The Travelling Playground
By WiT, Jan 2 2015 03:33PM
We first began working with actors decades ago using Forum theatre with young people - taking issues that are difficult to talk about and exploring them in a very real and potent way. Actors were able to say the words that had had been silent but needed to be voiced; situations could be examined in ways that named the issue safely, allowing them to be looked at from different perspectives, and opening up possibilities for change. Over the years we have continued to use Forum theatre with adults and young people in all sorts of situations to facilitate new insights and learning towards positive change.
We have worked many times with poets – they have the ability to observe and then distil what they have heard and experienced into something succinct, thought provoking, beautiful and often disturbing. We have often asked poets to summarise events with a performance at the closing of the event.
We work with graphic recorders who observe events and listen to conversations, using pictures to tell the story of the event, the learning and what might happen next. We work with photographers to capture important moments that will later be meaningful when we reflect upon an event or process – seeing people in conversation or sitting thinking can be so helpful in taking us back to important times and figuring out what was important and what we have learned.
We work with musicians who help us work together, discover our shared energies and find our capacity to really listen and communicate with one another through rhythms and sounds - so often leading to better thinking when people leave their drums and shakers and come together to talk.
We have worked as creative practitioners in schools,workplaces and communities in collaboration with other creative practitioners – actors, video artists, performers, makers, poets, dancers, storytellers….
The difference creative practitioners make to any learning situation is huge - almost always memorable, enjoyable and engaging, but this isn’t entertainment. We work with our creative friends to design events and interventions that will stimulate learning, disturb old ways of thinking and allow new perspectives to form. New thinking and new insights are needed more than ever before - and artists of all kinds can be wonderful springboards into new thinking and doing.
In 2014 we were focused on gathering together a group of talented artists, musicians and poets to challenge our thinking, help us develop our own practice and deepen our learning. We were not sure quite where this would lead nor how the creative work would find expression but we knew it was important. Gathering a diversity of people together is always exciting and often rather scary – we didn’t know what would emerge from our collaboration but we knew something would - and it did!
ENTER THE TRAVELLING PLAYGROUND
We were asked by Nottingham CityCare to work on increasing parent and community participation in their Small Steps Big Changes project. We needed to work with a wide range of communities, parents and children and find out about their experiences of bringing up children in four wards within Nottingham. The hope was that this would not only help us to find out what was important but also encourage parents to become a core part of shaping and ultimately delivering the programme.
The challenge was to locate and involve parents and children in a way that was exciting, respectful, fun and informative for everyone. It needed to help to create different relationships between parents and people delivering the various services they used, as well starting to shape and create the services parents and children needed.
This was a great opportunity to do something differently and really put children at the heart of the programme with parents leading the way. Enter the Travelling Playground.
We collaborated with a group of artists and different people and organisations in each of the areas to design and create events that had meaning for the diverse participants who came for a day of fun, creative activities, idea sharing and conversations that matter.
Parents, children and grandparents came and thoroughly enjoyed themselves – but these were not just family fun days. The events were carefully designed to be highly purposeful, with all the activities providing opportunities for:
o Sharing and gathering stories and an understanding of our diverse and different lives
o Connecting with new people and having important conversations about what really matters
o Having fun and sharing experiences and activities across the generations
o Taking time to reflect on our experiences and share our hopes for the future
Each Travelling Playground closed with a performance by poet, performer and musician David Stickman Higgins – reflecting on and summarising conversations, thoughts, hopes and dreams emerging from the event’s activities.
We plan to build on our work with artists and creative practitioners over the coming year to help us create learning events and opportunities that really enable participants of all ages to use their whole selves - their full creativity and all parts of their brain - to learn and gain new insights, and discover new possibilities for change and development.