It’s been a while…

It’s been a while…


It’s been a while since my last blog.

We’re closing in on the end of term and I’m not sure what to write about. We’re midway through all our projects.

So here’s some thoughts about the beginning…

As part of our ongoing work around the value of care, we’ve invested in clinical supervision from Wellbeing in the Arts. I am not really sure what I expected from this. However, what I have received has definitely been better than what I expected. Every month we have digital supervision with a trained mental health professional. This is an opportunity to reflect on the natural challenges that present themselves in work. In our last session we ended up talking about ourselves a lot. I had always thought about how I end sessions, but never really how I begin them. As in – how do I begin them? Quite often I begin them after a sleepless night with a four-year-old and its three cups of coffee when I switch on. Since our last session I have taken to carrying headphones around with me as much as possible. I listen to music on the way to a session, I find it a nice way to relax and occasionally have sung and danced my way to a workshop.

It has also made me appreciate how we all begin sessions. Whether we are coming from a place of sleep deprivation or in the case of some of the children and young people, a day full of learning concepts and facts that makes their brains ache. How we start and create a space where we are ready to regroup matters. One of our groups is supported by a mental health charity. As such we’ve been able to invest in providing snacks, blankets, and materials to start the session by tapping into the children’s senses to bring them into the space. We’ve also given them ownership of a visual timetable to give time for the loud and time for the quiet. They have a mix of opportunities to choose drama and art throughout.

In another one of our sessions this term, I decided to set up a drawing space for two children who didn’t want to act (for valid reasons). I was given some very good advice about whether this was inclusive or not. Along with which were a list of things I could do to be more inclusive – movement breaks, signs, rules, choices etc. All very valid concepts, which stuck with me for a while. It made me question my choices. Was I choosing exclusion thinking I was flying the flag of inclusion? Was I creating in an inequitable space?

In the end, I decided to look at it with the intention that making art is a vehicle for communicating your thoughts and feelings. The interaction I had with the child about how, what, and why they would draw was more in-depth and authentic than if I had tried to make performance the goal. Now, they join in games with everyone and then they go to draw. It works beautifully. Often, when the other children have performed, they will stand up and share their drawing and get the same round of applause. Sometimes they come back to act. The other children don’t bat an eyelid – we have a shared goal of making performance happen and in it all forms of expression are valid. It has given the other children a chance to vocalise their own worries about performing- things are now being drawn, danced, mimed, and acted out. Instead of making a script, we are making a scrapbook – a blend of pictures, words, drawings and signs that help us record our work.

Another project this term has been inspired by enquiry-based learning and some work we did with an IB educator. Using a selection of artefacts and props, children were invited to think about what they know, think, and wonder about them. From this, they could ask questions, share ideas, imagine, have time to be wrong and time to be right. In the end the stories and ideas were converted into an art piece. The final line up of work presents a more imaginative and authentic timeline of 80 years than we’d have achieved simply by teaching them facts about the decades. There was some questioning from the school about our learning objectives. Over time that dissipated, when I explained the proposition, a senior teacher told me it was the way teaching used to be – when we trusted children and teachers.

This week, I was fortunate to attend training for Speech Bubbles and their new CPD programme. ‘Communication components’ was a phrase given to the methodology and practice of how to choose games in Speech Bubbles to encourage communication. I was instantly involved with it – as a mother and a practitioner. When I started going to speech therapy with my son, we were introduced to the Language Pyramid. Initially I embraced it and I still see the baseline for communication is in shared focus and joint attention. However, I had never really thought about the concept of a pyramid suggesting there was a linear route to progression. It is only as my son matures and acquires different tools for communication that I see how much of what he does can be ignored because it doesn’t fit in the pyramid. It’s tiring to argue back. When I think of work, everyone can picture a child that is loud but unable to focus. The child who has expressive language but is too quiet to share an idea. How do you fit them into a system which measures success on the ability to absorb facts to pass exams? Another reason why we might acknowledge that teaching must be exhausting, particularly when they pick up the children who have been able to have very little intervention on the NHS due to the pandemic, Covid, and public services cut to its core.

As I end my first term of Speech Bubbles, I am reminded of the power of the arts to nurture and value the whole child. We find structure within the structure of our sessions to really recognise the unique makeup of each of our groups. Some sessions are all about turn taking. Others have been about ensuring there are opportunities for verbal and non-verbal communication – all of which is inspired by the children’s own unfiltered, authentic voice.

I’m about to read A New Direction’s Arts in Schools Report – Foundations for the Future. I already can guess I’ll agree with it. It’s not just because I like making art, I often forget to consider myself as an artist to be honest. After the traumas of the pandemic and the struggles of a cost of living crisis, we need to regroup ourselves. The pressures of living in a world that is connected 24/7 affects our ability to communicate with ourselves, with others, and the wider world and it’s going to be the core tool needed to ensure we build a more equitable future.


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My child is 7 and is already worried about being wrong

My child is 7 and is already worried about being wrong


Tonight I told my 7 year old it was bedtime and he had one more day left before he returned to school. He sighed. I asked him what was wrong. Wasn’t he looking forward to seeing his friends? He said yes, but he was a bit tired of all the learning. We then had a conversation about tests and all the tests he was doing. He ended up telling me he felt a bit overwhelmed and anxious. I congratulated him on his impressive vocabulary. We had a lovely conversation about the fact that tests weren’t his teacher’s fault, they were policy, and he could add it onto his list of things he’d like to write to Rishi Sunak about (poverty, proper pay, and stuff for schools is on it so far.). We agreed that tests were hard and it was fine to be anxious. We also agreed that keeping your worries to yourself was not. He went to sleep with an action plan – to tell Mummy if he was worried and needed a chat/cuddle. To tell Daddy if he needed a joke and a wrestle.

Just before half term I was midway through a Speech Bubbles session. One little girl refused to join in an activity. I found out afterwards she’d been having a bad day. Her partner stood with her and told her, “it was ok, Speech Bubbles was a place to be happy.” At the time, I assessed that exchange as a celebration of the layers of communication it took – to read body language / emotion / listen / reassure. Tonight, I hear it again in my head about the weight of the word “be happy.”

I have also taken a group to task in an after school project about why they go so wild in our sessions and that we had all started to dread them. One said it was because school was so strict and intense. They were letting off steam because we were less strict. They also come to sessions and cry at a drop of a hat, or walk out and shut themselves in the toilet. Fortunately for us, we have time and space for those emotions. We aren’t under the pressure teachers are to jump through hoops – like make sure 7 year olds can join up handwriting, identify suffixes and prefixes and multiplications.

This is one reason why I think children cherish the arts and sports. They are an alternative form of intelligence that unfortunately don’t have the same value placed on them. Our slightly wild group actually became unified after 15 minutes of talking about feelings, behaviour, and identifying a structure to the session that recognised their need to decompress from school with their desire to act.

In 2006, Ken Robinson gave a TED talk “Do schools kill creativity?” He proposed we are educating people out of their creativity. When I listened to my own son tonight, I couldn’t help but agree. I also come to appreciate why he perhaps loves football so much right now. It makes him feel happy and confident. He finds the joy on the pitch that I remember feeling at 11 when my drama teacher invited me to step into a circle and improvise.

Ken Robinson’s speech was written 17 years ago but couldn’t be more relevant. I’ll provide the links at the end, but here are some quotes that stand out to me:

“…kids will take a chance. If they don’t know, they’ll have a go. Am I right? They’re not frightened of being wrong. I don’t mean to say that being wrong is the same thing as being creative. What we do know is, if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original — if you’re not prepared to be wrong. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity.”

“Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we strip-mine the earth: for a particular commodity. And for the future, it won’t serve us. We have to rethink the fundamental principles on which we’re educating our children.”

“…only way we’ll do it is by seeing our creative capacities for the richness they are and seeing our children for the hope that they are. And our task is to educate their whole being, so they can face this future. By the way — we may not see this future, but they will. And our job is to help them make something of it.”

My child is 7 and is already worried about being wrong. He knows what it means to be overwhelmed and anxious already because he has to do a test that has no bearing on his future. He wants to be a footballer because it feels easier than learning. The children in my after school project let off steam because their minds have been overworked all day trying to meet the demands of an overstuffed curriculum. The child in Speech Bubbles identifies a space to feel happy when other things have become too much.

I would throw it out there that our education system needs a rethink…

Interestingly, The Guardian published an article about the creativity crisis in schools. The erosion of arts in schools is so sadly very true. We have seen it in our work. We have also seen it in networks – where the drama network has been dissolved into literacy – or doesn’t exist because schools don’t have it on the curriculum. The idea that it is thriving in private schools sticks in the throat a little. Can we live in a society where money buys you an education that nurtures your whole being whilst children in state schools rely on the beliefs of their leadership teams to squeeze it into a bulging set of demands, the generosity or capacity of their PTAs to fund it?

When I became a parent, I had visions of making egg box constructions and writing stories for homework. Instead, I oversee worksheets to spot the incorrect full stops, capitals, suffixes, and prefixes. The irony is that I am not even going to proofread this blog. By the time you read it, it will have been sent to Lauren who will make me sound like I have a better grasp of grammar than I actually do. [Comment from Lauren: Louise is being very hard on herself!]

Until we have a government that is bold and brave enough to rethink education, we have children under 11 already reflecting on their relationship between learning and happiness. So it is perhaps another reason to support the teachers’ strikes. When they talk about excessive workload, our children feel it too.

Childhood only happens once.


Do schools kill creativity? | Sir Ken Robinson


The Guardian view on arts education: a creativity crisis

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AI Bots and the Death of Creativity

AI Bots and the Death of Creativity


Art and literature have always been at the forefront of human creativity and self-expression. Whether it’s a painting, a poem, or a play, these forms of artistic expression have provided a window into the human experience and allowed us to explore and understand the world around us.

As arts practitioners, writers, and dramaturgs, we have a deep appreciation for the power of creativity and the role it plays in shaping our culture and society. But with the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) bots that can write plays and create art, there is a growing fear that the death of creativity is upon us.

The idea of machines creating works of art and literature is not new. For centuries, humans have been using technology to aid in the creation of art. From the printing press to the computer, technology has always played a role in the evolution of the arts. However, with the advent of AI, the stakes are higher than ever. AI bots are capable of writing plays and creating art that is indistinguishable from that created by humans. It is worth considering the potential merits and threats this technology might have for the arts industry and for young people’s exploration of creativity. This has led many to question the future of the arts and the role of humans in the creative process. Some argue that AI bots will eventually replace human artists and writers, leading to the death of creativity. After all, if machines can create works of art and literature that are just as good as, if not better than, those created by humans, then what is the point of human creativity?

The fear of the death of creativity is not unfounded. AI bots are already being used in the arts, and the results have been impressive. AI algorithms have been trained on vast datasets of existing works, allowing them to generate new works that are stylistically similar to those of human artists and writers. This has led some to argue that the future of the arts is in the hands of machines and that human creativity is no longer necessary. However, while the advancements in AI technology are impressive, it is important to remember that machines lack the human touch that is so essential to great art. AI bots may be able to mimic the style and structure of human works, but they lack the emotional depth and meaning that is the hallmark of great art. Without these elements, AI generated works may always fall short of truly great works of art and literature.

One of the most significant ethical concerns is the impact that AI technology will have on the employment of human artists and writers. If arts commissioners turn to AI generated writing and art instead of hiring human artists and writers, this will inevitably lead to a decrease in demand for human generated art and writing. This could result in a significant loss of livelihood for many artists and writers, who may find it difficult to find work in a highly competitive industry.

Another concern is that AI generated works could lead to the homogenization of art, as algorithms are trained on existing works and tend to produce outputs that are similar to what has already been created. This could stifle creativity and limit young people’s exposure to diverse perspectives and ideas.

Despite these concerns, it is worth noting that AI generated writing and artwork are still in their infancy, and there is a lot of room for growth and development. As technology continues to advance, it is likely that we will see AI generated works that are more sophisticated and nuanced, and that reflect a wider range of perspectives and experiences.

It could be argued that it is up to us as artists and writers to determine the role that AI will play in the arts industry. We can choose to embrace this technology and use it to create new works that challenge and inspire, or we can reject it and stick to traditional methods of creation. For young people, it is important to understand the power of creativity and the role it plays in shaping our culture and society. Whether they choose to use AI or not, it is essential that they continue to explore their creativity and find new and innovative ways to express themselves.

In conclusion, the death of creativity with the advent of AI bots is not inevitable. AI generated writing and artwork offer both exciting opportunities and significant challenges. As artists and writers, we must be vigilant about the ethical implications of the use of AI technology in the arts. While technology has the potential to augment human creativity, it should not be used to replace human artists and writers. Arts commissioners have a responsibility to support human artists and writers and to ensure that the arts remain a source of livelihood and creativity for all. The death of creativity with the advent of AI bots is not inevitable, but it is up to us to ensure that human creativity continues to thrive in a rapidly changing world.

~ This blog post was written by ChatGPT with questioning from Lauren