Arts Workshops (by Jennifer)

Recently we have been running some Arts Workshops at Forest Oak School, a local SEN school. We have been working with Craig Gilman (Painty) to produce these. Last week I went along to one of the workshops. This was going to be a bit of a challenge to myself, but I wanted to see what was happening and whether the pupils were interested in the project. Standing up in front of people and doing presentations or even auditioning for the X-Factor(!) I’m fine - but the thought of going into a classroom with school children and interacting with them was making me anxious. But I did what I always do when my anxiety starts, focus on my son. I always get worried when I am talking in my professional role or meeting new people because I can’t hear my voice, so I don’t know if I’m talking normally or shouting.

Once the class was ready and settled, I introduced myself and then Claire gave a presentation on the project and showed clips from some of our interviews. We used clips from John’s story and Roger’s memories of working at Middlefield. We asked the pupils what they thought and felt about the stories, and how they might have felt if they were in John or Roger’s position. The students then got the chance to be interviewers and think of some questions to ask Roger. He is going to reply to them soon!

It was really interesting to see the pupils engaging with the project and talk about it with them. Middlefield and Hampton Manor are a part of our history and I believe they should be a part of the curriculum. The people that lived in these places should always have their stories heard and never be forgotten. It was lovely to see the younger generation showing an interest and hopefully the story/history can be passed down for many generations to come. Some of the students said that they had talked about institutions at home after the workshops, learning more about the past from their family members and extending the conversation.

Claire then introduced the artist we were going to look at this week, Max Zorn. He makes art out of brown parcel tape on windows or lightboxes. Craig explained how the students could then make their own similar designs. They had the choice of drawing on the window or using smaller sheets and staying at their desk. It took a while for me to build up my confidence to approach the students. Craig had various materials with him and I was helping the students to choose some materials – the stencils were very popular! At first I was just looking around plucking the courage to choose a pupil and go and talk to them, see what their idea was and if they needed help, it took me a while but then I got into it and was fine. It was lovely talking to all the pupils and giving them encouragement in their art work. I even had a go at drawing as well on the window!

It was a really lovely afternoon and I hope to make it to another arts workshop (they are not on my normal working days). Everyone was really polite and friendly and it is a really lovely school. The students all enjoyed the workshop, and the quote of the day was “Can I take my masterpiece home?” I feel pleased that I have overcome a challenge because I want other people regardless of their disability to have confidence in themselves that they can do things, and I hope I can help and encourage to others by challenging myself and getting over the barriers.

That’s what I would like to say to the pupils: regardless of your disability just do the best that you can. I hope that I can show that they can have a job and help others (if that is their wish) for nobody should have a barrier to finding work or have a barrier feeling like they can’t do something without getting to try it first. The students have their work experience this week and they were really looking forward to it. The arts workshops have also helped contribute towards the students’ ASDAN awards.

Thank you to Forest Oak and Craig for working with us. I look forward to visiting Forest Oak again in the future. You can see the rest of the photos from the workshop below.