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/
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/
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!
Creative Partnerships mid-term evaluations are in full swing now, completion date 8th April. CP has a fairly thorough evaluation system where students, teachers and practitioners are all interviewed with the same set of questions, in order to provide a 360 degree view of the project.
There are nine categories to choose from for pupils, staff and practitioners, but we only select three from each section. Participants are also invited to grade the degree of impact/value in each area from 1 to 4. 1 is no impact or value and 4 is very significant.
When working with such a wide age-range of stakeholders, a degree of translation work is required, so today, with Year 3 and 4 pupils I used the analogy of pebbles in a pond: only 1 pebble makes no splash, but 4 pebbles would make a huge splash and probably go over the edges of the pond! (Obviously in the real world even one pebble makes a splash, but for the purposes of today’s evaluation, we’ll ignore the rules of physics, displacement theory and wave mechanics!)
The same questions will be asked at the end of the project and the hope, as always, is that the splash gets bigger. Perhaps a greater challenge facing schools at the moment is how to embed creative teaching approaches and how to find ways to value the incredible breadth of creative practice, in the face of a curriculum strategy which seems to say that creative practice is second class…the ripple effects from that will take longer to see, but will still have an impact.