Both an honour and a privilege, I was humbled to have been invited to deliver a creative workshop as part of the event ‘Exclusion, marginalisation, othering: how can the arts respond?’ based on my work with Drawing Connections.
Reflecting on my small contribution in the field of Arts in the Criminal Justice Sector through the project Drawing Connections ...at the edges to give it its full title, an Arts Council England funded activity, which had run for three iterations 2017-2019 to the point of delivering this workshop. Informed by my work with LearningTogether, the project was about bringing together two groups of individuals, who would consider one another the antithesis of themselves. Then through a series of Artists led workshops the people involved were enabled in their personal development, as self-esteem and levels of empathy increased. This was particularly helpful for those coming to the end of their sentence and re-entering society, whilst for some of the students it shaped careers towards Art Therapy.
The activity of creating, both on our own and whilst in the company of others, enables a time and space in which to be present, without external complications. To engage fully in an activity using your senses whilst allowing your mind to mull over things without constraint. A sort of meditation if you will.
In my personal experience, the activity of creating has been particularly helpful in having ‘a space’ in which to retreat to: moving around a lot as a child it was a constant companion and helped me to make sense of things, and to process and work through things that were troubling, or perplexing me. Whether it was doodling, drawing, creative writing or singing, to name but a few.
For this workshop, the activity of collage making was a great way of engaging people with the theme of the session, but also to consider and engage with the material discussed. From the esteemed early researchers present at the workshop:
At the time of the workshop occurring, Fires were raging in Australia. Troubled by the issue and considering the effects, when selecting the flowers for the Kettle’s Yard arrangements that week, I had purposefully used Yellow Mimosa (Acacia dealbata) and Eucalyptus leaves and pods. Both native to Australia. The surplus of which I brought to the space to decorate and share with those present.
It was no coincidence I’m sure, given the workshop was taking place in the Week of International Women’s Day, that those present were mostly female.
The material shared within the session was deeply moving, as you can see in the programme of events above. Discussing issues and their complexities from across the globe, and ways of addressing them in thought, word and deed in myriad ways, from Writing through to Theatre. Below is a small number of images I managed to capture of material shared, as it was all so engrossing and thought provoking…
Providing back dated copies of National Geographic, a publication know for its exquisite photography and a resource I was introduced to at school. Along with mark making materials, paper, scissors and glue, the collaging session commenced!
The Early Career Researchers were encouraged to consider their research from a new, or forgotten perspective and explore it through creativity. Reminded of their abilities, many exceptional and beautiful pieces were produced:
With gratitude to Dr Erica Wickerson for inviting me to participate and thanks go to her and Gareth Evans for their encouragement and support when times were tough. Marking 18 months to the day since I delivered a collating workshop in the same room at the LearningTogether Alumni event, which Jack Merritt, along with Gareth had organised: it was a truly exceptional day.