Juggling so many facets of this bursting and beautiful Emerge programme has been a learning curve already, well, a learning rainbow if you will. Splitting thoughts between two locations with such different needs and energy levels has been an intriguing process.
Trying to imagine how we can balance sharing our breadth of creativity by introducing the young people to artforms galore whilst taking progressive steps towards the Emerge Festival, weaving in Arts Award alongside pandering to the diverse range of needs of the young people, including ADD, ADHD, Autism and of course, puberty.
As you can imagine, multi-layered timelines and regular project planning meetings have been our friend and the rapid challenge has been avidly accepted. One trick to keeping our learning progressive and focussed is frequent reflection and documenting this development.
"I'll tell you what, a colour-coded e-calendar has Control+Saved my life and made sure
there is enough yellow (fun times). Emerge project is currently purple by the way." - Jenny
Gaining insight from Lab partners has been extremely useful, that is to simply ask them what works and what doesn't in their previous experience of working with their groups. It is a breath of fresh air to involve the Lab partners in planning the sessions which has already taught us so much.
As any workshop coordinator will know any plans that are made are likely moulded in the moment to the group ...
But working with SEN, a great deal of thought and time needs to be allocated before and after each session, where within one session the behavior and emotions of the group can suddenly change, even significantly week to week and therefore differentiation needs are huge. These are paramount to developing a sound creative plan and delivering a successful session. On top of this, the main ingredient in the session - 'creativity' needs to be super flexible as we have learnt that anything involving improvisation doesn't work so well, however short creative material - be it a short rap, poem, or a rhythm, that can be learnt and used as inspiration from which they can then develop using their individuality, works fantastically. In particular, we have found that repetition is a very useful tool with SEN students e.g. call and response. The energy and enthusiasm of the group is more often than not the winning charm of each session. It has been challenging trying to adapt to each individual's desire and need as there are so many of these, but we are constantly improving as the weeks progress.
Working with teenagers has its own assortment of ups and downs. The ideas they have are brilliant and unique. Sometimes they are floating in space and need the enthusiasm and uninhibited voice to blurt them out (maybe a handful of the SEN students acting as their megaphones!!!). But when the energy in the room is stimulated either through open discussion, some humour or enthusiastic prompts from ourselves as the artists/lab, groundbreaking moments begin and make room for exhilarating energy in following sessions.
In fact we have noticed we have had to open the sessions in such opposite ways; where we have found the trick to immediately inciting focus with our SEN group is through calming music whereas the trick with our community setting is immediately high energy to invigorate their imaginations. Where both our groups have personal inhibitions with the added element of the SEN group not always knowing how to express themselves, it has already been an amazing experience trying to facilitate their freedom of expression.
Maintaining a harmonious situation where the voices and ideas of the young people are balanced with our skills and ideas as artists/project leaders has been a good challenge but one which has been positively overcome.
Working as a two has equally been a learning rainbow. We certainly share imaginative wavelengths (nonsensical and profound, surrealist kinda mind tracks) but we have different approaches to working; Carise is an efficient-attention-to-detail type whilst Jenny is a perfectionist-attention-to-detail type. We have in turn exchanged elements of our different working approaches which has been enlightening for ourselves as emerging artists. We work symbiotically as we both take into account time, individual needs, whilst consistently questioning ourselves until we have a tight plan together.
In one way, you might say that working as a pair is an advantage as the saying goes "two minds are better than one" and indeed bouncing ideas off each other's trampoline notions has been dynamic and invigorating. However it hasn't been without its challenges, our communication skills have been truly put to the test and we have learnt so much about how we gauge and absorb information, how to best paint a picture to eachother of what we are envisioning. Being a right pair of divergent imaginators, we have had to deeply and patiently tune in to our ideas to be able to ensure that we both fully understand them and therefore can both confidently deliver.
We each have so many different and creative ideas that colourfully burst out in our minds and then to each other; sometimes these colourful visions mingle and harmonise, other times we have had to pause, step back and consciously assess how to puzzle together these fragments to make the best picture possible in the time and with the resources we have.
"Colour and creative stations to bring out great imaginations". - Carise