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So far onfuze has created 17 blog entries.

Creativity and international peace day

I don’t mind Trump, apart from the racism.

I don’t know.

I don’t have any ideas.

It’s 2017. Grenfell shouldn’t have happened.

Culture changes a city.

My anxiety levels shoot up when I travel into town.

When bad things happen, good things can come out of it.

These were some of the thoughts and comments coming out of my workshop this week. Urban Stories is a project asking a group of young people to conceive and develop ideas for an interdisciplinary exhibit of their ideal town.

I stopped myself earlier in the week rushing in with armfuls of motivational quotes and poetry. This was in truth simply because it was late in the evening, my printer was about to run out of ink and my toddler son has stopped sleeping through the night. I was running on empty.

I justified it to myself that it was actually more important that I understood what they valued and what excited them anyway. I was asking them to conceive a city – which when broken down is a complex myriad of issues around politics, aesthetics, culture, transport, law and order. Where to start as the world is today?

I decided they could it without all my resources.

Travelling to the session, I had tried to go a quicker route and failed. So I was stuck on the bus. I started checking emails and whatsapp. In the ongoing attempt to be less stressed and break my reliance on technology I hid my phone and stuck my nose to the window and looked at their town.

I became calm.

In my calmness, I opened the session asking them for their name and something they valued about their day. I was a bit disheartened that most valued that they’d been able to complete their maths test, or their course work or some form of work. . . I’m not sure what I was hoping for but its perhaps a stark reminder of the pressures young people (and their schools) are under at the moment.

After some games and play, we settled down to develop some ideas for the project. I pulled out the things my printer had managed to spit out. I found myself reminding them not just to perform the quotes that they liked. It was meant to be a springboard to their own ideas…

As groups formed and began to tackle the seemingly simple but complex task of conceiving the narrative of their own city, I was reminded of a number of things. . .

A wise woman (who is not me) defined our work to be like building a house. I design the frame and I ask a bunch of people to come in and furnish it for me. The only thing is that non of us really know what colour we want the rooms to be. So we’re busy trying to form an idea of what it might be. An idea is as Stephen King apparently once said, like having a team of removal men bringing in and taking out furniture in your brain…. There’s a group of us all trying to move at the same time and learning to understand each other more.

So in this complex process, I sat with one group who said they didn’t have any ideas. I wondered if I’d pitched this all wrong. I also though maybe they are wary because they don’t feel as politically charge as others. Now as I sit and write about it, I wonder if maybe given the most valuable bit of their day was about work, what their brains needed was to relax, get a pizza and watch Eastenders (I learnt they liked this in the first game, the pizza I’m adding for effect). Anyway, we talked about where they live, what they liked and what they didn’t. With more conversation, questioning and probing within minutes we were talking about aesthetics of buildings, mindfulness and feelings of stress in being in a crowd.

Another group made work about Grenfell and the terroist attacks. The group of boys that either play the clowns or lie on the floor because they were tired spoke about the value of something good coming out of bad. They had images in their mind of tower blocks rebuilding and words forming. I was a little humbled by their sincerity and how I’d wrongly assumed they would do something funny.

The third group opted for devising around the shared values that keep our humanity. Equality, anti racism  … they decided that it would be a piece about people, as it was people who make the city, despite our apparent facelessness to each other, it’s our values that bind us together.

We all arrived somewhere together by the end of the session. Our house if you like had some swatches of paint on the walls.

There was detail to the idea now. The city would be made in three sections. Aesthetics  & culture, the shared values of humanity and the hope that can come from tragedy would intersect and become one place to be.

This is why creativity matters. 

It’s not a straightforward process, you can’t measure it in whether you get a certain number of questions right in a test. It’s subjective and intrinsically in the bones of people. Whether they are making great theatre or cooking something so their child learns to eat. It’s the platform to be given a voice to your feelings. An opportunity to allow 14 year olds to tackle complex issues where they move from discussing Grenfell to touching on forming views about housing policy & their right to vote. It’s that journey from saying you don’t have an idea to end up identifying that you could build a city that actively encouraged people to stop and take a breathe to reduce anxiety.

I had a little note to myself that I would blog about International Peace Day today. I’m not sure what I intended to write. It’s been a week where off the top of my head there is a report on the rapid decline in the take up of arts subjects, our government continues to fall apart over Brexit and climate change is being denied by a very large country torn up by hurricanes …  I’ve never been more convinced of the importance and power of both the everyday and extraordinary acts of creativity to make a positive contribution to the way we can all make our small difference. Maybe then we’ll at least point towards the vision these lovely young people have for what the world could be.

Louise

By |September 21st, 2017|

Bouncing Forward

“You gotta make decisions. You gotta keep making decisions, even if they’re wrong decisions. If you don’t make decisions, you’re stuffed.” – Joe Simpson, in Touching The Void, talking about his decision to lower himself deeper into the crevasse he has fallen into, alone, with a broken leg, in the Peruvian Andes.  3 Jul 2011

At some point in all of our lives, we face adversity. Things we had taken to be guarantees(our parents, our health, our sense of safety) fall through and we are left with the frightening realities of living. Living is dangerous. Living sometimes is uncertain. And the question we must ask ourselves is: what do we need to do in order to continue and thrive anyway?

This was the question that emerged for me as I started writing about intelligence and creativity. These two factors seem to be the key components for surviving in a world that can be both violent and mercurial.  Creativity – defined by Ken Robinson as the ability to generate dynamic, original ideas that add value – enables us to engage in convergent thinking, to brainstorm, in other words, all of our options. Intelligence – the ability to adapt our methods in order to change the outcome – allows us to analyse and make the right decisions. A further aspect that I believe makes a difference is grit.

Grit – described by psychologist Angela Duckworth – is the ability to sustain interest in and effort towards long term goals. It includes personal attributes like resilience, self esteem and self-discipline and has discernible outcomes including higher IQ scores and greater mental wellbeing.

Adverse circumstances

Personally, I believe we are in confusing times for all three of these skills. Despite being innate to all of us, I think creativity is a vastly misunderstood quality, too often confused with fame and imitation. If we define creativity as the ability to make new ideas, it’s ironic that so much of the “creativity” that we see is referential – someone singing the songs that were written for someone else. I believe that true creativity bears no relationship to its bejewelled media cousins. It has a quiet nature, it is an individual, authentic voice gaining strength, it is the process of developing a fresh point of view. In a world of endless snapchat photographs, creativity is the first Man Ray.

Intelligence faces equal difficulty. Our society has developed such a narrow perception of intelligence that one may think our job was “to create university professors and nothing more” (Ken Robinson) and in his research, Graham Donaldson noted the constant pressures facing schools so that their job has been about “implementing external procedures faithfully” instead of creating environments that encourage curiosity and nurture diverse talents.

The implications for “grit” in these circumstances are equally concerning. As Einstein wrote, “if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” In the same way, if we look at students with diverse talents as stupid (which our Education system does) then how long until they begin to incorporate that experience with their own self perception? How much resilience does it take to continue when your time at school teaches you that you that you can’t. Shame researcher Brene Brown says that 80% of students quit a subject because of a humiliating experience when working with it. The implications for disaffection and wellbeing in learners are wide ranging.

How to thrive

This is not to say that all is lost – quite the reverse. There are many factors that help us develop these skills and these include great relationships – with our family, our friends and ourselves – our sense of gratitude, and what we grow up around. It includes those great parents and teachers out there who inspire us with encouraging environments even in constrained times. It also includes our own attitudes and choices – to embrace our passions and pay attention to our interests, to get up each day and say “not today Satan, not today!”

This is to say that Bounce stands for these children and their futures and it is always recruiting. We’re part of a movement that recognises the importance of grit, intelligence and creativity and we understand that if we want individuals to have them; we have to give them the skills.

Donaldson describes it as the ability to “identify and grasp opportunities, reframe and creatively frame problems”. The Reggio Emilia describes it as “experiential learning in a relationship driven environment.” Personally, I describe it as wholehearted learning: being curious, playful and resilient in a world that is home to both ferocious storms and ferocious passions. And that one, in fact, provides the context for the other.

If you are interested in contributing to our work, following the journey of the research or receiving  resources emerging from the projects please do contact us.

Amber

By |September 20th, 2017|

Components of learning – grit,creativity and intelligence

“You gotta make decisions. You gotta keep making decisions, even if they’re wrong decisions. If you don’t make decisions, you’re stuffed.” – Joe Simpson, in Touching The Void, talking about his decision to lower himself deeper into the crevasse he has fallen into, alone, with a broken leg, in the Peruvian Andes.  3 Jul 2011

At some point in all of our lives, we face adversity. Things we had taken to be guarantees(our parents, our health, our sense of safety) fall through and we are left with the frightening realities of living. Living is dangerous. Living sometimes is uncertain. And the question we must ask ourselves is: what do we need to do in order to continue and thrive anyway?

This was the question that emerged for me as I started writing about intelligence and creativity. These two factors seem to be the key components for surviving in a world that can be both violent and mercurial.  Creativity – defined by Ken Robinson as the ability to generate dynamic, original ideas that add value – enables us to engage in convergent thinking, to brainstorm, in other words, all of our options. Intelligence – the ability to adapt our methods in order to change the outcome – allows us to analyse and make the right decisions. A further aspect that I believe makes a difference is grit.

Grit – described by psychologist Angela Duckworth – is the ability to sustain interest in and effort towards long term goals. It includes personal attributes like resilience, self esteem and self-discipline and has discernible outcomes including higher IQ scores and greater mental wellbeing.

Adverse circumstances

Personally, I believe we are in confusing times for all three of these skills. Despite being innate to all of us, I think creativity is a vastly misunderstood quality, too often confused with fame and imitation. If we define creativity as the ability to make new ideas, it’s ironic that so much of the “creativity” that we see is referential – someone singing the songs that were written for someone else. I believe that true creativity bears no relationship to its bejewelled media cousins. It has a quiet nature, it is an individual, authentic voice gaining strength, it is the process of developing a fresh point of view. In a world of endless snapchat photographs, creativity is the first Man Ray.

Intelligence faces equal difficulty. Our society has developed such a narrow perception of intelligence that one may think our job was “to create university professors and nothing more” (Ken Robinson) and in his research, Graham Donaldson noted the constant pressures facing schools so that their job has been about “implementing external procedures faithfully” instead of creating environments that encourage curiosity and nurture diverse talents.

The implications for “grit” in these circumstances are equally concerning. As Einstein wrote, “if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” In the same way, if we look at students with diverse talents as stupid (which our Education system does) then how long until they begin to incorporate that experience with their own self perception? How much resilience does it take to continue when your time at school teaches you that you that you can’t. Shame researcher Brene Brown says that 80% of students quit a subject because of a humiliating experience when working with it. The implications for disaffection and wellbeing in learners are wide ranging.

How to thrive

This is not to say that all is lost – quite the reverse. There are many factors that help us develop these skills and these include great relationships – with our family, our friends and ourselves – our sense of gratitude, and what we grow up around. It includes those great parents and teachers out there who inspire us with encouraging environments even in constrained times. It also includes our own attitudes and choices – to embrace our passions and pay attention to our interests, to get up each day and say “not today Satan, not today!”

This is to say that Bounce stands for these children and their futures and it is always recruiting. We’re part of a movement that recognises the importance of grit, intelligence and creativity and we understand that if we want individuals to have them; we have to give them the skills.

Donaldson describes it as the ability to “identify and grasp opportunities, reframe and creatively frame problems”. The Reggio Emilia describes it as “experiential learning in a relationship driven environment.” Personally, I describe it as wholehearted learning: being curious, playful and resilient in a world that is home to both ferocious storms and ferocious passions. And that one, in fact, provides the context for the other.

If you are interested in contributing to our work, following the journey of the research or receiving  resources emerging from the projects please do contact us.

Amber

By |September 14th, 2017|

Components of learning – curiosity and trust

Listening to a program entitled “Science’s great blunders” recently, I was hugely inspired by closing words of the presenter. He said that, in our society, we fear being wrong so greatly that we have created a society of people where we are afraid to be curious. “Getting it wrong” is so synonymous with shame and ridicule, that it’s far better to hide curiosity away like a dirty secret.

Consider for example, the way that learning behaviour changes in children when they are toddlers to when they are teenagers. Teenagers are often slow to give a response in class – there’s no stopping the toddlers!

What is surprising about this trend is that it is our nature as human beings to explore – our evolution relies upon it. We invent, we question, we investigate; and from this investigation our ability to live grows. Consider Edison, who famously “found 99 ways to not make a light bulb” before he changed the world. This is the joy of curiosity.

The Learning Process

To me, the learning process essentially starts with that curiosity, on the parts of both learner and teacher. There must be curiosity about the world around them, a willingness to reflect and change their minds (children are often better at this than adults), and trustthat they will each be valued by the other along the way.

The process itself really takes the same form as one of those science experiments we did at school – we notice things, we try to explain them, we test out the idea and then reflect on the results to see if we were right, wrong or inconclusive. Of course, usually the results show more than we bargained for and that leads onto the next experiment…and then the next…

I say the experiments that we did at school. This is actually exactly what naturalist playwrights Ibsen and Zola were doing back at the turn of the Century. – taking a situation, introducing a new idea and watching characters unravel…and watching what the audience makes of it.

Artists and Educators, Bounce and Learning

I think the most exciting thing about Bounce is that it is working towards a model of learning that explores without the constraints of regular, formalized education. This means that, as a company, we are free to consider all the issues that are relevant to the people we work with and base our work solely upon them. The emphasis we have placed on a nurturing environment intrinsically means we build trust with the people we work with and we are far better placed to be willing to change our thinking. Yet, as Spiderman learned, “with great power, comes great responsibility”. If we are going to make a valuable contribution long term, it feels essential that we reflect carefully on our projects , making sure we share ideas and agree findingsbefore again becoming curious. Because it would be a terrible tradgedy, wouldn’t it, if we made startling discoveries that slipped through our fingers?

Amber

By |September 11th, 2017|

Birthday Planning

I love birthdays. I love the cake and the candles and the celebration of each year as it passes. I have wonderful memories of special presents that were bought for me on my “special day” in the past, as well as those I selected, carefully and thoughtfully, for my loved ones. I have happy memories of watching people on their birthdays and how special it felt to know that others were celebrating your being on the planet for another year.

I love birthdays. Yet, with every one that passes, I find myself haunted with questions like:

How did I spend the time this year ?

Was it a good year?

What did I do this year?

What do I regret from this year?

And the big question:

What should I do about all that next year?

Part of me thinks it’s a morbid practice – a way to create worries on a day of celebration. I answer myself with the fact that I want to live without regrets as far as is possible and no matter what life hands me, I feel determined to hand death back nothing but the “burned out castle” of a future. when the day comes, I want to have achieved and experienced all that I wanted to and central to that is being vigilant about my time. Another year has gone. Was it wisely spent?

Bounce Theatre turns eleven this year. As it moves towards its birthday, we have found ourselves asking similar questions. What has it achieved? How do we know? Is it all we hoped it would be at its original inception? And crucially: What do we want it to achieve in the future?These questions have many encouraging answers. There are testimonials from both artists and participants that evidence a body of work that changed lives, supported creative expansion and brought communities together. Students with complex needs have gone on to win awards, Bounce has expanded across several boroughs and it has gained a number of prestigious partners including both The Saatchi Gallery and the V&A. In many ways, Bounce has surpassed its original vision – a theatre that helps people. And yet it seems there is more to be done.

There is more to be done because Bounce is a company that was made in response to evolution – we learn, we Bounce back, we grow forward.It is a company that helps people but what does it do? How we measure it in a way that is empirical and can be shown? And crucially What needs should it be serving?

The following series of blogs forms a loose narrative of Bounce’s adventures in researching some of these questions. We’re finding out exactly what we all need to survive, and looking at some of the ways that Bounce can answer those needs better. The hope is that over time, our work will form a real basis for meaningful transformation and that, when Bounce is 12, the best gift we have will be change.

By |September 10th, 2017|

Valuing Creativity

One of my earliest creative memories was being given and easel and paints by my grandparents. I must have been around 5 years old.

I set my self up in front of the window of my bedroom in order to get the best light for my masterpieces (yes, plural)

After thoroughly researching how many different ways I could turn the page brown I moved on to expressing my artistic flare on the walls.  Surprisingly, my parents did not champion this area of my work as I thought they might. It did however,  give them a much needed reason to strip that 1970’s wall paper ( you’re welcome parents ;)

No dessert for a week aside, one the strongest feeling I have of that time is contentment. Pottering along, exploring my creativity in a safe space may have seemed such a simple pastime, but looking back I see the value it had and continues to have everyday.

Perhaps then, it’s not such a shocker, (yet still to me is still amazing) that fast forward 25 years I’m part of a team that gets to explore and share creativity for a living. When one hears the name Bounce Theatre its easy to jump to the conclusion that our work happens solely on the stage, but as a company we are learning that there is so much more to be found below the depths of theatre and performance. The participants of our Creative Clubs are a prime examples of this, bringing their own interests and skills and helping to evolve our practise far beyond the proscenium arch.

This is not to say however, that we have abandoned the notion of performance, we can still create drama with playful costumes and crazy puppets. We can still transform ourselves into race cars or birds with beautiful wings. We can make films and paint portraits, we can dance and sing and build forests using only our imagination and plastic bags. But there is more. We can look further into what it is to be creative, what we as individuals bring to the table and begin to recognise the value of our contribution as a single act and or part of something much bigger.

Our creativity doesn’t need to be formulaic, we can write letters or bake cakes, we can knit and garden and stand on chairs chanting or run as fast as our legs will carry us. We can distribute random acts of kindness or transform a space and meditate.  We can be noisy. We can be quiet. We can talk about the big stuff and the small, and then we can ask important questions like ‘How are you today?”. We can listen, not only to each other, but to ourselves.

Sometimes we make work that is put in a frame, onto a stage and is admired by our teachers or family and friends. Other times, we take what we’ve done back into our minds and hang it in our on Wall of Fame, in-between the 70’s wall paper and the 100 shades of brown.

Rachel

By |September 9th, 2017|

Creativity Matters

2016 was the year Bounce turned 10 and the year I became a mum. I spent most of the year covered in milk or carrot stained handprints. I mothered my little boy through a life threatening illness. I didn’t run any projects. It was a year where I didn’t sleep, the world seemed to splinter into division and a lot of famous people died…

Not cheery but certainly thought provoking. It was the first year that I didn’t go out and deliver projects. I did have a lot of time to reflect on what it meant for Bounce to turn 10. It has been my life since I founded it around the kitchen table with couple of friends.

Over the years,  we’ve often felt on the fringes of the theatre world. You get given a lot of labels ‘community’ ‘participatory’, ‘amateur’ and you say you work with ‘hard to reach’, ‘disengaged’ and ‘vulnerable’.

You try and digest them and often you don’t really enjoy wearing them. Sometimes they are infuriating because you actually can make great art…but it’s in a disused theatre in a borough which was under national levels of engagement in the arts. So you either give up because you can’t get an audience or you carry on. You carry on because the 25 bolshy teenagers that drive you mad cry when you said you might leave the space.

I recently read a report from Kings College about cultural policy, cultural democracy and everyday creativity. It was for me quite exciting, as it’s the first time, I’ve thought ‘that’s what we do’.

It’s really simple (the report wasn’t).

We work with people.

As a team we all felt excited by it.

We work with people in their own spaces and create the platform for them to engage in being creative. Often its their choice whether that means making theatre or it means painting the community room. That’s why alongside me, we have a Creative Learning Director to develop our understanding of the different ways we learn creatively.

The ideas is crystallised in two of our Autumn projects. Urban Stories will see 165 children and young people imagine a city and build an interdisciplinary installation. In Creative Spaces a group of mums are upcycling a disused space for creative pops ups for families. One will end up in the Saatchi gallery and one will bring military and civilian families together. Both equally and important contributions to  well-being, learning, culture and to vibrant communities.

In the context of 2016 it seems ever more so more important to recognise the potential of culture outside of established theatre buildings.  Creativity Matters as a programme is intrinsically our feelings about the world, our politics and our thoughts on education and learning. It’s about recognising our capacity to make work that stops wearing labels and simply focuses on people & the need we all have to look after ourselves in order to look after the little bit of the world we all have a responsibility for.

Worthy? A little. I’ve stopped worrying. It’ll be an epic amount of fun and it will combine digital celebrations, with pop up events, informal performance and some theatre making. We’re excited about it. We’re excited about the evolution of Bounce into it’s 11 birthday as it crosses into new boroughs and engages with 900 young people every week from now till Christmas.

We’ll be documenting our process and our learning on the way. We hope that you will take a look in every now and again and see what we’re doing.

Louise

By |September 6th, 2017|