more confident in what she was going to do. They have enjoyed using the story since too and when I talked to the year R children this part of the project had really struck a chord with them as they came up with all sorts of different ideas for stories which meant they didn’t really answer my questions – which I suppose is 5 year olds for you!” Janet Aughey, Creative Agent at St Mark’s School.
Ground rush: the feeling of the ground rushing up to meet you when you’re falling from a great height.
This is something of how I’m feeling at the moment, with several projects and deadlines all clamouring for my attention at once. It’s great to be able to involved with so much good work across the city, but with Creative Partnerships wrapping up and Somerstown Stories and Fratton Big Local just starting to get into their stride, there’s a lot going on!
My writing has been forced not just to the back burner, but to someone else’s back burner, in a house two doors down the road… All the Creative Partnership projects are now due their evaluations and Project End forms, as well as budget reviews to plan for any underspends.
We’re about six weeks away from finding out whether Somerstown Stories will be successful in its bid to Heritage Lottery Fund http://www.hlf.org.uk/HowToApply/programmes/Pages/yourheritage.aspx This is very exciting, but while we wait, I need to create a Plan B, in case the funding doesn’t go ahead.
Fratton Big Local too, is waiting to hear if they will be successful in their attempt to get the second tranche of money for the consultation http://frattonbiglocal.org.uk/ We held our second public consultation event last Friday, and despite having my purse stolen by someone, while I was speaking to someone else, we did get a good range of responses. It was a useful exercise and helped me work out how I need to change the layout of the stall in order to get people’s attention more effectively. Its surprising how many people dismissed me and what I was saying without really listening or understanding what I was trying to tell them about. Maybe something like a giant interactive Monopoly(C) board featuring Fratton localities or a spinning wheel where people can nominate areas they feel are most important…? I think fun, interactive and creative approaches can be more effective, but in the end I can’t make people listen.
And as if that wasn’t enough, I have now embarked on the Kaospilots summer programme. This is a joint venture between the Kaospilots School in Aarhus, Denmark http://www.kaospilot.dk/ and the Centre for Enterprise at Portsmouth University http://www.port.ac.uk/departments/academic/pce/ led by Richard Sant. I and the other participants had to produce a video outlining the project we would be focussing on during the programme, and I hope to post that here shortly. The summer programme is funded by the Diocese of Portsmouth Council for Social Responsibility and Portsmouth University, so for me, many of the costs are covered, which is a great blessing. This includes a week long trip to visit the Kaospilots in Aarhus in June, which I’m looking forward to (despite the burden I know this will leave on my husband at home!).
So, plenty going on. Plenty to do and plenty to look forward to. Ground, here I come!
Today at last the story of Emi and the Lion has been released into the wild…or into the hands of St Mark’s School at least! It’s been a few weeks since my sessions at the school and I’ve been keen to make sure that when the final version was sent, it was the best it could be.
Having had a few weeks away from the story, its always pleasing to come back and find that the story still holds together well. I’m pleased with what’s been produced and I hope they will be too.
The medium of oral storytelling is actually quite different from a written piece, and the final result can sometimes have a different feel from the story when its being told to a live audience. As a storyteller I can convey an emotion or the tone of a scene simply through facial expression, but to communicate that same information in a written format can take one or two paragraphs!
By the same token, I can invite the reader into a setting and offer more detailed descriptions in the written format than I can sometimes do in a performance setting.
One of the best elements of this story was its collaborative nature. I’ve told stories to very large groups of children in the past, but all the content has come from me. With Creative Partnerships collaborative approach it challenged me to find ways to include the children as co-authors of the story, asking them what they thought would happen next in the story and then finding ways to incorporate their ideas. Although that led to some very tight deadlines (writing an entire chapter in 1.5 hours!) it also allowed the children’s ideas to be acknowledged and valued in a piece of work that is entirely unique.
I very much hope I’m able to use this technique again in other place and find new ways to include children’s imaginative contributions. It would be great to think that this kind of approach might be what starts off the next generation of authors on their quest to find their own voices.
Here’s a taster: Emi and the Lion – chp 1
If you’d be interested in running a similar project with your group or school, please do get in touch!