Saturday, 20 October 2012

Reflections on Wise Words

Taking part in the Wise Words project has been an amazing experience. It began with the launch of the project in the cellar area of the ancient Eastbridge Hospital in Canterbury, where we met the others involved, and were introduced to our partners for the project. I think everyone was a little nervous, I certainly was, but soon we were chatting away and getting to know each other.

My partner Kasia and I had a lot in common from the word go, and when we heard that one of the groups of young people had special needs, we requested to work with them as we both felt they would be an interesting challenge. And we were right.

Our first session at St Nicholas school was a real education, and I think we probably learnt more than the young people. We had to adapt the usual range of writing workshop activities as the young people we worked with had a whole range of special needs; their reading and writing abilities varied greatly, as did their concentration span.

One of our main aims was to create an enthusiastic response to language, to share some of the pleasure that we both enjoyed when writing, and in order to do this we had to think laterally. We saw that working in groups really helped the young people’s confidence and created an ideal situation for the ladies from Moving Memories to work together with the young people.

I really enjoyed the challenge of creating new ways for both young and older people to use language, and it was fantastic to see the reactions our activities generated.  One of my favourites was asking them to draw shapes and lines in response to some music from Doctor Who. They were encouraged to think about the dynamics and the shapes of the sounds in the music and really responded well, concentrating for much longer than we expected. One boy produced some fantastic doodles and we were told afterwards that he always draws in groups of four – however this time he didn’t, the doodles continued on down the page. The groups were then asked to write words around their doodles in response to the music, and even the most reticent young people joined in.

One of the most rewarding aspects was seeing the relationships that developed between the generations. The Moving Memories ladies were very supportive of the young people, listening to all their ideas, scribing for them, and helping with spelling. I heard a lot of laughter as funny stories were shared, and fantastical ideas were conjured up for their group writing. When I look at the work produced by our group I am impressed at the power contained within its rawness.

Taking part in Wise Words has been an incredible experience, I have learnt a lot about myself, about other people, and about how language can be used in so many different ways to bring people together. 

Wise Words finale!

Last Saturday was the launch of the Wise Words anthology, which is an amazing testament to the work carried out by all the community groups involved. It contains raw, powerful writing both from experienced writers and from many who have never written before. You can read about it here.

The evening was held at the Canterbury Heritage Museum and was full of wine, wise words and laughter. The official Wise Word exhibition was opened, full of gorgeous writing, images and interactive zones. Participants from community groups read their poems and we were treated to a reading by Sarah Salway.

If you're in Canterbury over the next week, go and see it :)

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Wise Words goes live!

On Tuesday 29 May we (Kasia and myself) ran our first Wise Words workshop at St Nicholas School. We worked with some year 9 students and some ladies from the Moving Memories dance group.

The session kicked off with a couple of ‘getting to know you’ game. Firstly, each person chose to take 1, 2 or 3 sweets and then had to tell us that many things about themselves. Everybody took 3, so by the time we had finished, we felt we all knew a lot more about each other. On hindsight, chocolate buttons weren’t such a good idea on a really hot day! But luckily everyone ate them so quickly, they didn’t have time to melt.

Then we played a game designed to show people how much they have in common whether they are 14 or 60. Each group drew round someone’s hand and then thought of as many things they all like or have in common. It’s surprising how many things are the same about people, no matter how different we seem.
We spent the rest of the time writing group Kennings poems, each group read theirs out and we tried to guess what animal they had written about. I’ll add them on here once they’re typed up.

Both the school class and the Moving Memories were a pleasure to work with, they all got on really well and afterwards told us the workshop was ‘awesome’, ‘refreshing’ and that they liked working in groups.

Thanks to everyone who took part, we had so much fun with you all, and we’re looking forward to the next session where we’ll have some more fun writing activities for you to try.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Wise Words

Last Friday I went to the first meeting and launch of an amazing project. Wise Words is an intergenerational creative writing project run as part of Canterbury’s Laureate scheme. I am lucky enough to be taking part in the project, which involves four trainee teachers from Christ Church Uni and four creative writing postgraduates from Kent Uni pairing up and delivering writing workshops to community groups. The work coming out of the project will be compiled into an anthology, and there will be performances at the local festivals. The people taking part all seem to be so enthusiastic and very talented at what they do, so I think it’s going to be an amazing experience.

The launch event took place at Eastbridge Hospital in Canterbury, which was founded in the 12th century. Walking down into the building you can feel the age of it. And it’s a little chilly! Just before 4pm there weren’t many people, and we wondered whether anyone would be here. But by ten past four it was packed, and we were shuffling along to make space.

Along with an introduction to the Wise Words project, we were treated to readings from Sarah Salway and Patricia Debney. Maybe it was something to do with the atmosphere, as well as the words, but I know I wasn’t the only one brought to tears by the readings.

I’m so excited to be part of this project, this afternoon is our first training session to help plan our workshops, and I’m expecting to be bubbling over with ideas afterwards.