Monday 5th December 2011

 

Having met at National Theatre Wales office in Cardiff, we hit the road for what would prove to be a week of learning, bonding, sharing and creativity.  Arriving at Amelia Trust Farm with lots of energy, enthusiasm, we quickly got settled in before a session of games, activities and general getting to know each other.  Games were played, stories were told and secrets shared, a lovely start to what promised to be a great week.

 

The afternoon brought with it Catherine Paskell the first of our 6 facilitators/ trainers.  She delivered a workshop, which shared her journey, learning and thoughts as a Creative Associate delivering the ‘Assembly’ performances in the first year National Theatre Wales programme.  The session was insightful and very useful for the team as it painted a picture as to what to expect, but also the impact & legacy that the events can & have created.

 

After a marathon shopping spree at Morrisons and some fanatic cooking, we gathered for dinner and the second of our trainers, Fabio Santos from Project Phakama joined us.  During & after dinner there were conversations, thoughts and insight shared about things ranging from food & culture to theatre. 

 

Quote for the day

“There’s a rabbit in the moon”

Pic of the day:

 

 

Tuesday 6th Dec 2011

 

The following day started with the cockerel crowing and the farm stirring into action.  Our day started with a lovely stretch and massage warm up delivered by Sarah Mumford and Owain Roach.  Then it was over to Fabio to lead us through a packed but very useful morning of information and activities. 

 

He gave us a presentation on Project Phakama, their history and philosophy.  Then led us thorough a variety of activities ranging from focus games, singing, rhythm games & the give & gain wheel.  Following a packed but very well pitched and delivered morning Fabio left us with much food for thought and many new things to consider.

 

After a nice prolonged lunch we had our third trainer Mathilde Lopez join us.  Her session intended on giving the team a chance to understand her journey through the last 2 years as Creative Associate at National Theatre Wales creating and delivering 6 of the 12 Assembly events.  She shared visuals, stories and thoughts from her experience of the events and also the research up to the point of delivery.  Her practical exercise enabled the team to utilize technology and the spaces available within our abode to create interesting performance events.  The idea being to give us an idea of what an Assembly project might require & how easily accessible technology such as mobiles, flip cams & live feed can be used to create interactive performances.

 

The day ended with a lovely dinner cooked by Owain & Sarah, with the rest of the team playing & sharing trust exercises.  Dinner was followed by a lovely visual mediation session to send us to sleep in order to rest & ready ourselves for day 3.

 

“Are you embarrassed” – Young person at the farm on an alternative curriculum programme.

Pic of the day:

 

Wednesday 7th December 2011

 

John Fox & Sue Gill from Dead Good Guides were found wondering around the farm looking for us as we started our day with a warm up led by Angharad Evans.  Once John & Sue were set up, the group entered to enjoy the rest of the day listening, understanding and exploring the notion of spectacle, celebration, community & how scaling up work within communities need not be the arduous of tasks.

 

The session once again went from presentations & slide shows to exploring the farm & creating hypothetical celebratory events, presented back to the group.  Also this session enabled the group to work within a new space and  really understand the geography of the farm.  By the end of the day an agreed consensus of different components of community arts was reached.  Sue and John then took their leave whilst the team rested and a ‘Dragon pie’ was cooked by Angharad Evans & Keith Murrell and happily consumed by all for dinner.

 

However the eager team wanted further stimulus and activities, so games around improvising and storytelling were played.  With Abdul Shayek & Laura Jeffs taking the group through a variety of different story telling exercises culminating in a improvisation game called ‘Space Jump’.  The final activity of the day was a walk on to stage in neutral with the participant conveying no story, emotion or mood- this then led into a final discussion around whether one can do such a thing in front of an audience. 

Quote of the day:  'Tradition has to be created at some point'

Pic of the day:

 

Thursday 8th December 2011

 

Gill Dowsett from Theatr Fforwm Cymru joined us today to give us some understanding around forum theatre/ theatre of the Oppressed techniques & history.  The day mainly centered on how and what questions should be asked, techniques to instigate conversations amongst audience in relation to the performance.

 

The day although long provided a real sense of introspective thinking and taking that thinking into delivery & facilitation.  The day made the group investigate many things & analyse their practice and how to make participants willing contributors and themselves better story collectors.

 

Claire Hathway and Laura Jeffs cooked up a delicious stir-fry for all to consume, before we went on to figure out a set of shared values we felt would encompass our process and method whilst we delivered the projects.  So alongside the existing National Theatre Wales ethos of being Engaged, Innovative & International, we had the following values we wanted to implement through ‘Assembly’ events:

 

INTEGRITY

SHARING EXPERIENCES

REACTIONARY

OWNERSHIP

IMAGINATION

CELEBRATION

FLUIDITY- LLIFO

  

Quote of the day:  'Strong centres open minds'

Pic of the day:

 

Friday 9th December 2011

 

The final day was for each team member to share personal creative practices.  With each team member leading a workshop in their preferred art form whether that be drama, circus, dance or music.  The sessions provided a catalyst for the team to think about their learning over the week & also how they may utilise & adapt those skills in community settings whilst delivering ‘Assembly’ events.

 

After a packed morning of walking around with eyes closed looking for a ball in the sports hall, running around the space creating movement pieces & then delving into personal memories in order to create short performance scenes.

We had lunch, which comprised of leftovers from the week & a visit to the farm café.  The afternoon had us creating highly synchronized dance sequences, using image to create performance to an amazing audio shower.  The week on the farm came to beautiful conclusion with a group song. 

 

We left the farm to head back to Cardiff and the National Theatre Wales office in order have a meet & greet and tell the team back in the office about the amazing week we had had.  Then it was on to a night of reveling & celebration after an intense but rewarding week. 

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Comment by Catrin Angharad Evans on February 3, 2012 at 20:18

Glamorganshire tree PICTURE Alex Ramsay

Comment by Catrin Angharad Evans on February 3, 2012 at 20:18

Great images and ideas from the assembly team. Just found these amazing images of Phillipa Lawrence Art project called Bound, Which involved bringing trees back to life around Wales in 2007. It reminded me of our experience of site specific project idea on the farm with Keith, Laura and my idea of 'Mending Broken Hearts' , being inspired by the farm around us and having the idea of mending the broken trees by tying them with ribbons.Bound, Installation, 2004.

Comment by claire hathway on January 13, 2012 at 18:05
Thanks for posting these lovely pics....beautiful ideas :-)
Comment by Laura Jeffs on January 13, 2012 at 17:56

Oo that padlock one looks wicked!  Quick lets steal it and pretend it was our idea!!  Also, watched a film recently and they had sort of a similar idea but theres was a wailing wall type deal

Loads of little notes stuck amongst the stones about tragedies, good deeds, memories etc 

Comment by Sarah Mumford on January 13, 2012 at 1:47

and...

Comment by Sarah Mumford on January 13, 2012 at 1:44

My friend Maggie is currently working in Korea, on seeing her photos, they reminded me of ideas that emerged during our day with Sue and John from Dead Good Guides. The hearts and locks are messages of love and good wishes. I really wanted to share these with the rest of the team, and everyone else, and a big thank you to Maggie Short for letting me share her photos!

Comment by claire hathway on December 21, 2011 at 20:37

Sorry this was the end of blog :}

 

bizzare boogey". What was clear when creating this, was how important it was to really PLAY with the technology to find
performance, rather than rehearsing technology into it later.


Gill Dowsett, wow what a story teller ! I couldn't help but feel like a child as she regaled the story of how Augusto Boal came to create Theatre of the Oppressed. I can still hear the sounds of her sound bowl
(Can anyone tell me what this is please !!) as she started the session. This was so that she could be in the moment with us. This really worked for me and other thoughts seemed to drift from my mind.
 She asked us to lower our hands when we stopped hearing the sound, with meant that I  was quite tuned into listening from this point on. A common thread that seemed to run throughout
the session was how you were able to tell you story, your memory, your experience through drama but with out it actually being about you. So for instance, at one point we worked in pairs, remembering a
bad relationship and then showed this in a freeze frame. So without feeling the need to tell the other person about the experience, you just had to mould them to be the other person in the relationship and
you then brought yourself in to the frozen image. We looked at one anothers image and didn't tell the group (audience) whose story it was, instead through questioning, the group talked about the image.
Gill kept on reinforcing that there was no right answer and that people see different things, and that it was always important to keep an idea open and never close a suggesstion. Some of the questions being
asked when facilitating were "What might be happening in the image" or "what do you see when you look at Owain etc." so keeping the questions as open as possible.

When we sat down to look at images/ videos of Sue and John's Journey with Dead Good Guides I was blown away with the passion, commitment and massive scale performance events they have been involved
in creating over the years. Their ideas were bold, big and looked truly beautiful to watch, from giant scale puppets, to huge fire displays, to under water exhibitions, skies filled with impressive lanterns and so
much more. When they asked us to create a hypothetical event for a Theatre director who was being asked to retire, our imaginations seemed to run wild with endless creative freedom !

We ended on a high with us all sharing our own creative appraoches to working... with us all bringing something very different to the table...

Owain, I'm still feeling slighty vexed that I wasn't able to walk a few simple steps wearing a blindfold to pick up a ball. I loved that Owain asked onlookers to join in our song/movement sequence..in the spirit of
everyone can be apart of it.

We could have created a small scale performance using Sarah's Lie down, stand up, sit down movement sequence.... using dynamics to play with the simple framework, we created a lovely movement
sequence where the smallest gesture caught your eye and looked impressive against the backdrop of people sprinting across a room.

Angharad's picture devising stimulus... I loved how we were all shown a very different picture, but through exploring song, dialogue and movement reached a finishing point with an organic image of our own.

Laura's funky chicken !!!! what did you say ????  A fun, imaginative game that had us all moving like pros, thus creating the assembly dance crew.

Finally closing my eyes and being showered with sounds from a distance, all of different tone and texture was just magical keith.

Once again thank you all for an amazing week, looking forward to catching up with you all very soon :}

Comment by claire hathway on December 21, 2011 at 20:34

Firstly I'd like to thank you all for an invaluable time at Amelia Trust farm,you were a great bunch to work with; a passionate, generous and creative bunch of people......it was such an adventure with lots more to
come.


I'l start with a big apology to my room mates for my hurrendous snoring habits, but luckily for me you tollerated the sounds and didn't banish me to the next room for a week (thank you ha)


Before Catherine arrived for our first day of trainning, we shared games, dialogue and giggles to warm up..... and I just knew the week was going to be my cup of tea. It was lovely Catherine being there to give us an insight into last years assembly and to share with us her experiences as creative associate. When sharing stories with us, what really resonated in my mind, was the power of questions and how, through questions, we make connections with a community. How we phrase questions will impact on a communitys willingness to engage since it has to be a question that resonates with them. It has to be a question they want to explore. What is the bigger question being made up from all the smaller questions? It needs to be a meaty universal question that everyone feels like they can chew on ! Just like gardner's planting seeds- we need to be planting the right seeds, good quality, organic ones so that fruitful dialogue and conversation can blossom, and keep growing after we leave. It has to be a question they want to explore, a question that they feel passionate about which is where enhancing the ownership through the process will happen.


Banana, bananam mango; the rythum game that Fabio showed us wasn't only great fun, it allowed us to really play with the idea and develop it. Even though we were all given the basic structure, we were given the freedom to develop something unique and different from something that started quite simple. When listening to Fabio talk about Project Phakama , what was really clear was how good a support structure they have in place and that they seemed to have a really good working ethos with in the company - shared creative responsibility. The three people triangle of support idea was a great way of demonstrating team work and that there will always be someone behind you to catch you if you fall. The give and gain pie chart is a useful practical tool when creating a community based event because it means that everyone is able to voice their involvment whether specifically performance based skills or the more technical side of things. Its an apporach that means everyone can contribute and feel apart of the bigger picture.


By using an array of vibrant, intriguing, slide show images, Mathilde told us about her journey as the creative associoate for NTW. She talked with us about how a space, geographically, can condition you, impact on you and how you then engage with a space, depending on how things are placed with in the space. One image that really stuck in my mind and I found thought provoking was of people dressed in tent like shaped costumes, an idea inspired by a council estate with a high population of refugees. By being asked these questions, I then began to ask my self more questions - How does space define us? What and who determines how we interact with a place? Her practical exericise, where we had to utlize the technology at hand and the space we were in, to create a performance event was a challenge. I remember saying to Abdul "I can't work technology". But thankfully, panicking slightly and rising to the challenge, we were able to create a short interactive performance entitled "a christmas spent at Amelia Farm" with the audience presented with a drunken santa, an empty pack of mince pies, pre-recorded voice clips of santas helper panicking outside for the audience to hear and an all together choatic attempt to save christmas. Whilst the other group did a rather scary, christmas rave in the kitchen for us to have a bizzare bo

Comment by Laura Jeffs on December 18, 2011 at 16:33

also just realised that mine's a little longer than others so apologies for the waffle! (but it was a pretty packed week to be fair!)xoxoxox

Comment by Laura Jeffs on December 18, 2011 at 16:29

Wednesday brought Sue and John, who not only made us all very jealous with pictures from their nomadic days in the '60s (most of us decided we had been born in the wrong era!), but also brought with them bold, exciting ideas about what could be done in communities - and we realised that there was no harm in thinking big (very big in some cases) after seeing the sorts of spectacular events they had created using giant puppets, aerial stunts, boats, and lots and lots of fire!  We got a chance to let our imaginations run wild when we were set a few hypothetical events to plan for and, with lanterns and fireworks dancing round our brains, we found we had started to think a bit more outside the box.

Wednesday night, full of aduki beans, we played some impro games - with some hilariously manic results, watching Keith and Owain try to mime an old lady being hit by a giant snowball being a particular favourite of mine!

Thursday was the day for forum theatre with Gill, where we played listening exercises, a very active Truth game and held frozen positions for what felt like a very VERY long time -  and we all got a glimpse of Abdul's Scary Eyes (sorry 'staring intently' eyes).  I learnt a lot about how simple things such as the wording of a question, or how you react to someone's story can have a big impact. 

After Gill had left, and we had filled ourselves up with stirfry, out came the big paper and felt tips and we all gathered round to reflect on our week and decide between us what our main values should be when we head off into communities to create work with them.  This took a lot longer than it should have!  Not because we couldnt decide on the values, but because we couldnt decide on which words would best encapsulate those values - in fact one of the words ended up in welsh because no one could think of a good english equivalent!!  The main thing for me was something that every visiting artist had mentioned to us at some point, no matter what their discipline or style of working, and that was the importance of talking to people in the community - whether its listening to their ideas for the work, or just chatting over a pint at the end of the day.  The connection with people is the most important thing in this type of work.

Friday was one of my favourite days, we had all got to know each other pretty well during the week and so it was great to see everyone in action running their own workshops.  From Sarah's simple, effective Stand, Sit, Lie down exercise, to Owain's ridiculously frustrating but addictive ball games (how hard is it to walk in a straight line and pick up a ball with your eyes closed?!?), Claire's Binds that Tie and Ties that Bind, Angharad's emotive picture stimuli and finally Keith's beautiful music workshop, ending with a poignant song where we all got a chance to say thankyou and goodbye.  It hit us all that our week had now come to an end. 

And what a week!  The things that stick out in my mind -

Keith running through a very muddy field in trainers,

lots of girly giggling at night,

eating more biscuits and beans (not together) in one week than in the rest of my life,

being able to learn from such varied and interesting artists,

and finally spending time with genuinely lovely and passionate people - I cant wait for next year, and I'm really looking forward to working with you guys again!  Assembly Team, Assemble!!!

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