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What is a Poet? – #14SecondPoem Movement

15 Mar

Poetry in Motion

competition poster

What is a Poet?

#14SecondPoem Competition

Think, Shoot, Contribute!

Answer the question above to take part and open up a global discussion about the role of a Poet in Society. 

On Twitter

1) Shoot a 14-second poetry film in Black and White (shot with a plain white or black background)

2) Upload it to Youtube.

3) Tweet us to enter the competition, including @NajmaHush and the hashtags #14SecondPoem #WhatisaPoet?

E.g.: Hey @NajmaHush, here’s my contribution to the #14SecondPoem for #WhatisaPoet?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obj_SyM7yS4 

On Instagram

1) Shoot a 14-second poetry film.

2) Upload it and tag us: @photogiraffelive, hashtag #WhatisaPoet? and  #14SecondPoem

E.g.: Hey @PhotoGiraffe,  here’s my contribution to the #14SecondPoem for #WhatisaPoet?

 

Rules

Submissions close at midnight on Wed 1st June 2016. All entries must be in by this time.

One entry per person.

We’ll announce the winner on Monday 6th June 2016.

What you’ll win

  • All entries will be contributing towards the ‘What is a Poet? Project, opening up a global debate, to provide a wider community of artists to get seen and heard.

 

  • 21 winners will be selected to be included in the short film, What is Poet?, to be exhibited at Poetry Festivals in the UK and abroad (locations and release dates to be announced soon).
What is a Poet? movie poster

What is a Poet? movie poster

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What is a Poet? – A Film Dedicated to Poets

14 Mar

PhotoGiraffe Production are very pleased to announce the forth coming release of our debut short film.  Written in poetic verse, ‘What is a Poet?’  has been created to celebrate poetry as an inclusive form of art that is currently thriving with people rich in diversity, dedicated to sharing their experience with anyone human enough to contemplate, the bitter sweet complexities of life.

 

What is a Poet? - Film poster

What is a Poet? – Film poster

 

 ‘What is a Poet?’ seeks to highlight how poetry can be found in a variety of people, places, methods and practices; from musicians to painters and supermarkets to mountain tops.  This film has been created as a beacon of inspiration to remind all those who appreciate and create poetry, that what they do is a significant and powerful contribution towards the understanding of human nature and thus can affect the evolution of humankind.

Written, produced and directed by Najma Hush as a collaborative performance piece.  Starring Femi Abidogun, Glyn Phillips, Kate Walton, Leah Atherton and Marcia Calame, who have all contributed individually to the film by writing their own introduction, representing the large minority of a great number of Spoken Word Artists from the West Midlands, UK and sending out a message of love to all the poets around the world, this film is simply poetry in motion.

Read our questions and answers from Najma Hush about the film and learn more about the exciting news on how you can also contribute towards this on-going project to promote Poets and Poetry.

Behind the Scene: Najma Hush, Byrone Nicholson & Leah Atherton

Q & A with Najma Hush 

 

What was your inspiration for the film?

On National Poetry Day (Nov’2014), I couldn’t see the point of going out to celebrate, because at the time it seemed to me that the only people who went to poetry performance events were poets who wanted to perform their own poems and whom also made up the majority of the audience.  In this respect, I felt quite disillusioned by my role in society as a poet and wanted to explore why human beings wrote poetry and its function in arts and humanity.  Despite my more sombre mood at the time, the first draft of the poem was far more inspirational than I had anticipated and the idea to use the work as a collaborative piece was born.

 

How did the film get off the ground? What was the process of getting the film made?

After completing the final version of the poem, the driving force dependent on turning this script into a short film, was gaining the support of other poets whom I was already acquainted with and had either collaborated or worked alongside before, because although the film has been created to promote poets and poetry, effectively the script is a poem which has been written by a poet who is approaching other poets to memorise and recite her words, when they have their own which they would naturally prioritise.   Also, the film has been created on shoe string budget and therefore the performers were called to star in the film for the love of poetry alone, with an earnest promise to feast heartily upon my mother’s delicious home cooking whilst on the job.

 

 

Behind the Scene: Najma Hush, Byrone Nicholson & Marcia Calame

 

 How long was the shoot and where was it?

I was lucky enough to be affiliated with a young publishing house with their own art studio and art gallery (Mapseeker Publishing Ltd), where I was formally a poet in residence.  They kindly allowed me to use their space and I also hired locally upon occasion.  As the shooting of the film took 4 days to complete, it was spread out over the course of 4 months.  Initially having accumulated the support of 16 poets, near the end this number whittled down to 5 professional actors who were passionate about the cause and dedicated to the same vision despite their own busy schedules and various work commitments.

 

What have you learnt since completing your first short film and how will it help you to improve and make more? 

I learnt a lot about the preparation that goes into pre-production in order to co-ordinate and organise the shooting of a film.  And also about how a director must have precise vision for every single scene from start to finish, paying great attention to detail.  As well as how a good producer should execute every task in fine detail at the event of each shoot.   I am pleased to have learnt how to plan each shot using storyboards, just by making this very simple film.  I have also learnt the value of clearly communicating aims, objectives and roles with all parties involved, as well as the great importance of covering all legal issues with well documented agreements.

I loved directing the performances and coming from a background in dance and fashion photography, I found shooting film , very similar to photography only with equal attention to sound and movement, as well as the visuals.  I believe that this will help me create more cinematic poetry films which will improve the cinematography of any forthcoming poetography videos.  Up-till-date, my work has been more reliant on my photography and videography skills with an emphasis in the quality of the spoken word and therefore may be lacking cinematic attention.

The second biggest challenge and the largest asset I have gained whilst making this film, is sound and visual editing skills, prior to which I had little knowledge and learnt at a reasonable rate through practice, post production.  This has given me more confidence to consider making more dynamic and ambitious poetography films in the near future, which I am already passionate about creating.

 

Behind the Scene - Byrone Nicholson & Najma Hush

Behind the Scene – Byrone Nicholson & Najma Hush

 

Tell us about the soundtrack for this short film and the reasons behind your choice?

As there are two sections to this film, there are only two sound tracks, both of which are licensed under Creative Commons, Attribution (3.0).  For the first half, the music is an uplifting, contemporary piece called, SunBirds by CoCrew (http://ccmixter.org/  (2012)).  With its relaxing hip-hop beat, Sunbirds gives the introduction a modern, urban feel, separating it from the second half which features  Fredrick Chopin’s, Nocturnes no. 1 Op. 9 by Florence Robineau, (https://commons.wikimedia.org/ 2013)),  a  timeless classic,  picked in direct contrast to the introductory piece as I felt that the tone and texture of this composition complimented the emotional dynamics of the poem well.

Ever since I began to appreciate Chopin’s music I noted the varying intonations in his compositions imitating the phonetic aspects of human speech and after further research I was delighted to learn that Chopin was in fact, a sound poet who magnificently composed ‘verse without words’ in his arrangements.   Thereafter, my mind had been made up to use his work alone and set myself the challenge of listening to various playbacks of the film’s audio accompanied by his symphonies; in terms of its mood, I felt that Nocturnes no. 1 Op. 9 matched the verbal intonation of the poem best.  With its focus upon sound as much as visuals, simplicity has been the main prerogative of this film to draw emphasis on the richness of its discourse.

 

Where should we expect to see your short film?

‘ What is a Poet?’ will be screened at Literature and Poetry festivals all over the UK and similar festivals abroad with release dates to be announced soon.  I have also created an online #WhatisaPoet?  campaign, inviting poets from all around the world to contribute globally towards this film by submitting their own black and white short film a #14SecondPoem in response to the question ‘What is a Poet?’ This will expand the spirit of the whole project by giving poets a chance to think and respond to this question, opening up a global debate to provide a wider community of artists to get seen and heard.  In this way I anticipate the project will expand and the film will also progress as the best 21 clips from the campaign will be compiled to make an extra 5min feature to be screened as part of the short film (#WhatisaPoet?  #14secondpoem @Twitter, Instagram).

Think Shoot Contribute

#WhatisaPoet? #14Second Poem

 

As you may have already noted, this is a very interdependent project, with a communal objective, which has been and still is dependant upon other Poets taking part and would not have been possible without the people who have contributed towards the making of this film.  Here’s a bit more about the incredible Spoken Word Artists as well as members of the crew, who have already dedicated their time and effort – all for the love of Poetry with the same view to promote the Poet’s job as an important role within our society.

 

 About the Cast

 

Femi Abidogun Femi Abidogun (Poet, Performer):  A West Midlands-based poet and writer, who has two published collections of poetry –That Long Walk (2015) and Blonde Grass (2012) both originally published by Thynks Publications Ltd, Nottingham.  His writings have also been showcased in a number of anthologies and publications.

He has performed to a variety of audiences including literary events and festivals, as well as on radio.  He is a member of literary groups such as Writers Without Borders and The Poetry Society.

Apart from writing, he enjoys reading, travelling, music and sports.  Femi believes poetry is all about expression and as such, the opportunity presented by the production of “What is A Poet” was just one further great way to do just that.  He says he thoroughly enjoyed every minute of its filming which he describes as a “unique experience worthy of being proud of”.

 

Glyn PhillipsGlyn Phillips (Poet, Performer):  A Poet / Musician / Radio Presenter / DJ.  Surprisingly, Glyn Phillips only came out of his literary shell about two years ago after decades as a percussionist and DJ – and latterly a world music radio presenter. Tired of being ‘in the dark at the back of the band’, Glyn decided to finally get centre stage with his own joyful yet anarchic wordplay and exuberant yet meticulous wordsmithery. Glyn’s theatrical delivery and desire to engage an audience means that each performance is just that: a true performance!

Glyn works in a bewildering array of subjects and styles from heart-rending social observations and political rants to comic vignettes and whimsical tales. An acute social conscience, a love of words, an ear for sounds and an eye for the ridiculous has led him to produce poetry, songs and spoken word pieces that have taken audiences on a journey from emotionally painful recognition to raucous laughter in just one session.

Whatever you do, watch out for his ‘chap-hopping’ alter ego, Mr Armitage Spode, who is likely to jump up (at entirely inappropriate moments) and indulge himself in more ribald innuendo than you could squeeze into a burlesque dancer’s corset…

Glyn has written a 190 page book of poems, Still Life (2015), and a short story, The Tale of the Magic Soup Stone (2015), published by Food for Thought (2016).

 

Kate WaltonKate Walton (Poet, Performer)Performance poet, lyrical true life storyteller, workshop facilitator and StoryTramp, ‘One woman’s poetical mission’ to unravel the mysteries and create legends through the art of sharing stories and reconnecting with the people and poetics of life.

Slam winning poet and shortlisted by BASE as Outstanding Newcomer to Storytelling in 2013, Kate has enjoyed success with ‘I Am Blackbird’, her transformational one woman show and is currently working on her second solo show ready for 2017.

Taking inspiration from her own adventures and the people she meets along the way, Kate mixes light with shade to combine her well-crafted lines and natural performance style to engage with audiences and offer a gentle reflection through her journey of life.

Kate is currently involved in a number of projects throughout the UK, from performing with the itinerant troupe, Flashlight True-life Storytellers in Birmingham, a regular teller at Natural Born Storytellers in London, one of many Tribal Voices that keep the green field festival fires burning brightly and Co-founder and host of Wild Words and Wisdom, an intimate evening of poetry, story and song for women in Hertfordshire.

Kate is passionate about the sharing of wisdom and as such her ongoing project StoryTramp often takes her out on the road in search of stories, people and the ultimate of human experience.

 

Leah AthertonLeah Atherton (Poet, Performer):   A linguist, poet and spoken word artist, hailing from the windswept Devon coast, Leah blew ashore in red brick country in 2006 and has been actively involved with the local spoken word circuit for the last 2 years.

Having spent her formative years scribbling stories and poems in the back of school exercise books and old envelopes, Leah’s love of poetry caught up to her as a postgraduate student at Oxford, where she began honing her craft in earnest.

She has since headlined at poetry and music nights including Sunplugged, Howl and Stirchley Speaks. A vocal advocate on social justice issues, her work has been featured at a number of events combining art and activism, including the Amo: LoveISexhibition at Birmingham Art Gallery; Amnesty International’s satellite event 16 Days of Activism: Women Unplugged; and the Critical Conditions: Calais photo exhibition launch at Impact Hub Birmingham.

Bringing her unique brand of quiet observation and raw honesty to her poetry, she weaves together the wildness of the landscapes she calls home with the joy and heartache of the everyday. She is a firm believer that magic is never lost, only forgotten.

 

Marcia CalameMarcia Calame (Poet, Performer):  Poet and Spoken Word Artist who has performed in places such as: Glastonbury Poetry and Words, International Women’s Day, Black History Month, Youth Theatre and Education and is also a mentor for aspiring youths.

 

Marcia is a diverse and dynamic Poet, both on stage and on page, for all ages; with poems included in many anthologies. Such poems like, ‘A sense of touch’ representing the Midlands-Poetry for the people by the people; and ‘Rippled Splendour,’ which received the Editors choice Award. Marcia is part of the ten writers collaboration of the Midlands, which is included in the Anthology, Celebrate Wha (Smokestack 2011), where you will find her poems such like: Speak English and Going Dutch.   Living in Birmingham, UK, Marcia is currently working on the completion of her new book.

 

Najma HushNajma Hush (Writer, Director, Producer): Master of Media and Creative Arts; a published poet and photographer who also combines the two mediums to create an emerging genre of art, which she terms ‘Poetography’, a concept which she has developed over the course of time since 2013.  With her first exhibition as a Poetographer at Walsall Arts Festival (Dec, 2014), Hush has considerably evolved her practice from creating silent photographic animations in combination with poetic texts to short poetic films, heavily featuring performing artists using videographic images, alongside spoken word all synchronised harmoniously to music.

Former Artist in residence at Arts4ArtSake (Custard Factory, 2013) and former Poet in Residence at Mapseeker Publishing Studio & Art Gallery (Aldridge, 2014), she has had her fine Art Photographic works exhibiting in various locations around the West Midlands, whilst also organising her own monthly Exhibition for Exhibitionists events (2013/2014) providing a platform for other Poets and Musicians to perform at the opening for her art exhibitions.  Presently whilst expanding upon her Poetography experiments to contribute to an emerging genre of moving digital literature, (watch Youtube @ Najma Hush) she is working on her debut Poetography book as well the release of her first short film ‘What is a Poet’ starring five other Spoken Word Artists.

About the Crew

Byrone Nicholson

Byrone Nicholson (Lighting, Sound and Camera Operator):  Video editor and camera operator with a BA Honours in Media Productions, his background stems from creating films within the format of documentary and the making of music videos. Producer of his own film, ‘Born to Fish’ (released, 2014), a short documentary summarizing how one man’s passion for a sport can influence, not only his own life, but the lives of those whom he teaches.

Previously the official camera and sound operator for Walsall Arts Festival (2014) Nicholson’s already enjoys the diversity in art and has worked with many live spoken word and street artists.  The, ‘What is a Poet’ project further enhanced his opportunity to apply the skills he’s learnt, but also show his greater fondness of poetry.

Nicholson is currently working with the Sikh channel and wishes to continue learning and working with diverse cultures, whilst also creating or collaborating on unique projects that bring forth positivity and knowledge.

 

Studio Management Team

Soombul Rafique (Floor Manager):  Usually an executive legal clerk by day, Soombul worked as a volunteer on set responsible for passing on cues to the director communicating with all cast and crew to ensure timings were met and filming went smoothly so that shooting went according to the set plan

 Rhi Rhi Khanum (Sound Supervisor):  Usually working behind the camera as a model on several projects with photographers, stylists and makeup artist, Rhi Rhi worked for the first time on a film set as a volunteer to provide assistance, working closely alongside Nicholson and following his instructions regarding sound.

Reshma Khunum (Script Supervisor): An undergraduate student of Media, Reshma worked on set as a volunteer Script Supervisor making sure that all lines were covered during the filming process.

 

So there you have it,  we will be posting more information regarding this continuing project and the exact details about how you can take part and contribute with your 14 second poem as well as news and more information about where the film will be released and exhibited, so follow this blog to stay tuned, share this article and check out the hashtags online.

social media

Hashtags:  #WhatisaPoet?  #14SecondPoem

Abstract Elements: The Exhibition Opening Event  

9 May

The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth.

Najma Hush Abstract Elements Exhibition Opening Evening

Spot the Freudian slip…

Today, we would like to do something, a little bit different. By ‘we’, I mean me – Najma Hush, one woman, who is going it alone, like so many other creative people, determined to make that critical transformation from an emerging artist, to an established artist.  Usually writing about my projects upon this blog in third person –  PhotoGiraffe – bragging about how wonderful the exhibition openings have been.  Although, they have been rather fabulous, upon reflection, I now feel that there are certain drawbacks when not openly addressing certain faults with such ‘experiments’, when perhaps if disclosed openly, it could help many other emerging artists who might be scratching there heads, wondering how to make themselves stand out from all the other wee-little chicks in this birds nest, all screaming for attention to get that juicy worm, dangling from the mouth of the giant (i.e. established galleries).  But how much honesty can I display here at the detriment of my own reputation and personal liability?  The only way to find out is by reading on and I’m kind of curious myself, as to what this write up will be like…

  The more mistakes you make, the more you learn, the more you progress.

Abstract Elements is a collection of five photographic images, currently exhibiting at The Warehouse Cafe (Please see previous post for details).  With its  exhibition opening held last Monday (5th May’14), I hosted my very own launch event inviting Poets and Musicians to platform their own skills and celebrate my latest exhibition at the Warehouse Cafe.   An award winning restaurant, located in the Friends of the Earth building (Birmingham, Digbeth), The Warehouse Cafe are a non-profit, community interest company and provide local artists, a space to exhibit.  They were interested in exhibiting a selection which would compliment their ‘Green’ ethos.  This is how we reached the mutual decision to exhibit Abstract Elements due to its connection with natureHowever, due to the small number of works and their size, this collection was not big enough to fill their walls, which is why a last minute decision was made to exhibit, Some Kind of Blue too.

Poet Performer Carys Matic Performing at the exhibition opening

Poet Performer Carys Matic Performing at the exhibition opening

Without any disillusionment about motivation, the main reasons for inviting poets and performers has always been to collaborate for cross-promotional purposes.  As a creative writer my main circle of associates have mainly been other poets.   As an emerging artist, I have little contact with buyers and in all honesty as someone who is quite new to this business, I don’t really know who they are.   As a poet I like poetry performances and this is how I generally spend my spare time.  Inviting poets to these events to perform, gives me a little more to talk about on online social platforms, other than just saying, ‘Hello world, I have an exhibition and this is the concepts behind this collection’.  The performers benefit from this collaboration, due to the platform I provide for them to showcase their talents as well as all the promotional write ups I usually do on this blog and the pictures I post on my facebook page which promote their skills by positively  reviewing their input.  Futhermore, because of their involvement, they help me spread the word about the exhibition opening events.  Sounds like a good idea in theory and here is how it is works in practice.

 Advantages:

1. It contributes to a more lively atmosphere for the exhibition opening events and adds a varying dynamic to the overall occasion.

2. It gives the (emerging artist) an opportunity to practice standing in front of an (otherwise larger) audience to host and talk to about their work publicly. 

 

Disadvantage:

1. The majority of people who will come to your exhibition opening will be the people performing who will be more keen to perform than view or provide feedback on the images you’ve displayed.

2. Your exhibition opening might be at risk of becoming more about performing art rather than the exhibited  fine art.

 

There are no failures only unexpected outcomes.

Seems like a fairly balanced assessment of advantages and disadvantage, however, the latter is what became most prominent the morning after the night before.  Post-exhibition opening, when reviewing the responses from almost all parties involved, I noticed that the main feedback I was  getting that the event that I had organised was a poetry performance event.  Other than reading performance reviews  from peoples ‘ facebook status updates’ I noticed, there was little commentary about the exhibiting images.  Furthermore, there seemed to be little mention of the fact that there was any art work displayed at all, which they the performers had initially been invited to come and respond to.  Although most performing artists (bar two), did perform along the theme of the ‘natural elements’ to tie in with the collection of the photographs, this fact became even more protruding when I noticed that even The Warehouse Cafe had posted a thank you note on their fan page to all those who came to their ‘first ever open mic night’.  (Lucky for me, I have a great sense of humor.)

 

Exhibition Opening Night of Najma Hush's  Abstract Elements:  A photography exhibition.

Exhibition Opening Night of Najma Hush’s Abstract Elements: A photography exhibition.

 Conclusion

What I have learnt from my experiences and reconfirmed in recent articles I have read about exhibiting in cafe’s and  restaurants, that they are ‘ not looking at this as an opportunity to make a commission on sales and increase their revenue – consequently, they aren’t going to have much motivation to actively promote or sell the work  (http://www.reddotblog.com/wordpress/index.php/showing-your-art-in-cafes-restaurants-banks-and-other-venues/) and as this article points out  that more than often the artist using these venues just become a commodity promoting their venue.

Naturally, nobody does anything for nothing and therefore it is the exhibiting artists responsibility to define their own outcomes from their opening events.  Also as the above referenced article points out, cafe’s and restaurants might have an interesting mailing list to attract people to the opening events, however even if The Warehouse Cafe did have this, they admitted later on that this was not a priority due to their busy schedule.  After all, to reiterate, for most cafes hosting exhibitions by local artists, their business is not art but will always primarily be food and drink with an agenda to gain more clients.

Expectation Versus Outcome

My expectations at this current stage of my career is not to make loads and loads of sales, but rather to gain exposure and a good reputation.  Reverting back to defined outcomes, I do not feel that event was a success because, I did not place enough emphasis upon the work that I had curated and exhibited.  I failed to attract a crowd of art lovers/buyers but instead curated a spectacular arts festival, which was truly magical and amazing and the hospitality shown by the venue was immaculate, however it has made me think more critically about exactly where I am at present, versus where I intend to go.  Nobody can predict or control the behavior and response of those who you collaborate with, after all we are all individuals and we all have our own expected outcomes, but what one can do, is learn from each experience by reflecting objectively and positively in order to progress.  

Najma Hush at the Exhibition opening event of Abstract Elements , courtasey of NuBi magazine who came to review the event.

Najma Hush at the exhibition opening of Abstract Elements , courtasey of NuBi magazine who came to review the nights event. (Photographed by Shahid Chohan)

How might you learn from my mistakes?

When selecting a cafe or restaurant to exhibit in:

* First and foremost, be proactive and go out to all exhibition openings so that you can gain the right contacts with people who really are interested in fine art and whom you can invite to your exhibitions.

* When choosing a restaurant or cafe, ask yourself, do you have similar values?  (i.e do they have a reputation for being a hub for the creative arts? Or will you have to compromise a great deal on what you want exhibited and also question why they are allowing you their space?)

* Ask the venue what kind of mailing list they have and how much will they can contribute to the promotion of your opening event.  If you are a proactive artist and good with social networking media, you might be doing more to promote the venue than your own work and unless you have a large network of buyers/clients this might not bother you, but otherwise I would say, choose a cafe that would promote your exhibition equally. 

 *  Find out from previous artists if they gained much feedback from the venue’s clients and if they made many sales in these spots.  Were their price margins the same as yours?

*  By all means invite performers to platform, but keep the slots short and simple, and make sure that number one: you are selective with quality performers only and number two you make it clear it’s not an open mic night which otherwise implies your events is just a-free-for-all.

*  On your opening event, make sure you rehearse a script of what you might want to say as an opening speech.  Prepare what you will say about yourself and then about the exhibiting works. Practice, practice, practice and then open up a panel discussion for questions and answers – if nobody has any questions – ask for feedback…

*  If you do not get the feedback ask for the feedback.  Don’t be shy, ask the questions. ‘What do you like about this collection?  Is there anything you do you not like about it?  What’s your most favourite and why?  What’s your least and why?’  If you find this intimidating, create anonymous feedback forms for honest criticism and advise.

 

Keep On Moving!

Whoever may be reading this article and no matter what you maybe doing with your life, I believe that if you got this far down reading this article, it’s probably because you are an artist.  Remember, no matter what genre of artist you maybe, if you are being proactive with your skills you are putting yourself out there to be judged.   Your work has to be judged and whether those judgement are a positive or negative reflection of your work, you must learn to accept the opinions of other, but still remain strong in what you believe in and let what you believe in, always be yourself!

 

Please do comment with any useful or contrary thoughts.  I am generally a student in life; I have an open mind and I’m always willing to learn.

After all that's said it was a very night and really well organised...

After all that’s said it was a really great night spent with amazing people and really well organised…

 

Female Force – Exhibition Opening Day

14 Apr

Female Force is the title given to a selection of photographs taken of statues by Najma Hush. These images been manipulated by the process of multi-layering, to modernise and re-present, a few and various neoclassical and classical sculptures, from the fresh perspective of a digital age. Currently exhibiting at Urban Coffee Company (Church Street,  Birmingham, B3 2NP.  UK. ), from April 6th – May 3rd 2014). 

 

 

Urban Coffee Company is a rather sophisticated cafe in the metropolis of Birmingham.  Not only do they boast great coffee, good enough to sate any coffee snobs passion, but they also hold many different live events.  Furthermore, their cosy upstairs arena , consistently rotates fine art and photography by artist from the city, which is organised by Alexandria Art, who provide exhibiting platforms for emerging  artist in various location around the city.   weblink - exhibition details

With the exhibition open day for Female Force, held last Saturday (12th April’ 14), Najma Hush hosted her very own launch event, having invited Poets and Musicians to also platform their own skills and celebrate her latest solo exhibition. Here is a short review, recording the events proceedings, including photographs of the poets and musicians who came to support this event with further links to their works, to make it easier for you to find them.

Guests at Female Force by Najma Hush

As the guests gathered.

The event started off with a small crowd and moved at a slow pace, fairly early for any Saturday morning,  but as the event proceeded more and more people joined to contribute a buzz to the initial relaxed atmosphere.  The show commenced, with a brief introduction from the artist about herself and the concept behind the exhibition, before she passed over the duty of hosting to Andrea Shorrick, a local poet and performer herself, who introduced the first public speaker, Kathryn Day from Women’s Networking Hub.  This organisation had shown much support for Hush’s exhibition open day, by promoting it through a lot of their internal sources, due to the close work they do with all kind of women in enterprise, connecting women with other women and essentially building a strong network of associations.    They also work closely with Malala Yousafzai to gain funds for her projects to eradicate social/gender inequality and so  Hush invited them to  invite the women present, to join their network.

Najma Hush

Poet and Photographer, Najma Hush at the exhibition opening of Female Force.

 

The first poet to perform was Dani Papamaximou from Greece,  who recited her own touching poems, translated from her native tongue to English.  With some dark overtones, her work was mainly refreshing and  light sharing personal experiences as a women.

Next up, a very talented poet and artist from Walsall, Neth Brown who shared a melancholy poem about her mother and experiences on the theme of gender traditions and female sexuality from the point of view of a young lesbian.

Nina Lewis,  was the following act, a Worcestershire poet who had actually written poems especially to go with Hush’s images.  Her poems were as impressive as usual as showed her dexterous skill with language. 

Next up was Sammy Joe, who humorously insisted on taking her coffee on stage, swigging and spilling it in a sleepy haze. But even before she had finished reciting her very short, blunt and feisty poem, in a fashion that was no less than fierce, she had trotted off again, sleepily leaving the audience wide awake and hungry for more.

The crowd was then greeted by the colourful personality of Saleha Begum, a poet and artist decisively stating that she would be reading her most intense works, from her book, Raptures and Fragments, which she did!

As the crowd deserved ‘A Pick Me Up’ after such intensity, that’s exactly what they got with Aysha Begum’s poem, ‘Just a Little Pick Me Up’, a poem which is also an entry in this years round two of Pangaea Poetry Slam.  

And just before the interval, Andrea Shorrick  left the crowd holding their breath during her performance, when she began to undress, stripping away her clothes solemnly, wrapping herself up in a street no entry banners and smearing her face with yellow paint as she recited her poem on domestic abuse.   

Open day of Exhibition Female Force

Najma Hush – Meeting and Greeting Guests

During the interval it seemed that a lot more people had woken up and the place became more alive with people.  The atmosphere was buzzing as the crowd was led back into the second half, where Najma Hush opened the show, reciting her own epic poem on social equality for women, just before she introduced the musical act for the event a very talented young singer song writer,  Jane James.  Her voice is emotive and she can switch her pitch going from smooth to boom!   

Jaden Larker, otherwise known as   Seasick Fist, who was also a speaker for TEDxBrum on International Women’s day (2014), was the only man who had been brave enough to perform his views on women, with his confident delivery,  he certainly knows how to keep the crowds attention.

With a hard act to follow, next up was Andrea Shorrick, only this time as her ultra ego,  Swingerella, with stories from her bed, which included chocolate hearts, pink bunnies, vodka in a tea pot and box of sugar puffs, to name…just  a few things.  It was meant to be funny, but again, the audience were holding their breath…

It was also a great pleasure to see and hear, Jasmin Gardosi perform her poem sultry poem on lesbian love and love bites. Gardosi is also a TEDxBrum speaker (2014) and she runs the official Poets Place.

And to close the show in class one of the final special guest was, Charlie JordanBirmingham Poet Laureate (2007 ) – representing our city –  with some groping poetry, in a style, solely unique to her.  The event then came to a close with the first ever Female poet laureate of Birmingham, Julie Boden and current Poet in residence at Symphony Hall who wowed the crowed with 10 minutes of such beautiful poetic magic.

Here are the photographs of all the above performers:

 

Diverse Dancers – Exhibition Soiree

25 Feb

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Diverse Dancers is the title given to a large and still progressing compilation of photographs, primarily concerned with the multiplicity of varying dance traditions; a small and miscellaneous selection of which, is currently in exhibition at the ORT Cafe in Birmingham, UK (from 19th Feb – 5th Mar’14).

Housed in The Old Print Works, a grade II listed building; Ort is much more than just a cafe.  More importantly, it has become the community hub for creative art within just 2 years of being established, having gained the worthy reputation of supporting emerging artists, in the community of England’s second largest city!   With its friendly and approachable directors, Josephine Reichert and Ridhi Kalaria, who both actively assist the artists they support, Ort is the ideal place for an emerging artist, to host a first time solo exhibition.  And on Friday 21st Feb’14, that is exactly what Najma Hush did, having curated a night of art, poetry and music by hosting talented poets and musicians to share their work, which coincided with the dance theme of her exhibition.  She called this event, ‘An Exhibition for Exhibitionists’ and boy did it attract a handsome group.

Upon the night as the crowd gathered and mingled they were greeted by live music from the Jazz Pianist, Andrew Clayton, who played all original material from his Album, Bunch of Keys.  Quick to jump at an opportunity to jam, poetry performer, Carys Matic Jones joined in with her Cajón Drum, adding a beat to Clayton’s melody and giving all the guests, opportune moments to collectively convene a vibrant atmosphere.  

The show then commenced with the local poet, Adele – aka- Ddotti Bluebird, who also organises Birmingham’s much loved Word- Up.  She grabbed the crowd’s attention with her passionate urban style poetry.  However, rather surprisingly for the host, none of this Ddotti Bluebird’s songs conformed to the theme of dance.

Following on swiftly, was Adam Laws, a complete virgin to performance poetry, who nevertheless, won the crowd over with two poems that he had written especially for the theme of this event.

But the real crowd pleaser was a musical performance by Walsall’s poet, Al Barz who had composed his own music to choreograph a special dance for a totally interactive, audience precipitation and the best thing was, everyone could do his dance sitting down, except for Barz of course (who also organises his own monthly poetry events called Purple Penumbra at the Barlowe Theatre in Oldbury).

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Next up was what appeared to be Cinderella herself, sporting a broom and sweeping the stage, but it was in fact, Andrea Shorrick, with her own unique interpretation of dance, a delightful poem titled Prince Charming.

Also come to take part and show her support was Jude Ashworth, a long and withstanding member of Writer Without Borders as well as being the organiser of Erdington Writers held twice a month at Erdington Library, she swayed and swooned the audience with her dance poetry.

After that, the crowd was gregariously greeted by the enormous personality of  Ian Henery, the Mayor of Walsall’s Poet Laureate for three consecutive years and author of Batman (Thynk Publications).  Amongst a few other dance poems, Henery, performed his poem written especially for Diverse Dancers called….Diverse Dancers and also read Rudyard Kipling’s,  The Plea of the Simla Dancers. Not before however, he likened the talent of the first halves performers, to our Nation’s favourite poet, Kipling and was ignominiously heckled for it by an otherwise anonymous heckler, who rowdily disagreed.

Another member of Birmingham’s highly esteemed group, Writers Without Borders and author of Blonde Grass (Thynk Publications), Olufemi Abidogun also graced the stage with his own magical poetry on the subject of dance.

Just before the interval, the closing act for the first half was the third and final member of Writers Without Borders.    It was none other than, Tessa Lowe herself, who also hosts her own poetry events at Ort called Poets with Passion.  Lowe charmed the crowd with her charismatic, Maybe Baby dance poem, as well as sharing an enchanting poem, celebrating the ‘beauty’ of Birmingham’s, not-so-prevaliged, Balsall Heath (the location of Ort Cafe and hence the exhibition).

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To kick start the second half, Carys Matic Jones opened the proceedings with her musical act.  Normally performing with her band, Jones was joined with improvisations from Andrew Clayton on Keyboard, as she multi-tasked her rhythmic recitations to the beat of her new Cajón Drum, which proved to be a very delightful and an engaging experience indeed.

A hard act to follow, which certainly she did do and without any exceptions, it was Nina Lewis.  An ex-dancer herself, Lewis claimed that she had been directly inspired by the Photographs exhibited.  Her poems not only dealt with the beauty of the art form, but also explored the darker more painful side of dance, that we as voyeurs often forget when watching this graceful art form.  Needless to say, all three of her poems were very strong.

It was also a great pleasure to see, popular storyteller, Kate Walton – Aka – Story Tramp (nominated for outstanding newcomer at the BASE Awards, ((British Award for Storytelling Excellence)) 2013.  She captivated and simply mesmerised the audience, with her rhythmic tale of a Sufi whirling dervish’s.

Birmingham Poet Laureate 1999/2000, Simon Pitt also made a special guest appearance with his slightly eccentric performance. One act of which, he threw things at the audience in a fit of rage.  It was a rather convincing temper tantrum and nothing like I’ve ever seen in my life, so I’m glad to have finally had such a frightful experience, whilst in such a friendly environment. It wasn’t all gloom and doom of course as Pitt soon lightened the tone offering the crowd a brighter side to his sense of humor.

It was a pleasure to become acquainted with Lorna Meehan s work, especially as she had just come off her first poetry tour with England and Scotland’s leading poetry organisation, Apples and Snakes .  Her act was a real delight.  Rumour also has it, that Meehan is presently preparing to be the world’s first hula hooping performance poet…

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A local poet, Max Jalil who rarely ever shares his work, shyly decided to pluck up his courage and read his witty poems on the subject of his horrendous dance antics, which is something that he is rather notorious for on the clubbers scene.  After having seen both of his talents, one would probably suggest that Jalil gives up dance and takes up poetry instead – as his poem really was rather good.

Najma Hush also shared two short and sweet poems before passing on the mic to none other than yet another poet laureate.  It was Roy Mcfarlen (Birmingham, 2010/2011), who had come to show his support for Hush’s events once again.  The enigmatic Mcfarlen who never fails to delight a crowd of poetry lovers drew the perfect close to an almost perfect night, as the host called the show a rap and let the crowd loose to get closer to view her work and stay around to chat and indulge in a few more drinks.     

Here are some more photographs to get you better acquainted with all the performers who came along… and look out for the uploads from Pat the Bull Films who kindly filmed that night’s events to broadcast to the world … after all…these open exhibition soiree’s aren’t titled, ‘Exhibitions for Exhibitionists’ for nothing, you know.

Diverse Dancers: I

20 Feb

Najma Hush’s, Diverse Dancers is the title given to a  large and ever expanding compilation of photographs, primarily concerned with the multiplicity of varying dance traditions, unique to a variety of different cultures and subcultures.

This collection has been produced with a keen interest in the grace of dancer’s movements and seeks to reveal the eloquence of each pose, jump, spin and lift.  As this project expands and develops, Hush seeks to come closer to interpreting and presenting the exceptional language of bodies that never lie.

Diverse Dancers Part I:   An Exhibition for Exhibitionists, with Art, Poetry and Music.

Diverse Dancers Part I:
An Exhibition for Exhibitionists, with Art, Poetry and Music.

Presently, a small and miscellaneous selection from this collection is exhibiting at ORT Cafe, Birmingham, UK (19th Feb-5th Mar 2014).

Look out for the next post on Diverse Dancers, where you can view the photographs from the open exhibition night and get better acquainted with all the amazing performers who will come to support this event, whilst also exhibiting their own amazing talents.  After all, these open exhibition evening’s  aren’t titled ‘Exhibition for Exhibitionists’ for nothing you know.

If you are a dancer or a dance company who would like to get involved and help expand this project, with a view to have an exhibition of your work interpreted as still images by the artist, then contact Najma Hush on photogiraffe@live.co.uk.

Some Kind of Blue Exhibition Soiree

15 Oct
Opening of Exhibition evening, with Art, Poetry and Music

Opening of Exhibition evening, with Art, Poetry and Music

We have some exciting news!   Najma Hush is currently Artist in Residence at Fine Art Gallery, Arts 4 Art Sake at the Custard Factory in Birmingham.   Recently she opened her first exhibition called, Some kind of Blue,  a collection of fine art photography;

‘…concerned with the manifest content of our dreams (or to put it simply, elements of our dreams that we remember upon awakening).  Inspired by the work of psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud, who in his book, The Interpretation of Dreams, suggests that the content of our dreams are related to wish fulfillment; as he believed that the manifest content of a dream, or the actual imagery and events of the dream, serve to disguise the latent content (or the unconscious wishes) of the dreamer.  Thus, the photography presented in Some Kind of Blue, is directly symbolic of the thoughts, desires and images which may manifest from (your own subconscious) within your own dreams, with the poetic emphasis  ingrained in every metaphoric title for each individual piece.’  ~ Najma Hush

For the open evening of the exhibition, Hush curated a night of art, poetry and music by hosting performances in line with the theme of ‘Dreams’,  in keeping with her exhibited collection.  In a nut shell, here is what happened:

Maqsood Qazi , the director of Arts 4 Art Sake, fine art gallery, sponsored the opening exhibition of,  Some Kind of Blue by this emerging artist. Held at their premises, Arts 4 Art Sake provided all the food and drink. There was enough time to admire Hush’s exhibited collection of Photography, Some Kind of Blue and view all of the other art work at the gallery (such as Jinxy Art, Javed Qamar, Tahir Bin-Qalandar and more), as the crowd gathered and mingled.   Unexpectedly, Mike Bongo, a local singer, song writer  requested he open the soiree with his songs written for Mental Health Awareness, although not fitting with our theme, it was allowed on an exceptional and friendly basis (because everybody deserves a chance to be heard).  It also gave us more time to welcome new guests, just before some wonderful live performances were given by a diverse amalgamation of urban voices, who put on such an entertaining show.

The real show opener was local Rapper Ali Mardi- aka- Da Wonderin Dragon, who got the crowd going with his passionate and humorous poem describing his, ‘Dream Girl’.  Following on, was a rather musical performance of poetry, by Walsall poet and performer, Al Barz who had composed his own music to crescendo his poetry. Usually and popularly known to be on keyboard,  Barz was upon this night, accompanied by an amp and his ipad.  Next up was poet, Gary Carr, who had come all the way from Burton-Upon-Trent to share some dreamy poetry from his very own, next collection of Dream poems that he had been working on.  Then there was local artist and writer, Shirley P Cooper, who came and shared her, ‘I have a Dream’ poems as well as some of her sweet, home baked cupcakes.  We were also proud to host the charismatic poet Laureate of Walsall, Ian Henery also graced the event with his presence and read some blooming great poetry too.  Next to follow was local poet,  James Walpole, who performed three brilliant poems he had written just for our ‘Dream’ themed event.   Then there was a very young and talented, Ester Turner, who sang songs from her debut album, ‘Dreams’ and blew the crowd away with her amazing voice, whilst a nice, handsome crowd, waved in and out throughout the evening to watch and support the event, which made the atmosphere very relaxed, friendly and inviting.  A special appearance from Marcia Calame added a great positive energy to the whole event – the same strong presence, that she carried into her enticing poetry performance on stage.  It was also great to introduce and announce, popular storyteller, Kate Walton had been nominated for outstanding newcomer at the BASE Awards (British Award for Storytelling Excellence), just before she shared some of her own profound poetic works.  Artist and poet, Kristina Vere-Gankaku Griffiths, came all the way from West Bromwhich to read her dreamy poems, from her debut poetry book, No Strings Attached.  Just before the final closing acts of the event which were, non other than two of Birmingham’s very own,  former poet laureates, the enigmatic  Roy Mcfarlen and the infamous  Giovanni Spoz Esposito, who closed the evenings event charmingly.   

You can see the pictures here and look out for the video promo by Pat the Bull Productions. And of-course, stay tuned to hear about more events like Some Kind of Blue when they come up again as hopefully, we look forward to exhibiting our next collection soon!
But in the meantime you can pop into Arts4ArtSake, fine art gallery at the custard factory anytime you like and check out our Art.

Aliens Have Feelings Too (Part Five)

5 May

A Photography Project aimed to develop the Emotional Literacy of vulnerable school children.

Work Hard - Play Hard

Work Hard – Play Hard

Working with:

Group A – Year 2 (6-7 year olds)

Morning session 2.5 hrs

Group B – Year 3 (7-8 year olds)

Afternoon session 2.5 hrs

1. Project Review:   To organize the material of all the previous sessions into an inter-connected whole.  To fix ideas learned in the mind through repetition.   To recall old ideas with new connections.

2. Story Boarding:   For the groups to review all their edited photographs and derive meaning from each picture, paying particular attention to feelings.

3. Brain Storming a Cohesive Narrative:  To create one cohesive narrative per group using the best photographs they took over the course of three sessions.  

Week four:  Using Photography to Storyboard 

As discussed in the previous article (Aliens Have Feelings Too! (Part Three)), when working with the two groups to develop a narrative, I soon found that they needed to be helped greatly if they were to achieve this and therefore I decided that we would create one story per group working with the photographs that they had already taken, dedicating these efforts to team work rather than having ten short stories in one book.

Here follows a brief description of the processes taken to complete the final book which has now been produced for Priory Lower School Bedford.  It consists of two stories one from each group and I have also made a audio visual story to accompany hardback book, so that each child can have a copy of their work within budget.

Working Hard - Playing Hard

Working Hard – Playing Hard

 1. Project Review: 

a.) Vocabulary:   From week one session reviewing six primary emotions and 5 different synonyms for each.  This is not a drilling lesson for repetition, but rather to see how the children have evolved.   When they recall vocabulary, I ask them if they can put that word in a little story (scenario).  In this way you can assess how they the students have progressed with what they have learned as apposed to just simply remembering what was taught.

b.)  Role-Play:    This time I filmed it for them so that they could watch themselves back and see how they had improved. The children from year 3 showed an increase of improvement than year 2, who showed little signs of having improved their role play skills.  I assessed this through their coordination and how they reacted to the lines and ques of their ‘co-stars’.  The children in year three showed such a dramatic improvement in their performance, keeping in time, ques for coming in, off ‘stage’, I was actually shocked.  What was even more surprising was the children reaction to watching themselves on video.  Year 3’s were very amused, but yet very critical of their own performance.  A few of them even commented that they “sucked” which in truth compared to other children of their age they probably did, but I was just amazed and very proud at how far they had come.  Because the purpose of a drama activity is not just to rouse children imaginations, but  also to gain focus on a task and learn to work together as a team.  Drama needs constant discipline and attention  if the overall production is to be of a higher standard.  If I did something different I would have filmed them practicing on every session so that they could see how they had improved and why – which could be attributed to their concentration.  I realize now what an important skill this is for vulnerable children to learn. These things need to be spelled out for children so that they can see the benefits in each and every activity.  Play is fun but it should teach you something too.

2.  Story Boarding:

This activity was not conducted in the conventional way story boarding is known to be carried out, (i,e with the story coming before the pictures).  We had the pictures first, but we did the story until the end.   Needless to say, this activity fulfilled the criterion for most story board session, giving the children visuals to think and plan, as a group of people brainstorming their ideas together.  Placing their ideas on a board and then arranging the storyboard on the wall. This fosters more ideas and generates consensus inside the group.

Conventional Story Board Layout.

Conventional Story Board Layout.

a.) Objectives:

*   There are 20 pictures on the board.  We need to make a story using the photographs we took to create a book for Priory Lower School.  We don’t have to use all the pictures, we only need enough to make one story.  All the pictures have numbers from 1-20, but this does not mean the story has to be in this order, we can jumble up all the numbers and I will give them new numbers so I know what happens at the beginning, the middle the end for when I make our book.

* Concept check:  How many pictures do we have?  How many stories are we going to make?

b.) Rules:

*   We are as working as a team and there is no ‘I’ in ‘We’.  So what ‘we’ need to remember is, that these are our photographs and this will be our story, which we will give as a gift to our school. (To encourage team spirit.)

 *    Nobody can touch the board except the person who writes on it (in this case me – because they will all want to touch the board).

c.) Generating ideas:

This activity requires a great deal of thought from the children.   If the children are silent for 5 minutes, then you know you’re on to a winner!  The aim is to encourage that thought process.  When doing this the children actually told me that they ‘We’re quiet because they we’re thinking’, I was well chuffed because they had problems generally focusing on most activities – so I knew that this meant that they had made progress.

* Look at the photographs and think of some words we can use to describe what’s happening in each picture.  Don’t worry if you can’t think of something to say straight away, you can take your time, think carefully and then when you want to speak put your hand up.

* Write down the words the children give to describe each pictures underneath each picture.  I deliberately edited the photographs making some brighter, darker etc to create a  stronger mood for each picture to help them imagine.

3. Brainstorming

The Next step was brainstorming the ideas which the children were already familiar with from week 3.  With all the pictures laid out  the Mind Map Tree for Brain Storming is in a place where everyone can see, I asked the children to think about:

* Your favorite story?  (Students example, Goldie Locks and the Three Bears.)

*How many people are there in the story?

* Are they all people or are some animals ?

* What we call the different creatures in one story? (characters)

*  How many characters does this story have?  (Use the pictures to count.  We used other toy props and in some photographs there were more than one alien in some pictures).

* I list the number of characters they see, then ask the children to give them all names.  I write all the ideas down.  No one idea is better than another.  I write everything down to encourage them all to give me more ideas.

* Then we vote on the best ideas.  If you have a tie you can throw your tuppence in there, or better yet,  flip a coin.

* Start with, what happens first.  As the story unravels take down each picture from the board and place it on the storyboard, giving each picture a caption.

Practitioners Process:

Thereafter I took the pictures from the storyboard with the captions and the mind map and wrote a story with their  ideas.  I produced a hard back book for the school and an audio visual story for the children to take home and play on their computer or dvd players as the children expressed there disappointment at not receiving a book to take home.  Unfortunately the budget would not stretch that far, so I decided to make a video for them to take home.

Here is the audio visual book of the story we created:

Conclusion:

During the final stages of production, Year 2 found it harder to create cohesion with there ideas for their final story.  On the other hand, Year 3’s story was remarkable imaginative and detailed.  They did not struggle with the concept of chronology and therefore writing up their ideas into a narrative was far less challenging than writing up the narrative for year 2; whilst the ideas year 2 produced were more fragmented and more challenging for me to make sense of when producing the final story,  I noticed that year 2 were more clear about how the Alien was feeling in each picture and were using more of the vocabulary previously taught and with more confidence, which to me indicated an improvement in their emotional literacy.

Both groups focus of attention had improved,  for when it came to creating the story, they were quieter and more thoughtful during the storyboard activity, assuring me that they were quieter because they were ‘thinking’.   This compared to when they had started was remarkable, as I had found it very challenging to get them to focus on most of the activities in the beginning of the project.  They had become more comfortable with the idea of using their imagination and could talk about how they were using it with much more fluency than when we had began.

From assessing their performance in the workshops by the end of the course, I can confidently say that their ability to talk about feelings had improved, as well as their ability to focus on activities using the imagination, which I link back to Emotional Literacy.  For if children are encouraged to talk about things that they cannot physically use their 5 senses for, then they will be more able  to express and share notions related to their internal world.

It was only when I completed the storybook that I realized that they had improved so much in terms of being able to access and express their internal world,  for the stories they created with me.  Their teachers also commented on an improvement in the children’s self-esteem and enthusiasm to participate in class.   Furthermore, I was delighted that they had told their teachers that they had enjoyed the sessions very much and wished that I could come back to work with them again.

Other Useful Links:

http://www.ehow.co.uk/how_7921634_do-storyboard-childrens-books.html

http://www.mightyartdemos.com/mightyartdemos-shulevitz.html

Aliens Have Feelings Too! (Part 2)

3 Apr

Aliens have feelings too – (Part 2): 

A Photography Project aimed to develop the Emotional Literacy of vulnerable school children.

Working with:

Group A – Year 2 (6-7 year olds)

Morning session 2.5 hrs

Group B – Year 3 (7-8 year olds)

Afternoon session 2.5 hrs

Objectives:

  1. Vocabulary Building:  Using pictures to help children talk about the variety of emotions and also to help them develop (an already) devised play that they will later act out.
  2. Creative Writing:  Group work.  Creating a written story using pictures and the vocabulary they learnt earlier.
  3. Drama:  Enacting a short role play based on six primary emotions, based upon a short play about some children who become stranded in the forest.  They stumble across a spaceship and are frightened by aliens.  Finally they call for help and are rescued by police.

Week One:  Story Building and Role Play

Presented herewith will be material from the scheme of works developed and used by myself to help cultivate the emotional literacy of 10 “vulnerable” children at Priory Lower School, Bedford.   The scheme had been planned weeks before I began the workshops, however I only received feedback on this scheme a day prior to my start date, when I went into Priory Lower School for the second time to meet the senior teacher, to discuss the schedule of work and it’s suitability for the students I was going to be working with.

As my previous article relates, (Introduction:  Aliens Have Feelings Too! (Part One), 18th March’13) most of the children selected in this project possess a level of English lower than the average standard for their age group.  Mrs Wakefield, the senior teacher told me that when she asks her students how they are feeling, they often tell her, “happy” or “sad”, without fully being able to express or elaborate.  Furthermore, she informed me that imagination was not a particularly strong trait possessed amongst the selected pupils.   Having been giving this information a day before I commenced working with the two groups, I realised that I may have to do some improvisation as I went along.  However, I will present the material as it was initially created, with PDF’s (at the end of this article) of all of the worksheets from week one for fellow practitioners or school teachers wishing to utilise material as they deem fit. Please note, that as an ex-English teacher, I have used some of this material already with foreign students whilst working at British Council so it is also adaptable for EFL classes with young learners.

Below follow pictures used for this project alongside anticipated questions and answers for both sessions.  Naturally the older students from year 3 (aged 7-8) have a stronger vocabulary than the students from the year below, who need more prompts. However, I will keep the details as brief as possible in order to keep the article’s pace swift and engaging for readers who may be interested in using the same or similar material, providing only the lesson plan material henceforth.   Finally, I will end the article with a short conclusion, detailing problems I did not anticipate.

1.    Vocabulary Building Using Pictures

Introduction informing pupils they have been selected by their teacher to take part in a photography project, at the end of which they will have a complete book displaying their photographs.  “The title of our photography project is ‘Aliens Have Feelings Too’, because for the next 4 weeks we will be exploring different feelings we and others can feel.”

But, were they going to take any photographs today?  No, because today was a story building day and we were going to make a story based on different feelings and then we would act them out.

 

a.)  Activating Schemata

Fig I). Aliens

Fig I). Aliens

               Q. Look at the picture what do you see?

A. Aliens

Q. Has anyone here ever met an alien?

A. varied one child claimed she had.

Q.  How would you feel if you saw an alien?

A. Scared, frightened

Q. How do you think the alien would feel if they met you?

A.  Varied answers from scared to assertions that they would want to eat them up.

Fig.II). Planets

Fig.II). Planets

Q. What is this picture of?

A. Space

Q. Which planet do we live in?

A. Earth

Q. Can you name any more planets in outer space?

A.  Mars (was predominately the planet most of them were familiar with.  There was some confusion between the sun and planets but I prompted the names quickly and asked them which planet was nearest  to earth followed by suggesting that if aliens did come to earth they would come from mars (for imaginations sake)).

b.)  Feelings.

This activity consists of a collection of 6 different pictures of ‘smiley emotions’ which were each presented to the students on 6 separate worksheets. The numbers 1-5 listed beneath so that they could think of 5 different synonyms to describe the emotions conveyed.  The object being that in order to develop their emotional literacy, they must first be equipped with sufficient vocabulary to express their basic emotions.  The ‘smileys’ used are based upon the 6 primary emotions that caption each of the scenes in the devised play which the children act out later.  They appear in this exact order because they are connected to the chronology of the story.  These primary emotions are:

  1. 1.    Happy,  2.  Evil,  3.  Lost   4.  Surprised, 5.  Afraid and  6. Brave.

 

“Can you think of 5 more words to describe the emotions each of these 6 faces are feeling?”

  • 2. evil

  

  

c.)  The Storyboard:

As seen here, ‘The Storyboard’ is a set of 6 images connected to the creative writing which I anticipated would help them to conjure the scenes from the final act in step3.

Storyboard

Storyboard

 

The 6 key words that need to be elicited for the development of the story from each of the different pictures are:

1.    Picnic   2.  Forest    3.  Children    4.  Spaceship   5.  Aliens   6. Police

 

 

 

 

 2.    Creative Writing

Use these words
Happy

Evil

Lost

Surprised

Afraid

Brave

Creative Writing: Students working together

Creative Writing: Students working together

Due to the small number of students in each group (4-5) I grouped them in pairs or a group of three.  Team names were appointed and points were given as an incentive to work together and write up the best story using the pictures, the words from the pictures above and the primary words used from the ‘smiley emotions’.  The purpose of this activity is so that the students are already familiar with the story before they practice acting it out.  The pictures are used to elicit the pre-devised story and help them to visualize and imagine.  It is also an activity aimed to aid their writing skills and it can also be used to develop their team working skills as well as assisting them to practice the vocabulary of emotions that they have used in the previous ‘smiley emotions’ (1b. Feelings) activity. The stories are read out at the end from each group to share with all and points are added up in the end of the activity to announce the winning group.

 

 3.    Drama

Due to the number of students in the class the drama the script from the play that I gained inspiration from was not used in it’s entirety as I guessed that the students would struggle with the number of character in the play.  Instead we had 2 children, 2 aliens and in one group I played the authoritative role of the brave police officer.  I guided the children holding up the picture of each emotion picture to indicate the scene.  This on my part was an improvisation which was a little hit and miss on where I wanted the play to go.

Conclusion:  What worked? What could have been done better?

 

1.    Vocabulary Building:

  • When using pictures to help children talk about the variety of words describing emotions, I should have done a list of 5 words for each smiley face.  I had not considered carefully, the possibility of a limited vocabulary possessed by the students and had to revert to a thesaurus online.
  • Often when shown the pictures if the smiley emotions the kids went off on tangents screaming, ‘happy’, ‘sad’, and ‘angry’ which they were right to suggest as I had  taken for granted that some synonyms could be interchangeable from one picture to another when I had prepared the material.
  •  I soon learnt that to elicit the words I desired I had to give them scenarios.  Luckily, I was quick enough on my feet to do this, but in hindsight, I would prepare all this beforehand.
  • Spelling was a problem for the children so, extra time should be considered to help them with them writing the words correctly, because in order for them to see the whiteboard properly, I needed the lights off, which meant they couldn’t see what they were writing.  It would be helpful to consider this for any future endeavours.  Have two boards and white board pen if you are using an electronic whiteboard.

2.    Creative Writing:

  • Unfortunately,   the written stories produced were not all the same as I had anticipated.  Though we went through the pictures on the board together, and made the story together before they began the writing exercise, the children didn’t make the connection and still all wrote completely different stories.
  • They found it hard to work together and some students were faster and more dominant than others, which led to a lot of work being dictated and copied.  Having done this activity with EFL students before, I had not predicted this problem as the class I’d worked with before all produced near enough the same story.  To tackle this problem what I can do next time, is select 6 different pictures for the storyboard with a precise correlation with the ‘smiley emotions’.  Giving each student (or group) a number from 1 – 6.  They each get a picture from the 6 pictures from the storyboard and the correlating ‘smiley emotions’ to describe the emotion of that part of the story.   They then write an extract from that part of the story with the words they need. (e.g. 1. Picnic 1. Happy face:  One day there were some children who were very happy because they went on a picnic).

3.    Drama:

  • I had not known how many students I was going to have in each session until an evening before I commenced work.  By that time I did not have enough time to change the script.  Having realised a bit too late that the play had too many characters in it, the play had to be performed without the script.  As I began working with the children, I soon realised at their age they would struggle greatly if I had used that particular script.  The acting part started off very slowly and although a lot of fun for the children, quite frustrating for me as they would get awfully excited about chasing and being chased and would rush all the other scenes to get to that point, after which they would become deranged little monsters hard to calm down.
  • Had there been an organised script for them to follow this might not have been the case as they would have had to concentrate on their lines.  The mistake I made was that I kept holding up the pictures of emotions not understanding that they had not made that connection in the first instance because, they had written completely different stories anyway.  Although it must be noted, that I had briefly read and acted the story out for them showing them the pictures, but it took longer than I thought for them to get it precisely right.  My advice would be to edit the script well,  preferably with the students names worked in if you can (particularly with students as young as 6-8) or spend make better visual ques for them if you wish for them your students to have the freedom to improvise.

Success:

Despite all the criticism of my own methods, I will say that the children thoroughly enjoyed themselves throughout the sessions.  Most of them dipped when sharing their stories, but I feel that was my own fault for not having devised the activity better.  Expressing themselves and learning about emotions is not something they have been given a chance to do before and being small groups meant that they got a buzz from the special attention I could give to them.  The drama session really bought them out of their shells and there were some very good actors in the class even the ones who were a little shy at the start got into character.  They still remember the activity and we use it as a warm up at the start of each session or a reward for good behaviour at the end.

 

What’s next?   Week Two:

1. Introduction to the alien Doll family

2. Creating unique alien characters

3. Photographing objects with consideration to framing compositions.

 

Links:

Mini-Drama Sketches: http://efltheatreclub.co.uk/index.php?p=1_9

PDF’s from week one: 1. Feeling Faces  2. Picture the Story  3. Story of Emotion

Introduction: Aliens Have Feelings Too! (Part One)

18 Mar

In Residence: The School Project

“Aliens Have Feelings Too!”  is a PhotoGiraffe Live Arts project  at Priory Lower School, Bedford, where I am currently working with 10 children aged between 6-8 (Key stage 2 and 3) to help them to express their emotions. The project is four weeks long and is aimed to develop the emotional literacy of ‘vulnerable’ children to help them progress in their learning.  But ‘what are vulnerable’  children?

As an ex-English teacher I have worked with children and teenagers for over two years, having taught English in Spain, Morocco,  Egypt, as well as in various summer schools for foreign students in England. Whilst going through the EFL experience, I raised opportunities for myself to work with young people using drama and story telling to aid their learning.   However, the children I  worked with thus so far had always come from rather privileged backgrounds, whose parents could afford to send their children to cultural/language centers with expensive fees to better invest in their future.

One year later, after having given-up-the-day-job (i.e teaching English) and now as a specialised Arts Practitioner in the field of Photography, I have been commissioned by a school which is located in the most underprivileged region of Bedford.  The primary school where I am currently assigned, have a very high turnover of students.  They all come from a varied ethnic minorities background,  are predominately living in council  housing and due to migrational reasons, their parents cannot speak English (fluently).  The school has a very attractive language board in the main corridor with over 18 languages to signify the number of different mother tongues spoken by the students in their homes.  Consequently, at this early stage of their learning, some of the students themselves are not fluent in the English Language and their parents are mainly (using the term loosely) ‘out of reach’.

Now, going back to my initial question, The DfE define “vulnerable groups” as “disadvantaged groups” and there are safeguarding and child protection connotations to the expression. In Ofsted terms, vulnerable children are amongst those groups that may need additional support or intervention in order to make optimum progress. They cite children “whose needs, dispositions, aptitudes or circumstances require particularly perceptive and expert teaching and, in some cases, additional support“.
Which groups these are will depend on the circumstances of the particular school (See Ofsted’s Good Practice Report on creating an inclusive school community) but a number are mentioned within the schedule, such as boys, girls, looked after children and minority ethnic groups).

Generally speaking, every child has a different pace of learning.  Some learn faster than others, but those from these particular types of backgrounds, who have a slower progress rate in class can be considered to be ‘vulnerable’ and it is with these children that I am currently working. These 10 students have been carefully selected by the teachers, who they feel need particular attention to help them learn to be more expressive and participative in class.  Therefore, I have devised my own scheme of work, approved by the school which incorporates, creative writing, drama and photography to help them develop their emotional literacy.

With only one year of experience as a freelancer, this is the first time I have been commissioned as an Artist to work in a school and so  in this capacity it is all very new to me.  I was  mainly selected, because of my previous background of working with children in education and in photography (please see portraits on http://www.photogiraffe.me).  Hence why, every week for the next four weeks, I will be traveling to Bedford from Birmingham to deliver these sessions.

During these four weeks, I will be documenting my experience revealing to you, the exact structure and schemes of works I delivered at these workshops, alongside detailed accounts of my aims and objectives and whether or not I think I reached them.  By the end of the four weeks I will share samples of the children’s finished art work.  I hope that these particular blog entries will be useful for other arts practitioners working in schools and also for teachers that could adapt some of these activities for their own classrooms to help the children who they feel are harder to reach.  Week by week I will share with you, exactly what I did and the material I used for each session, alongside some snappy snaps of the kids at work (with the kind permission of the school and parents of course).  As well as being educational, I will try my utmost to inject my personality into my writing to make it an entertaining read for those – who may just be curious…

But for the meantime here is a list of points that I have considered, which will be further discussed during the course in this series of blog entries, as the project develops:

Project Title:

Alien’s Have Feelings Too!

Rationale

Some children might develop learning problems in class which can lead to feelings of alienation.  This could potentially lead to further problems as they cannot express how it feels for them to be an outsider.

Their inability to express themselves could further be triggered by their peers disapproval and/isolating treatment of them, if they are perceived to be behaving differently.  This may add to their feelings of alienation and as a defense mechanism, cause them to shut down or misbehave; consequently the child’s learning problem may become worse as the troubled child is unable to express them self and cannot understand or be understood as to why s/he is not able to participate  in class as well as her/his peers.

Aims

Expression:  To give a ‘vulnerable’ child the opportunity to express themselves, from the perspective of being on the inside and of being on the outside.

Discussion:  To enter into open discourse concerning the difference of a variety of emotions we can feel.

Perspective: To help them to distance themselves from their own problems yet give them a voice they can relate to through an imaginary character (i.e Alien dolls).

Outcome

  • Story Telling: to create an animated story through still photography, using various arts and craft props.
  • To use a theme that develops a photo documentary of the Children’s ability to solve their own problems through self expression.
  • To create a photobook documenting the child’s journey, through the child’s eyes.

What’s next?

Next week I will be sharing with you exactly what I did for the first introductory session with the two different groups of children, including supporting material from the workshop, what worked, what didn’t and hopefully some photographs from the session.  So stay tuned!

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