Over the past couple of months, Walsall has been gearing up for EMERGE festival, put together by Ormiston Shelfield Academy, Walsall Arboretum, and Clown Funeral. We've been asked to say a little something about the process so far... here goes...
We began with taster workshops outlining our own artistic specialities as a company:
1. Devising - Looking at The Tempest, we blended devising exercises to create the shipwreck scene
2. Writing - We used stimuli from Romeo and Juliet to spur the young people into character creation and creative writing
3. Filmmaking - We used MacBeth as a filmmaking stimulus, and the young people edited this film together
4. Technology - We used augmented reality and stopmotion apps to explore what is possible when you add tablets and smartphones to drama
We then got feedback from the young people on these workshops, in which they suggested that they'd enjoyed all of them, but the school in particular felt they'd been pitched a little young. Our sessions since then have focused on getting the young people to take creative control of their own work, while we provide them with skills support and creative advice. We feel that the range of creative options on offer will make the festival more diverse, but in the short term, we still need to work making these sessions coherent.
The teams so far have fluctuated a little in size - Shelfield have seen between 12-26 young people from across the school attend sessions, while the Arboretum have had between 2-10 people join their Wednesday evening workshops. The school's recruitment has been enthusiastic, with regular pushes to all corners of the school, but it has been hard to hold on to a lot of young people because of the diversity of their interests, as well as school trips, coursework and assessments interfering with their attendance. The Arboretum has similarly found a good number of people come to try out the sessions, but it has been hard to hang on to them due to a change of location, and with far smaller friendship groups in the community setting, they haven't always had the pull from their friends to continue taking part. However, both groups are starting to develop good-sized core teams who enjoy working on specific projects with each other, and we feel optimistic about the turnout in the last few sessions of the autumn term.
Figure 2 - The opening of Macbeth (not quite as we know it)
The major challenge that EMERGE presents is simply the number of strands that the young artists and labs must weave together. Developing quality artistic work with young people is rewarding, and there is never any shortage of ideas amongst the groups; to find outlets for all of their creative ideas, while simultaneously mentoring them through arts award and festival planning sessions, has been challenging. Our solution has been:
- Divide the young people in each group into teams
- Have 20 minutes at the start of each session where we play games and discuss our plans
- Split into teams to work on group tasks e.g. songwriting, devising
- Showback at the end of each session and give feedback
This process has enabled us to focus the young peoples' energy on producing ready-to-go creative material, and encourage them to work as a team in giving each other advice. We have a little way to go yet, but we're getting there...
Check back in again soon for more updates!