Art of Invitation: Guest blog from Orlaith Treacy
This is my version of events during the week of this course. Thank you to Kilkenny County Council Arts Office for supporting me to take part in this course. - Orlaith Treacy
Led by Anne-Marie Culhane, Ruth Ben Tovim and Lucy Neal, The Art of Invitation team shows how to engage different communities in creative projects; bringing people together to make social, cultural and ecological change happen. This short course was held at Schumacher College, Dartington Estate, Totnes, U.K from the 26th February until the 2nd of March 2018.
Day One (Monday)
I arrived Sunday night into Dartington in a taxi from Exeter Airport, driven there by a man who is Turkish but grew up in Austria. I was greeted by the B&B owner Tanya when I arrived, who called me her lovely little Irish girl, followed by her cat who craved human attention. Already the trip had begun with some lovely small but significant connections. The next day, a short walk brought me to Schumacher College a little too early, so I went for a walk along the road through the Dartington Estate to Dartington Manor and Gardens. I was feeling adventurous yet hesitant, it was lovely but cold. I returned to Schumacher College to search out a warm cup of tea and my room for the week, from then my Schumacher experience really began. Slowly those on the short course started to find each other and we had lunch together finding out bits and pieces about what had brought us here. After a beautiful lunch, the course began.
We gathered in a large room that the Eco Design MA students use as their course room and started with an opening circle. We each introduced ourselves and what we were bringing with us to the course. I found this a little nerve-wracking, synopsising my practice and speaking aloud to a group is something I can find difficult. I was surprised to hear how people introduced themselves, it was sometimes very poetic. This poetic approach continued into another circle after a tour of the college. We had been asked to think of four points in our life that had brought us to this moment, this course. The openness of the group was beautiful but equally terrifying. I spent a lot of the time up to my own introduction wondering did I have to rethink the seemingly bland pathway I had planned to speak about. In the end, the words just flowed in an unexpected and honest way. This was something that would happen quite a bit during the course.
The group was large, we were made up of about fifteen short course participants and another fifteen MA Eco Design students. This made for a diverse bunch, people came from backgrounds in science, ecology, geography, marketing, environmentalism, teaching, administration, visual art and theatre-making. And yet we all seemed to easily come together.
Later that evening we were split into groups and asked to make a list of expectations for the course and a list of needs. For me, I wanted to be challenged and given time to reflect on our learning as we went through the week. I had taken part in an intensive course recently that had been exhausting with little time to absorb what was being offered. We then fed our expectations and needs back to the wider group. I felt grateful that this was happening before the course fully began, that we were being heard and considered. Afterwards, we stood in a circle and picked out an unseen item out of a bag, whoever had the object that matched ours was our buddy for the week. Our buddy was to be like a soundboard for whatever we needed to express during the duration of the course that we hadn’t been able to amongst the group. To me, it was like having a close friend waiting to hear your thoughts and support you. Each person had three minutes to speak without interruption to their buddy and after the bell rang we swapped, it came with an agreement that whatever you shared with your buddy was confidential. There was a feeling of serendipity with my buddy, we had already begun an in-depth conversation about our lives and why we were here, it felt very natural that we would be buddies.
Earlier in the day, we had all been asked to write down an intention for the week. My intention was: ‘To have the confidence to open up to what’s around me. To stop being insular and worrying what people think of me but to see the beauty in others and learn from that.’ This came from my worries about what I would say in the opening circle and a realisation that because I was worrying I was missing the beautiful things other people were sharing.
By 10pm we were all exhausted and ended the full day with an early night.
Day Two (Tuesday)
Tuesday morning, I wake up early and begin the day with a meditation class that is on offer every morning of this week. We meditate as the sunrises. It is beautiful, but my leg goes numb from sitting cross-legged for almost thirty minutes which takes away from the experience a little! After breakfast, there is the Schumacher morning meeting in the Postern where everyone discusses the activities of the day and any news, poems, songs or text people want to share. We are given our Schumacher work groups during this meeting. Each work group has a schedule of activities for the week maintaining the grounds and buildings. It includes cleaning, gardening, clearing up after meals and cooking. This happens in between classes, bar cooking for dinner which each group does once during the week.
At 10am we begin our course again; Anne Marie Culhane, one of the course leaders, shares her practice with us. Anne Marie is a visual artist, geographer and environmentalist who responds to places and communities encouraging a reconsideration and re-visioning of how we interact with our surroundings. Anne Marie describes herself as an ‘edge-dweller’. The edge of a field or veg patch is a place rich with possibilities and change, this is where she likes her practice to reside- at a point where there is the possibility for movement, interaction and crossovers. She described projects she has devised and led such as Abundance, Grow Sheffield, A Little Patch of Ground and A Field of Wheat. Each of these projects questioned and continues to question our relationship with food, how it is grown, how we source food and the possibilities of changing our relationship with food and our environment. What I noted from each of the projects Anne-Marie presented was that the approach was done in such a way that it was made very accessible for all possible participants. This is something that is important to all three course leaders to create projects that have multiple access points. For example, Abundance was the simple idea of collecting all the food produce grown in public places in the urban city of Sheffield, celebrating the harvest and distributing it to the people living there, making people aware of the food that is growing around them. From that project developed Grow Sheffield, an active voluntary group of food activists who run social events and share skills in horticulture. It was heartening to see how projects can grow from small seeds of ideas and have a significant impact in an area creating new communities.
Anne-Marie referred to the term ‘response-ability’- responding within our abilities with our skill set to make change and collaborating when our skill sets reach their limits. This notion has really stayed with me; sometimes it is overwhelming to be faced with all the causes that deserve our attention, but this is a reminder that we can make change from where we are, we don’t all need to become eco-warriors. Another seemingly radical notion offered, radical at least to me, was to recycle ideas. Ideas can be reused, adapted, and remade, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel for each project. A simple idea but sometimes we need these things spelt out. Another principle, which I feel is connected, was create new rituals, for example, festivals. Repeating the same activities regularly can create these rituals that can be taken over and led by the local community, allowing projects to lead a life after your part in it ends. That, I feel, is true generosity and collaboration, to know when to let go.
After a short break, we began preparation for our next activity- field sensing. We stood in a circle in one of the large rooms and were asked to consider our feet, hips, hands, eyes, head and breath. We practised making very small, considered steps with the ball of our foot landing first rather than our heel, noticing our breathing, our hips neutral, our arms and hands slightly open, our eyes unfocused on a central point to move towards but drawing in a wide landscape. Ideally, this is done in silence with a clear mind. Anne-Marie then brought us out to the beautiful woods by the college. She invited, whoever was brave enough, to take off their shoes and socks and walk barefoot. It was very cold, so I decided to keep my shoes on at first. Some did take up her invitation and went bravely barefoot. We then stood in a short line and began field sensing. It is a meditative feeling, you become aware of the sensations radiating up from your feet, the clear cold breath through your nose, mouth and lungs, the beauty and peace of nature around you. To me, I felt as if I was welcoming in the earth and acknowledging its power. We did this for ten minutes which felt surprisingly short, I then stayed for another round of field sensing, this time with my shoes off but not my socks! I wanted to really allow as much sensation through as possible. The experience felt reflective of Anne Marie’s practice simple yet effective.
Later that afternoon, Ruth Ben-Tovim introduced her practice. She began with a series of invitations; around the room, there were a number of activities that we were invited to take part in. One was a map of the world that invited us to pin a location and note a memory it evokes, another asked us to label a piece of clothing in a suitcase to note how we have come to live where we do, another blackboard held questions for us to respond to- what makes you smile? What or who do you miss? What keeps you going? What kind of world do you long for? One table held a pile of photos that we were invited to cut up and make into a ‘mini-world’ of our own. Another table held brown paper hearts, we were invited to note what we would like future generations to thank us for on it then stamp it with a heart and hang up on a string. Two chairs were positioned facing each other and on the chairs were a series of cards with words on them like neighbourhood or forgiveness- one person picks the card, the other tells a story about that word, then you swop. One table had a series of cut out men and on them, you were invited to write down your fears for the future. Lastly, there was a seat facing the window and if you sat there you had a story about nature to tell and were inviting someone to join you to share that story. Each of these invitations had a way of making you both connected and yet reflective on your surroundings, on your life, your journey, friends and family and opened you up to sharing these thoughts and feelings with others.
Following this, Ruth gave a presentation on the projects she had devised and led. Her practice comes from a longing to connect with others. She began her career as a theatre-maker, but she became more and more interested in people’s experience and engagement. In 2003, Ruth established an organisation called Encounters with Trish O’Shea in Sheffield. Introducing us to her first Encounters Shop, Ruth described how she regularly passed this empty shop for rent at £50 a week and it began the seed of an idea to open it up as a drop-in space, to invite people in to share their experiences and stories, to get to know her neighbours. When people came in they were welcomed and invited to participate in similar exercises to ones that we had done earlier that day. She made small gestures that invited people in, like leaving little toy animals/figures around the streets with a label to return it to the address of the shop or putting questions on chalkboards outside the shop and leaving chalk out for people to respond. The audience in these instances become both witness and participant. It sets off a spark, bringing people together to create a community which can develop from there if willing.
“We (Encounters) design creative ways to invite people to re-look at who and how we are in the world at this time and together to explore new, more inter-connected stories to live by.”
This was an activity that Encounters repeated and honed in different locations around the country and abroad. Encounters were invited to create an Encounter Shop to represent the UK in the Venice Architecture Biennial in 2006. This Encounter Shop was then returned to Sheffield after it was shown in Venice.
Ruth works from a set of principles:
- It’s not where you’re going its being on the road that counts. Do not decide your end before you begin.
- Let curiosity be your guide. Dialogue, exploration, open-ended enquiry can be useful tools.
- Offer more than one way in. Create multiple entry points using creative methods.
- Co-author. Create non-hierarchical frames and structures. Don’t be attached to a particular outcome. Don’t expect people to come to you.
- Allow for the space between. This space allows for unexpected possibilities. Audiences can become participants.
The legacy of Ruth’s practice is to provide agency to communities and to open up thinking about pertinent issues such as climate change and our social surroundings. It was inspiring to experience the effectiveness yet the simplicity of Ruth’s projects. The value of simply being open, hospitable and providing a listening ear is really far-reaching.
Before beginning the day’s course, we had been invited to sign up for a twenty-minute mentoring session with one of the three course leaders. I decided to sign up with Lucy Neal as I had had great discussions with Ruth before in Denmark, which is how I came to take part in the course, and I felt Lucy might give me some good advice and direction. After Ruth’s presentation, we began the mentoring session. Lucy suggested I note the language I use around my practice as it develops this year and see how it changes into something I take more ownership of. It was really useful to be reassured about the benefits of the changing path I am on.
After the mentoring session, I decided to spend more time in the woods. I went back to my room grabbed my camera and set off exploring. It was a cold and beautiful evening, I walked through the woods and found a path leading upwards that I began to follow. It led me past a beautifully designed wooden hut, it seemed to be a place they used for music and outdoor events. I examined the beautiful structure then kept going. The sun was slowly going down as I rose along the path. I came to the top and stopped, surveying the land around me. A cluster of the woods was drawing me in. It was dark inside but I could see glimpses of the most beautiful gold, pink and yellow slats streaming through the trees. It reminded me of the work I used to create as an art student, photographing the woods at night, creating long exposures that held glimpses of light. But in those photographs I was creating fear, this time I felt safe and as if I was trying to absorb every sight, every feeling, every movement of this place. I breathed in deep, took a lot of photographs, then began my descent. On the way back I met a robin, it hopped ahead of me on the path leading the way, waiting for me at times. Then it began to gently snow. It was truly magical. I was so grateful for the experience and for the fact that it was still only Tuesday, the beginning of this absorbing week.
Later that evening, Lucy Neal gave a presentation on her practice. We all curled up around the room, tired from the day and from the dinner we just had but Lucy was brimming full of energy. I had made the mistake of not taking my notebook with me, as Lucy had said we were about to have a bedtime story, but I sorely regretted it as she went through one great project after another. Lucy Neal is a theatre-maker, writer and community activist who creates playful public events that allow us to reimagine our future use of public space and our roles within our towns and villages. She spoke a lot about her book ‘Playing for Time: Making Art as if the World Mattered’, I then resolved to buy it so at least I had a note of some of the projects she was mentioning. Her book explores the pivotal role artists play in rethinking the future through collaborative and participatory practices.
One part of the talk I do remember strongly was Anywhere Town. Anywhere Town was devised as part of a Transition Towns Network Conference in 2012 by Ruth with the help of Lucy Neal and in collaboration with Rob Hopkins (founder of Transition Network) and others. Rob was actually doing the short course with us, so he gave us some insight into the experience from his perspective. To give a short overview, Anywhere Town created a space where people could reimagine their lives and the town they lived in. They were invited to create the life and space they needed to live fulfilled lives. It sounded like a life-changing experience. Some of the situations imagined actually came to life, for example, Rob had imagined creating a small brewery which he now has done. For a fuller description please follow this link.
Day Three (Wednesday)
The next morning, Lucy led us in an activity that enabled us to find our voices. We began with some voice exercises, projecting and whispering our voices, finding our sound. We had been asked to bring a text that inspired us in our practice to the course, we had hung them up in the Eco Design Studio for all to read. She asked we find the one that spoke the most to us. We then spoke the text we each chose aloud for all to hear. She asked us to imagine the day that someone else would choose our words as a source of inspiration and speak them aloud. I found this activity really necessary for my practice, speaking my thoughts clearly and comprehensively is something I can find difficult and this was useful in working through that.
Following this, Lucy, Ruth and Anne-Marie then introduced the language we could use to voice our practice. There are ten principles they follow in their practice:
- Work with Community
- Work from Commonality
- Hold Space
They gave us these on a series of cards, then invited us to partner up and tell our partner about our practice and one project that we had worked on. We did this and then they asked us to use the cards to frame our practice and project. The difference in the discussion was amazing, by just giving us another vocabulary we were able to open up our practice and our role in the project a lot more highlighting our skills and abilities.
Later that morning, we were given the opportunity to attend one of three discussions led by each course leader. Each were offering the tools of their trade. It was a difficult decision. In the end, I chose Ruth’s group during which we explored Joanna Macy’s ‘Spiral’ as a tool for engaging others. The spiral begins with Gratitude, then goes onto Honouring Our Pain for the World, Seeing with New Eyes and finally Going Forth. We began by offering what each of us was grateful for, then acknowledging our fears for the world. Ruth described how she sees gratitude as a radical act that gives us strength to face the pain we hold for the world. From this pain we can begin to look at the issue with new eyes and see how we can go forth to make change. When doing any Encounter Shops, Ruth considers whether the invitations encompass the spiral, whether these steps are evident. Another tool she uses, which maps the spiral closely, is the Five Dimensions of Relationship; first is Self, second is Close Others, third Community/Environment, forth Ancestors/ Descendants, fifth Web of Life. This I could imagine more clearly as a radiating circle. Ruth explained to us how it can be challenging to bring people straight into large world ideas and that beginning with the self first and drawing people out step by step can be grounding and effective. Finally, in every project, every invitation, ask questions. Again, it’s so simple yet I think it’s something we often forget. We need to stop talking and start conversing, only then can we learn. Thankfully, all three course leaders had provided us with their toolkit in a handy pack so even though we might have missed the group discussion we had the basic tools.
We were then split into groups of four and each group was given the same task: ‘Design an invitation to join in that invites the rest of the group to explore social and ecological issues today. -You will need to consider how you will facilitate the activity you design and where it will be around Schumacher. -You will have 20 minutes to facilitate your activity.’ I had a lovely group, we were excited to get started but we decided to allow the idea to fester a little before sharing ideas. We were given a tour of all the options on the Schumacher grounds to see which space we wanted to use.
That afternoon, we had a ‘Make’ session. We were given access to lots of materials and let loose on making something that helped us to explore any questions we still had. I had somehow missed, or on some level had chosen to miss, the point when they said that we had to present these back to the group. I was so excited to make something again, to be allowed to make something with abandon, it didn’t have to be ‘nice’, or ‘technically correct’ or make sense to anyone but me (or so I thought). I began with lots of squares of coloured paper, white card and any other bits I could get my hands on. I wasn’t sure what I was making but I decided to not think about it too much. The silence of people absorbed in their task around the room was very peaceful. What I was making became a card, or more specifically, an invitation to myself to let go, to come fly away, to stop being afraid, to stop holding myself back, to come forward and be seen. A minute or two before we finished, I was reminded that we were to present these back to the group. I had a flash of fear but I had a great trust and respect for everyone in the group so I tried to push that aside. I was the first to present, it felt good to follow through with what I was asking myself in the invitation to do, to open up and come forward.
A few of us then had to run off to cook dinner for later and missed the second ‘make’ session. Making dinner was a lovely experience though too, again it was a relief to do something tactile as part of a team and see people enjoy the outcome.
Day Four (Thursday)
Thursday we had the whole morning to plan and prepare our twenty minute invitation. My group gathered and we went walking the grounds to find where we felt the invitation could happen. We started tossing out ideas and a plan began form quite naturally and easily. It was exciting to see it begin to form. We then grabbed some large paper and laid out all our ideas and how it all fit together. We then started onto practicalities of realising our plan. We went over to the main space we wanted to use, a converted chicken shed, that was still called the chicken shed but is now used for craft making. We went back to the main room and everyone put up their preferences for where they wanted their invitation to take place. It was decided that our group would present after dinner so we could use the same space as another group. That worked well for us.
To give a full picture, the ‘Beast from the East’ had truly arrived in Dartington on Wednesday and Thursday. There were heavy falls of snow on the ground that were continuing to build. Having all the resources we needed on the grounds of the college, it became a little winter wonderland rather than a snowy hell thankfully.
After lunch, the twenty minute invitations began. During the first invitation we were brought out into the snow, the presenting group named out a variety of words for the experience of snow that were beginning to be lost or forgotten such as ‘moorie-blindd’ (a blinding snow storm or blizzard). They then gave us the opportunity to experience the snow in silence, many of us began playing, others tasting, stamping, observing and wandering. We then went inside to make cut out snowflakes, on the snowflakes we wrote a new word we had heard for snow and stuck them up. We then each named out the word and its meaning to close the session.
The method to feedback was innovative; eight of us had been given a brown label with the numbers 1, 2, 3 or 4 on it. 1 meant you were to observe and feedback just what you saw or heard in an objective way, e.g. I saw snow, I saw colours, I heard singing. 2 meant you imagined how others felt including the facilitators who had created the invitation, e.g. I imagine people felt excited, I imagine they felt tentative. 3 you fed back how you felt about the experience. 4 you named the metaphor it evoked for you, e.g. it was like a fairytale. Then the three course leaders fed back their ‘ticks’ (positives) and what they ‘wished’ (to change). This way most people got the opportunity to feedback in some way but it was carefully framed and not allowed to wander or meander or be hurtful.
We were then led to the meditation room inside Schumacher which had the feeling of a mother’s womb with its pinkish hues and the hushed sounds it evokes as well as a surrounding warmth. We stood in a circle. This group asked us to write our hopes and fears for the year 2064 on a cut-out rose and a thorn. A small (makeshift) tree was in the middle of the room. We then collectively created a story sharing our hopes and fears and hanging them off the tree. Our emotions rose and fell as the story ebbed and flowed between hope and fear. It was quite an emotional experience. We ended this invitation by all singing ‘The Rose’, which I felt brought us all together and was a nice way of closing the session.
Next, we were hurriedly rushed out of the meditation room and made to queue and wait quietly for a tube train on the stairs with grumpy staff shouting orders. Ads were stuck to the wall opposite us on the stairs telling us to buy these pants that would make us skinny, and other ones like that, it was really funny and exciting. Then when finally four of us got onto the ‘tube’, which was a small hot press with hanging handles, we were asked to share a story about nature. We were all close to each other in proximity, it felt intimate. When we arrived at our ‘station’, we exited onto the landing and we were asked via a page on the wall ‘what would we do differently on public transport in future?’. I wrote on a post-it I would smile and say hello. We were then invited to wait on the balcony of the library in silence. I perused the books and found the title- ‘The expanding nature of time and space’ or something like that which I used to demonstrate the metaphor that came to mind for me in this invitation of time and space feeling suddenly both long and short.
The fourth invitation brought us out to another craft/making place on the grounds of the college. We huddled together outside as they introduced us into their invitation. Inside there was a polaroid camera and an invitation to create business cards, a table to write letters of thanks to our parents/water/nature, a mirror to peer in and wonder what our five year old self would be proud of us for and on the table were pictures of animals and fish which we were invited to embody and ask a question of humans and then offer the human response giving varying perspectives on our changing planet. Outside on the tree, we hung our responses to our five year old selves and in the phone box nearby we stuck up our business cards. Each of these activities asked us to take another perspective on how we are living our lives and the world around us, looking at it anew.
The fifth invitation asked us to stand in a circle, share an intention then throw a ball of string across to another person creating a web of intentions and connections. This simple yet vulnerable act showed the complexity and variety of our connections. In the end, we tried to wind it all up bit by bit but that became an act of negotiation again highlighting those hoops we jump through, tightropes we walk on and trip lines we navigate to work together.
When it came to my group, I met the rest of the course group in the foyer after dinner with a lantern. The lights were then switched off and a loud knock followed, Tom (who was in my group) was at the door in a heavy dark cape with a lantern. I then began to say, ‘On this cold dark night with little transport, someone is here to lead us through the heavy snow and light our way. We have a song to sing to ease our journey, it goes- Step, step, step your feet gently through the snow. Merrily, merrily, merrily, Life is all aglow.’ This was to the tune of ‘Row your boat’, the children’s rhyme. I sang this behind the troupe of people as they were led to the chicken shed, by the time we arrived they were singing loudly and stamping their feet as they entered the chicken shed. They were then introduced into the room by Jenny who invited them to take part in all the activities we had laid out. We had two chairs by the fire where people were invited to tell a story about the weather, a table with tea and biscuits laid out in a little corner kitchen with an invitation to share a story about shelter, in the middle at the back wall there were questions- ‘What are your hopes for the future? What are your fears for the future?’ And markers to answer. To the right corner of the room, there was a laptop that had a live tracking of the weather movements across the world and a balancing game as well as that day’s Guardian newspaper which had a headline about climate change and the weather we were experiencing. Below that, there was a table with chains of cut out paper men, people were invited to colour one man then pass it on. At first, there was a little hesitation but quickly people settled into place and began to engage in the activities. I tried to make sure everyone felt comfortable and considered and offered tea around. The response we received in the feedback session was very touching. Words like heart, hearth, held, warmth, magic and dream-like were used. Some said it felt very magical singing through the snow and then entering this warm and caring space. I felt really proud of us. For me, it highlighted my desire to create these kinds of comforting, caring spaces for people in which they can explore difficult subject matters.
That night, we had a soirée in the college. There were some wine and lots of dancing and chatting. It was great fun and a brilliant end to what had been a revealing day full of achievements.
Day 5 (Friday)
The last day was a strange one full of excitement and more than some worry. We had realised towards the end of the week that the snow had us helmed in, the roads were full of heavy snow and were too dangerous to travel. We had all been due to leave Friday afternoon but this was scuppering all our plans. I had a flight booked for that evening but Thursday night I discovered it was cancelled.
For a time, we put all that aside to close the course. Based on our needs and expectations for the course, which they had drawn up on a board, they asked us to feedback what we had learned and gained from the course and stick them up. Then Ruth, Lucy and Anne Marie generously shared with us their ‘Story of Change’. This was drawn up on another board, beginning on the right it started with ‘Vision’, next was ‘The Difference We Make’, then ‘Our Programme of Activities (what we do)’ and last was ‘Resources we invest’. Their vision was “A creative connected world in which all can learn to flourish, living together within the earth’s ecological limits.” They explained how they worked from there to find ‘The Difference We Make’, then found the activities they do to create this impact and finally the resources they invest to create the activities, that create the change, that realise the vision.
Ruth, Lucy and Anne-Marie gave us the opportunity to ask any lingering questions we had from the week or of something the course hadn’t covered. One thing that had been at the edge of my mind was finances and funding. It was great to talk about the magic of beautiful projects but how do we begin to fund them and how do we support ourselves financially. Ruth discussed how she had set up Encounters as an organisation that could hold the financial and administrative aspects of her projects, which she could be paid from. They talked about some of the different forms of funding that is out there like commissions and call outs. They then discussed the Three Horizons; the 1st Horizon Lucy described as the status quo, the way things are now. With regards to funding, this would be standard Arts Council funding for example. The 2nd Horizon is innovation, thinking up dynamic new ideas, like imaginative ways to find funding and resources. The 3rd Horizon is seeing things in new ways, doing things in new ways that then become the norm, creating a shift in language and/or actions. For more information on the Three Horizons please follow this link. It’s a fascinating way of thinking through identified issues.
Other notes I have from that discussion I have are; balance paid income and unpaid work. Make partnerships with organisations and other practitioners. Shift and change- adapt to your circumstances. And a note of warning; you can’t be more ambitious than the partner that is paying you which can be a difficult balance. Find one or two other collaborators that you work well with, that you trust and that match you creatively. If you put an idea out into the world, to other possible collaborators, and get no response maybe rethink the idea. Call and response is a good way to test ideas. Be inventive, search for potential. Think of a clear way to speak about your practice, think about how you hold space. Make space for the emotional part of projects. Give heart its place. Heart goes into a lot of what we do.
After finishing this discussion, we then stood in a circle and were invited to think back over the last few days from when we began the course to where we are now. What can we harvest from this week? We then stood silently acknowledging what we had gained, what we were taking with us. Then we went and wrote them down. What I wrote was:
- Knowledge, skills and methodologies of facilitation and creating projects
- Lucy’s book, 'Playing For Time'
- Better knowledge of myself
- A feeling of love and compassion
- A want to care and hold
- A connection with the earth, with nature
- My invitation to myself to fly
- My confidence
- A link to all the people in this room- this network of beautiful people.
Finally, a representative from Schumacher joined us in a seated circle and we each offered what we were grateful for. It felt like we were ending with a feeling of close connection and care for each other, it was a beautiful moment.
Schumacher generously offered us another night’s accommodation considering the travel issues that we were facing. I was delighted to get to spend more time in this magical place. I had rescheduled my flight but the earliest I could get was Sunday. I happily spent another full day there going for a lovely walk through the woods and snow to a pub with some of the volunteers that I met on Saturday morning. I was grateful for the opportunity to stay and slowly unravel myself from the blanket of Schumacher College. It is a cosy blanket that wraps you up and keeps you safe, it is hard to leave. But leave I did, eventually. I have tried to keep the feeling of that place with me and to bring all the learning I gained into my everyday practice.
Thank you so much to Ruth, Lucy and Anne-Marie and Schumacher College for a beautiful and magical experience that I will never forget.