Monday, 7 May 2018

a well-ravelled workshop

 Ravelling a workshop


Even after all these years and so many workshops that I lost count several centuries ago*, I am still fascinated by the process of planning and delivering a session. Not so much the practicalities: time it, shape it, structure the process; or the preparation: sharpen the pencils, cut this many pieces of that card, that many pieces of this card. String. What intrigues me is the emotional process that I still put myself through, the knotted trail of ups and downs that goes with every workshop or series of workshops

The moments….
  •     being over prepared - almost aways, too much is better than too little
  •     forgetting to do things: I’ll have said it to myself, it will have been added to the main list, then to the last minute list, I’ll have recited it in the “packing the car reminders to self” list but get to the venue and the owl-whistle will still be sitting on the desk at home, brooding in that way that only owls can
  •     kicking myself: there are always other things that I’ll have decided against and then regret: “O, I won’t need the big bag of story rugs for this session, we’ll be indoors/outdoors/not sitting down for long/in a lovely space anyway,” and, come the moment, I’ll be looking at a bleak floor thinking “a bit of colour would just shift all this into the 'special occasion'” moment
  •     panicking a bit
  •     let out clauses: “if I get stuck in a traffic jam”, the school’s pipes have burst and we all get sent home (has happened), I get half way there and school closes ‘cause of snow ( that has happened too), the school has forgotten, key teacher is off sick, visitor centre forgot to advertise the event, someone else is off sick, general panic…..what are the excuses that run through my head - the let out clauses that say “I was all ready for this but it didn’t happen”…I want an excuse to run away
  •     what if, what if…what if….the doubts are good because I still care: a reflection that what i am doing still matters to me. There is confidence here. I know I can tell this story or that other one. I know that in a moment I can change tale or activity, that i can hold (most) groups and they will join in the adventure, but I still twitch before it all begins
  •     having the confidence to let go and trust the group I am with. That has come with time and experience
  •     breathe and breathe again, take a deep breath, feel the earth beneath my feet. I work barefoot whenever possible: the earth is a reassurance and helps me feel anchored….

Overall, however, I embrace the endless challenge of new people. They are always new people. I can tell the same story 10 times, 100 times, and responses are still surprising. There is a lovely grisly tale from North Uist (look it up on a map) of a heroic girl, a bold cow and a doomed romance where the group suggest endings and even within the parementers of the story (as opposed to suddenly bringing in aliens or, as this week, an anvil) people still come up with solutions that i have not heard in the hundred times I have told the story before. The people are always new. My activities, even my spoken lines, are based on experience but I try not to hold the past against the present: what  one group did may never be repeated, what this group now might offer could be completely new. The formulae used are there to set a process in motion, not to dictate the outcome

That is where the joy lies: in the unexpected creativity of people

A workshop is woven from worries and activities, themes, inspiration, hope and sticky tape. A well-ravelled workshop might unravel as it goes along but that would be part of its own adventure
*no, of course not, but I’m a storyteller. exaggeration goes with the territory