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Participation. Part I: The best show in town. / 9 May 2012

Pencil sketch showing people sitting in various positions.

Workshop - Peace News Summer Camp. 2011. Pencil.

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Community participation in the arts is flavour of the month. So while there’s funding, I'm making the most of it, grabbing every opportunity that comes my way.

Workshops run by experienced practitioners are a fun way to learn new skills and develop confidence.

Last week I took part in a badly advertised and poorly attended workshop in a cold and echoey local sports hall. It was brilliant!

A professional facilitator (ex?), I'm the world's best participant. If I'm there it's because I want to be. I'll do pretty much anything, as long as it doesn't involve jumping, running, skipping or anything else overtly physical (because even if I can it hurts so I don't).

Lucy Foster, director at Improbable, introduced us to some of the improvisation techniques she uses in devising and rehearsing her work. These were loosening up exercises designed to release the mass of stuff that's in our head all the time, though we don't know it: words, thoughts, ideas, descriptions, reactions, memories, feelings...

To begin with Lucy had us walking around the room, looking at the things around us and saying ‘I see...’ followed by 'window, chair, mark on the wall' etc. The aim was to be spontaneous, to not think about it but to just say it. Moving around meant there was no time to ruminate or prevaricate; no time to ctiricise or judge. Once it's been said, there's no going back.

Another exercise involved walking around in pairs, arm in arm (with strangers!  Lack of introductions was a serious omission.) doing that word association type of thing, where one person says something and the other says something; together, somehow, a narrative emerges.

It was great. I'm using the ideas now, to write this.

In the second half we wrote a story based on experience, about being pirate-like, unapologetically bold, brave, boisterous, or just pleasantly barmy.

Lastly, in groups of four and facing the audience, we read out our stories in snippets, cutting into each other’s when directed by Lucy. Life is like this.

Participants were offered £5 tickets for that evening’s performance The Pirate Project at the Corn Exchange, Newbury. This is the subject of my next blog.


Picture: My sketch of a workshop at Peace News Summer Camp 2011.

Keywords: community arts,participation,workshops