Earlyarts International UnConference

Liz writes “On a very bleak and wet Monday afternoon, I travelled up north from Cheshire to Halifax, in preparation for the Earlyarts International UnConference.  I must admit to being rather choosy about where I lay my head, and was thrilled with my choice to stay in a rambling guest house five minutes outside Halifax.”

Following a great night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast, I made my way to the Eureka Children’s Museum in Halifax. I began the day setting up my stall – a selection of puppets and props, marketing and an evaluation from the research and development phase of IMAGINARY LEAPS.  I then went to empty the car ready for my first ever workshop at an Early Arts conference on behalf of IMAGINARY LEAPS .

I felt a little nervous – it had been arranged for Rachel to link up with me to deliver the session, and I always worry about technicals!  However, I felt really positive about the whole event – particularly as I had just run into Tash from Tell Tale Hearts, and knew that Emma Killick from Tutti Fruitti was at the event.  I met these two lovely ladies earlier in the year from the Early Arts Dandelion/Small Size project that ‘Imaginary Leaps’ was involved with and spent a wonderful time in Austria with them and Lizzy Allen from Freehand.  So, I knew I was in good company!

I delivered A WALK IN THE WOODS based on the well loved story of Hansel & Gretel.  The workshop is still in development and I was keen to share my practice with delegates but also to explore how to improve the session and be inspired  from the more experienced in the room.  Ah, the technicals – we did have a slight wobbly section during the session, when we kept losing Rachel, but overall it was a great success! The delegates got stuck in immediately and began making Hansel & Gretel’s magical woods ready for me to tell the story using soft puppets.  We discussed how to continue the through line of the story and all agreed that it would also be interesting for children to create their own Hansel & Gretel & tell the story themselves.  A much longer workshop I think, potentialy also with older children, but well worth developing. 

Tell Tale Heart’s new show FROM HERE TO THERE performed during the afternoon to a very warm audience including a couple of rows of little ones.  The play was very simple but effective.  it was inspired by Tash’s involvement in The Dandelion Project – BRIDGES. A multitude of different sized boxes became a multitude of different things, from a bridge to a whole city, from a speeding car to life in the countryside. I loved it and so did the children who were left with boxes and cardboard tubes to play with whilst Tash gave a short talk about the process of FROM HERE TO THERE.

I had my turn to attend a workshop in the afternoon, so chose Blah Blah Blah’s workshop based on WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE.  Again, simplicity was the order of the day here, with Max (central character from the story)  played by Artistic Director of Blah Blah Blah Anthony. Using simple storytelling techniques including a paper boat and ourselves, Anthony led us on a magical journey where we met several characters in the story including THE WILD THINGS.  We transformed ourselves into the characters and began to get into the shoes of Max by putting on his imaginary wild suit and I also thoroughly enjoyed working in a small group to create a vast wild thing. We discussed the possibility of children taking off their wild suits in a classroom situation and it certainly gave me food for thought.  It is a beautiful anger management  technique and a way of helping a child to recognise when its behaviour is inappropriate.

It was a great day that I enjoyed immensely.  The International UnConference was fun and inspiring with people coming together to share practice, ideas, worries and concerns –  I felt a sense of shared ownership of the network and left with a positive feeling that the recession will not dampen nor hinder the work within Early Arts.

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