Ice and Snow won’t stop us …

Today was a scary day for me … I had been given the opportunity to plan, run and evaluate my own workshop at Touchbase.

I decided to jump on the Christmas bandwagon, creating a workshop based around tinsel, glitter and all things sparkly. As many of the projects at sense had focussed on recycling materials, I designed a Christmas mobile that was made out of decorations hung from a decorated coat-hanger to make a Christmas mobile.

As it turns out, my workshop was well times as the planned trip to the Transport Museum was cancelled due to bad weather. Therefore there were a lot of people at TouchBase who didn’t have much to do … and therefore ended up joining me to engage in some Christmas crafts! My original Christmas Moblie workshop plan gave way to a collaboration between myself and Karen Brodie ( who had been planning to accompany the museum trip.

The workshop became a two part event, with the first half involving the group going round and taking images of the wide variety of Christmas decorations at Sense, and he second being where those photos were made into Christmas cards and images for family, friends and TouchBase Staff.

Although the workshop deviated from my original plan, I don’t think it lost much and gained a lot from the participants seeing the ways different art forms can combine. Also, unlike other projects were the final work is stored or displayed at TouchBase, everyone was free to take what they’d made with them. I liked this twist as although it is fantastic to collaborate on large pieces of public art, there’s something special about being able to display your work and share it with others on your own terms. Also, you can enjoy total ownership over it as it is solo work.

The group took well to the class, but seemed slightly less engaged than they had been in previous sessions. I noticed one participant was particularly fidgety, and walked out a few times. At first I thought she might be bored and disengaged in the activities, but despite this she did finish quite a few pieces of work that she took with her with (I think) a sense of pride over what she’d made. I decided not to let this phase me, as it was probably more a result of the cancelled trip and chaotic morning than of my facilitation skills. I think any group who was promised a trip that never happened would be more flighty and less focussed than they would be otherwise.

I found facilitating the group far more relaxed than other groups I have led of either primary school students or young people in drama classes. One massive factor in this is that there are a team of support workers who are on your side and working individually with participants to engage them in what you’re doing. Talk about luxury! It means that even in a big group you don’t need to worry about missing people out or not noticing that someone’s started throwing scissors around (as was a constant worry at the primary schools). Another thing I really enjoy about working with the groups at Sense is their honesty about what they do and don’t want to do. Ok, it may be a bit off-putting if someone doesn’t want to do any of the things you’ve planned, but it does mean when someone is choosing to do your activity or asking to do your class they are wanting to be there. Which, I have to say, is a very gratifying feeling!

In the afternoon I ended up running a one-on-one session with a participant who usually comes to the sculpture classes. At first I was very concerned that I wouldn’t be able to hold just one person in the space, and that me being there constantly would put them off whatever it was they wanted to create. However, I felt that we got a really good balance of creative work and general chat about what he was making and the horrific weather. In the end the participant actually chose to write the card he had made for himself so he could keep it, which I felt was a good signifier that he was proud if his work. Another participant popped in for a small time to finish his card from the morning. He had a visual impairment, and I felt that his obvious enjoyment of the visual arts we’d been doing proved the argument I’d made in my previous blog post:

Where from here? I feel really glad I had the chance to facilitate a group myself, and it’s definitely improved my confidence. In future I’d like to try out the different styles and types of activity that I’ve observed from other facilitators to see what works best and what suits me best. Next week, if there’s still Thursday morning’s free, I’d like to try a large collaborative piece to display in TouchBase to see how this type of project would be received.



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