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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

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.

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 Four)

30 Apr

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. Homework Review:    To view children’s photographs taken over their weekend.  Listen, discuss and gain insight into the children’s home environment for a better understanding on how they can be helped.

2.  Story Building with Props:   To use props to photograph alongside Alien dolls to create a cohesive narrative.

3. Outdoor Expedition:   For the children to take photographs of their Aliens,  in an environment outside of the school, creating a cohesive narrative about their Aliens adventures.

Week Three:  Outdoor  Photography Expedition.

As discussed in the previous article (Aliens Have Feelings Too! (Part Three)), over the course of working with the two different groups for past two weeks, it had become increasingly apparent, that imagination for these kids, was not a gift, but rather something that had to be conquered.  This now meant that I had to make some changes to my original scheme of work for week three if I was to help them access and exercise the part of their mind that I believed was most inactive ( i.e. their imagination).  I believed that these children would need more help to access their imagination if they were to develop their Emotional Literacy because, as it had become apparent, they didn’t appear to have any personal issues that were hindering the development of their Emotional Literacy nor were they particularly badly behaved (as far as cheeky little monsters are concerned),  but what I noted from both groups, is that the children lacked focus of attention, which was affecting the development of their creativity, imagination and similarly – I came to the conclusion – that maybe that was what was impacting their overall learning in school.

Albert Einstein, once commented that ‘imagination is more important than knowledge…Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.‘   I wish I could reference more sources that could support the logic and reason behind my conclusion, but I cannot, except – that is to say – refer to an excerpt from an article examining studies, ‘into the brain and intelligence and in particular into the ingconnections between emotions, cognitive development, attention-span, memory and learning…”   which also comments that Researchers still have   “…much to say to inform educators. This area is new and the implications of the findings as yet inconclusive so we would do well to heed the warning from Wolfe and Brandt  (1998:10) that educators should be cautious about neuro-scientific findings. That having been said, the following points are pertinent to our discussion…We know that our feelings affect our motivation, our curiosity, and our concentration, our memory – both in laying learning down and in recall, and our staying power as well as our willingness to defer gratification.”  This article then goes on to reference findings that could support the former evaluation above (Lynne Gerlach and Julia Bird, Feel the Difference: Learning in an Emotionally Literate School, SOWELU ASSOCIATES, (2006)).

In any case, according to my own assumptions and based upon what I had learnt about the children so far, as well as what I knew about their less privileged backgrounds, it was safe to assume that their extra curricular activities outside of school would be spent in front of a screen. This was also pertinent in the pictures they had taken over the weekend, which were mainly of their family members at home or photo’s taken of the cartoons that they had watched on TV.  With their focus of attention on a screen whether it be TV, DVD, video, computer, playstation, etc, their learning or entertainment outside the school, was very passive. Instead of using their own imaginations to learn about the world and create something, these children were passive recipients of visual and auditory stimulation. Sufficient to say that this is a very artificial way of learning about the world and does not engage children kinesthetically.  The purpose of this project was of-course, to engage the children to learn more about themselves and their own internal world.  To do this, I had to think about utilising techniques of creative thinking to stimulate their imagination and teaching them a ‘model’  to follow so that they too, could think creatively about a story for their doll when they were capturing images on their outdoor expedition.

1. Homework Review

Students Homework

Students Homework: ‘Lamp in my Bedroom’.

Student's Homework:  'My Mum'.

Student’s Homework: ‘My Mum’.

Some children had forgotten their camera’s at home, which meant we were down a couple for the photography session outdoors.  Some children complained that the camera batteries had run out before they had even started shooting.     They hadn’t used the frames as I had taught them to the previous week, but that was understandable, because we hadn’t chance to practice with the mini-digital camera’s that they had taken home (as I had mentioned in the previous article, the school had forgotten to charge the batteries for them, so we had used the Macbooks instead).   Due to this, I had not had a chance to show the children how to operate these cameras, in terms of lighting, flash, etc and therefore a lot of the images were quite poor.  But the photographs that were presented were mainly of themselves, their family and the TV.   If anything, setting this exercise did give me a short glimpse into the children’s lives outside of school.  Presented in this section, are two of the best photographs which I found to be the most ‘Avaunt Guard’.

2. Story Building with Props

children photograph Alien with Props to create a story.

Children taking photograph of props to create a story.

Here are a list of steps taken with both groups to help them generate ideas about creating a cohesive narrative about their Alien (Persona Dolls – as covered in the previous article).   This exercise was intended to “model” what was required of them, in order that they too could create a story with their Alien Dolls when out photographing on our expedition.

Tree Mind Map:  Brain Storming

Click here for Brain Storming PDF

a). Brainstorming:     Mind mapping and brain storming are techniques employed by writers, entrepreneurs, consultants and any individual or a team of people who wish to generate creative thought by letting their mind run wild with ideas to a particular cause. By recording all the ideas where they can be seen, it provides a visual picture of how all their ideas are connected and displays them in one place as more are added.  This prevents the same ideas being repeated and gives everybody a chance to work off others’ ideas.    Depending on how much time you have and the size of your group, you can do this individually, in pairs, in small groups or as one big team.  We did it as a class and ideas were written on the smart board.   You can download this Mind Map Tree for Brain Storming (click – PDF) to use with your class.

b). Establishing an Objective:  The purpose of establishing objectives is to set clear goals for what is expected to be achieved from the activity by all those involved.  Here, the children’s objectives are:

  • To create a story using props gathered from around the school, that we will set up as  scenes to photograph.
  • To first, work together as a team, but when we go outside on the expedition, they must do the same activity individually.
  • To give the children’s Alien Doll his/her own story, so that I can use their work to create a book that will be presented to the school to show what we did when we worked together.
  • To work hard and take really good photographs at all times, because only the best photographs will be included in our finished book.
  • To pay attention to what we learned about framing and angels last week, so that we can take the best photographs for our finished book.

d). Laying Out the Ground Rules:  In order to avoid as many distractions during the process of generating ideas, the ground rules should be established first, so that all participants know what will be expected during the course of this activity.

  • One person must write all the ideas down (in this case it is the teacher, as we will do this activity as a class)
  • Nobody must touch the objects or the doll except the teacher, children can only look – but not touch (this will prevent objects being misplaced,children fidgeting and/or fighting and any other unnecessary distractions).
  • Hands must be raised and we must wait until one idea has been completely written on the board before we listen and list another.
  • No one will laugh or criticise anyone else’s idea, because we can be as crazy as we want.
  • At the end, only the best ideas will be selected to create one story.
  • We will all take turns to photograph the scenes when all the props have been set-up to create our display.

e). Generating ideas:  With all the props laid out along side one Alien Doll and the Mind Map Tree for Brain Storming in a place where everyone can see the ideas when written, a story is generated by asking the children 6 Wh-questions (who, what, where, when, why, and how?) for example:

  • Who is in this story?
  • What are their names?
  • Where are they at the start?
  • Where do they want to go?
  • Why do they want to go there?
  • How will they get there?
  • What do they need to take with them?
  • Who will they meet there?
  • What will they all do together?
  • Why do they want to do that?
  • Where will they all go to do that?
  • How will they get there? (etc…)

f). Select Ideas: By this stage there will be a number of ideas that have been generated.  Most likely, more ideas than can be dealt with. Therefore, we must select ideas with which the most linear and cohesive narrative can be formed.  As group leader, I influenced the selection of some of the final ideas to get the ball rolling quicker and help them collaboratively create a story that made sense.  Depending on your groups ability to create a consecutive story, you may wish to refrain from this process and give your group a vote for the elimination and retaining of ideas.

The Story from our Brain Storming Session:

3. Outdoor Expedition

Props for kids to use t build their story

Props the kids used to build their story

The second half of the lesson is spent outdoors (for us it was at a small park right next to the school).  During this activity, children take their Alien, named in last weeks session and the same camera they had used over the weekend. They are again informed that this time they will do the same story building activity, only outdoors in the park, but still using different props to create different scenes.

  • Make sure the area that you choose for this activity is not very big,  as you do not want to loose sight of where the children go.  Set strict boundaries for where you will all work, so that within this vicinity, you can move around between the pupils, see what they are doing  and give them some useful tips and suggestions to help.
    • Lay out all of the props in one place where the children can see them.
    • Tell them that they can only take one item from the bench to work with alongside their Alien.
    • When called them back to the bench, they must put their item down, then go and sit down.
    • Once all seated, the children can then come and collect another item from the bench to work with.
    • Call them together to switch items every 10 minutes before they get bored and always encourage them to move around in the area from place to place so that they have variety in their photographs.

    Conclusion:

  • The Outdoor Expedition

    The Outdoor Expedition

  • 1. Homework Review

    The Homework set was a very good way for me to find out about the children’s lives at homes to reach fair conclusions about how much exposure they get to being mentally and physically stimulated.  It gave me an idea as to what kind of activities they typically get up to.  But, because of the nature of how these sessions are run, there was a one day gap between the previous session and when the cameras were given out to them, which meant that they had by that time forgotten what I had asked them to do which was use the frames and take pictures of things that they wanted to show their Alien.  The lesson learnt here, is that children need repetition and continuity, which is why I didn’t get the results I had expected from setting this assignment, but I did gain some insight into their world, so it was worth doing.  The fact that the children had the cameras for almost a week, I was surprised about the amount of photographs they had taken, which was not very many.  Naturally, this points to the fact that these children need to be encouraged and coaxed into being creative and that they cannot do this without being supervised.

    2. Story Building with Props

    Doing the story building activity with the children was fun but also challenging.  I felt as though I was pushing them beyond their comfort zone to think creatively.  Although it must be noted that the children from both groups are very lively, energetic and quite bright, but it is their imagination that is a very weak trait   The story was created from a great many prompts from myself using question after question.  They also found it difficult to select ideas that made up a story with a clear linear pattern and a great deal of questions had to be asked of them to challenge them to think critically about how the story would make sense  Contrary to these comments, there were times the children really did surprise and impressed me with some of their imaginative ideas.

    3. Outdoor Expedition

    The Outdoor Expedition

    The Outdoor Expedition

    At some points, the outdoor expedition was wild!  The children would at times loose focus from what they were there to achieve – more interested instead, in running around to play.  It was a little bit of challenge to get them to focus on the task at hand.  Although the swapping of items did help them keep their focus, but during the expedition I realised, that they were not applying the story boarding techniques modeled in class.  When I walked around and asked them what they were photographing and what was happening in their story, they would go very silent and just..smile…shyly, which meant that they hadn’t really thought about any why, who, when, what or where?   And, this applies to every single student I worked with.  There were no exceptions to this rule.  At this point, I thought it was hopeless for me to do anything but just let them carry on as they were because I hadn’t anticipated this happening.  It was frustrating for me, because I had expected them to apply what we had done in class to what the activity they were doing outdoors, but somewhere it just didn’t register or as the results from the homework activity indicate, they are unable to loose themselves in their own internal world without supervision or a great deal of guidance and coaxing.  However,  they looked like they were having a lot of fun doing the activity so I just let them be, all the while thinking…what I could possibly do to get through to them.

    Success:

    That day, I spoke to the head mistress about the children and told her that I didn’t think I was getting through to the children.  Mrs Hemsley told me that she had heard the children talking to many others about what they had been doing with me and were very happy about the exclusive time they spent within these sessions.  She also told me that it had done a wonder for their self-esteem and that I shouldn’t worry about the captions for the story coming from the children, as long as they were cooperating with me and that they had taken some great photographs as I had told her they had.

  • I suppose when creative practitioners work on projects like this, they have their own expectations.  It is important to remember  that in such cases, one cannot move mountains in just four weeks.  In addition, measuring  results in Emotional Literacy, is quite un-quantifiable and in such, can only be measured qualitatively through the creative product (in this case, the finished photography book).  Maybe the impact on their self esteem will, somewhere down the line help them in relation to how they learn and perhaps in some way, contribute towards how they think, feel and behave outside of school.  But maybe this type of change will be almost too small for an artist in residence –  such as myself  – to fully comprehend within the short time frame of four weeks.

    What’s Next:

    Next week is the final week with the children, before I begin working on the book for the school.   I feel that I may once again have to make changes to the original scheme of work I had devised.  The children have also had two weeks break for Easter and so they might have forgotten a great deal of things from the previous sessions.  So stay tuned and find out what I did with my final week with these kids…

    Other Useful Links:  

  • PhotoGiraffe Ming Map Tree For Brain Storming:  https://photogiraffelive.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/tree-mind-map.pdf
  • Think Article: http://blog.case.edu/think/2012/05/30/despite_less_play_childrenas_use_of_imagination_increases_over_two_decades

    Encouraging Your Child to Play Creatively and Imaginatively:  http://www.kathyeugster.com/articles/article007.htm

    Child Psychology: Anxiety and Imagination:  http://www.newswire.ca/en/story/920983/psychologist-discovers-the-link-between-anxiety-and-imagination

    Shaping an Emotionally Literate Environment: http://www.teachingexpertise.com/articles/shaping-emotionally-literate-environment-4091

    Feel The Difference, Learning in an Emotionally Literate School:  http://www.thriveftc.com/resources/documents/Feel%20The%20Diff%20Extract.pdf

Alien’s Have Feelings Too! (Part Three)

16 Apr

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

Week 2: Aliens and Frames

Week 2: Aliens and Frames

 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. Story Telling with Persona Dolls:  Using dolls as realia to create a fictional character the children can relate to, thereby allowing them the freedom to express and share a problem openly and furthermore search for possible resolutions.

2. Framing and Composition:  Introduction to using camera’s, implementing framing techniques to capture  the ‘Persona Doll’ under varying light, at different angles, whilst using various props from the environment familiar to the children.

  

 Week Two:

Introducing the ‘Alien’ Doll Family

No - Not frogs - Aliens!

Alien Doll Family

When researching methods to utilise to developing the Emotional Literacy of students at Priory Lower School (Bedford), I was not aware of exactly what was currently hindering each child’s ability to succeed in class and possibly even in their future life.  Although it was quite clear that the children selected did not know how to identify, label and talk about their feelings; which is why it was my job to help them to be able to express this.  However, how could I do that without getting them to expose themselves openly; which could quite possibly be threatening for anyone at any age? And then – to do this, precisely using photography?  Within four, 2.5 hour sessions?

Here, might I add, that by no means have I come to invent any of the ideas presented herewith on my own, but rather, I have discovered and manipulated carefully researched theories and practices,  to create one thematic unified, cohesive scheme of work that can be delivered logically, over four different periods.

The idea of creating the ‘Alien’ theme was initiated by the theories and practices, discovered regarding the use of ‘Persona Dolls’ in the classroom to help children develop their Emotional Literacy.  These theories suggest, that Dolls, in ‘telling their own stories‘ to the children, encourage children to tell their own.   I had anticipated that this would help the children, who were perceived to be different, to develop stories that would support and validate them.  When selecting the dolls I felt it was important that the dolls themselves were not representative of any gender, race or age, but rather they would (on a subconscious level) be symbolic, as a ‘universal’ icon for being different.  Based upon these notions, it was integral that the chosen ‘Persona Dolls’ were ones that the children had never seen or played with before.

As in the previous article Aliens have feelings too! – (Part 2), I will maintain the details to the session in brief, providing only the lesson plan material, including some pictures from the session and ending the article will be a short conclusion, detailing problems I had not foreseen   All references to works sited will appear at the end of the article as ‘Other Useful Links’.

Classroom Warm-up

  1. Review:  Vocabulary of Emotion, using the smiley face pictures from week one to elicit what the learners can remember.
  2. Class Warm-Up:  A practice run through of the Drama activity from last week.
  3. Analysing Photography:  Students view photographs from my portfolio consisting of Landscapes, Abstracts and Stills  to discuss what kind of emotions they feel when they look at these photographs.  We discussed  several emotions, they felt were conveyed by these photographs.  This demonstrated to them how photographs can tell stories about feelings and it was a nice way to illustrate, introduce and explain to them what they would be doing in the following sessions with me.

 1. Story Telling with Persona Dolls

Activating Schemata:

a.  Lay out all the dolls at the front of the classroom where the children can see them.  They must not – at this stage  – touch the dolls (this can be quite challenging as the children will very much want to touch and feel them immediately).

b.  Introduce the Dolls as ‘Our Alien Doll Family’.  Tell the children that these are an Alien family that they will be working with to take photographs.

c. Tell the children that each doll has a name, a problem and a story, but we don’t know what these names, problems and stories are yet,  because each of them will have to create this themselves.

d. Take one doll and place it in your lap.  Tell the children that this is your Doll. Your dolls name is (e.g.) Coo-coo.  Coo-Coo has a problem. (e.g.) He is really friendly and wants to make friends with some children, but the children are all afraid of him because, he is so different and so they always run away from him and hide.  They never play with him.

e. Ask the children ‘how do you think Coo-Coo feels?’

f.  Draw an empty circle on the board and ask which child can draw Coo-coo’s face which will show us all how he feels.

g.  Draw a thought bubble and ask which child can tell you what they think Coo-Coo is thinking.

h.  Draw a speech bubble and ask which child can tell you what they think Coo-Coo is thinking.  (*Depending on how much time you can assign to this task, it may be best to write on the board yourself, as some children might have problems with spelling).

exercise 5 - PDF worksheet

click here for the PDF worksheet – exercise 5

exercise 5.

  1. Give your Alien a name:
  2. Give your Alien a face to show how s/he is feeling.

  3.  In the speech bubble write down what the alien wants to say.

  4. In the thought bubble, write down what your alien is thinking.

 

Child doing Exersice 5

Creating a Persona for the Doll

i. Separate the children to sit further apart from one another (so they do not copy each other as the work must come from themselves).

j.  Before you handout  the worksheet for exercise 5., make it clear that they must not write anything down on the sheets until you tell them to (or else some will write all sorts of things before they understand what they need to do).

k. When they have the sheets, give them step by step instructions on how to complete each section. Explain to them that when they are asked to write something down they must not shout out or else someone else in the room might copy their idea and we wouldn’t want that.

l.  Make sure to go around and help each child individually and to also check that they are doing the exercise correctly.

m. Once finished the children share their ideas from their worksheet with the rest of the group.

2. Framing and Composition

Here is an exercise to teach children something about how we take photographs that are aesthetically pleasing so that they too can think about the artistic arrangement of different parts of a photograph. When teaching them about composition, it’s important for the children to learn about angles (i.e when they turn their camera or move their body, they can capture different types of photographs).

The primary prop used for this activity is a set of rectangular frames (8” x 10”), which I cut out of an abundance of cardboard boxes with a craft knife.    I did this about 16 times so that I could have one frame for each child, plus one for myself and some spares if the children tore or lost their frames.  The reason for the frame being rectangular is because that is the shape of most camera viewfinders, as well as most photographic prints and it can allow you to teach the children how to compose both landscape and portrait photographs.  Had I had more times with the children, I would have got them to decorate their individual frames, so that it would then possess more value to them.  However, since my time was limited it was not really an option, though I would highly recommend doing so.  Together, you could have all sorts of fun using colour pens, glitter, paper shapes, glue etc. to make the frames look really gorgeous.

Frame it

Framing it

a) Framing It

I. Before giving the children the frames, ask them to join together the thumbs and index fingers from both hands to make a rectangular shape and look through it.  Tell them to imagine that this is their camera and this is what they will use to practice taking photographs until they get really good and then we can all move onto using the real cameras.

II.  Show children the 2 different angles they can hold the camera to create a portrait (vertical) and landscape (horizontal) composition.  Test them by playing, “Simon Says, (e.g.take a picture in the room of something beginning with …X… in…), portrait” –  or – “landscape” to see if they have got it.

III.  Line up the children in single file in front of an empty chair.  Now with yourself sitting on the chair,  the first child in-line takes a picture of you posing as the model and then goes to the back of the queue.  In this way, get them to take pictures on their wee-little-thumb-and- index- finger-cameras, instructing them to take pictures of different parts of your face and body (e.g. “take a landscape picture of the side of my face – or my face with my eyes cut out of the frame – take a portrait picture of just my foot without my leg – take a landscape picture of my hand on my knee”).

5l

IV.  Take the children around the school with the cardboard frame and ask them to take photographs with the frame of things they like (e.g.  I took them outside in the nursery garden and nursery play-area and instructed them which objects to take pictures of).

V.  Take out the Dolls and place them in view of the children.  Handout the cameras and when they have them all switched on give them the cardboard frame.  Ask them the name of their doll and then select a doll to give to them.  Now they take photographs of their Aliens in awkward positions all around the garden and nursery play area.  Children are reminded to think about their Aliens name and how the Alien is feeling at all times.

VI.  Return back to the class room.  Sit in a circle or in way where everyone can see the photographs.  Go through each students photographs editing them by keeping the best ones and deleting the not so good ones.  In total each child should have  5 of their best photographs from the session.  Whilst doing this, talk about each photograph.  What makes it so good? How does it make us feel? How does the Alien feel in each picture?  Point out things about angles and composition to encourage them to note this.

VII.  Homework is set for the children to take the frames and cameras home to take pictures of objects that they think their Alien would like to see, using the the pieces of equipment as we had practiced in this session.

Conclusion:

2.  Framing and Composition:

The reason I am beginning the conclusion with Activity 2 from the session is because with hindsight,  I realise now that I should have done it in this order in the first instance –  leaving out steps V & VI (i.e taking photographs around the school) – to move on to exercise 5. (i.e. creating ‘Persona Dolls’)  – and then returning to steps V & VI thereafter.   This would have given the activity more momentum, as I found that the children could not connect the writing they had done in Activity 1, to taking photographs in Activity 2.  Had I conducted the session this way round, they might have been able to make a better connection. Though it must be said that the photographs they have taken are magnificent.  They paid attention to the framing and angling in their compositions and with the use of other props achieved some very creative results.

On the flip-side,  I was very disappointed that the school had forgotten to charge the batteries for the camera’s, the day before my session.  So instead of using the digital camera’s, we had to use Macbooks instead.  This was a bit tricky and annoying, as I could not teach the children how to use the frames with the small digital-cameras as I had planned, which would have assisted them with their assigned homework.  I suppose the Macbook with it’s own frame did function as a built on rectangular frame, but the cases they were in, kept flapping over the view finder, which hindered their abilities slightly and gave them a great cause for complaint.  Also, the Macbooks are quite heavy when you are just 6 years old and the younger children struggled with this as well as having to move around with the doll, putting it in different places around the garden and nursery.  What also ended up happening with the year 2’s, is that unknowingly they made a lot more videos than having taken photographs because of the way the MacBooks operate, it was hard for them to tell when they were taking pictures and when they were making video.  As ancient as I may sound, I have never used a Macbook before so I did not predict this issue.

With all that said and done, we got through it in the end.  The children enjoyed themselves and we all loved the photographs taken from the sessions, which will be revealed here, on PhotoGiraffe Live Art after the end of week four when the project ends.

1. Story Telling with Persona Dolls: 

Going through this exercise with the children was quite challenging for both of us.  Putting the theories into practice was not as easy as I had anticipated.   I expected  the children to reveal something about themselves to me through this set of activities, but most of them told me that their Alien was quite happy.  This came as a bit of a surprise to me as I had thought they had been selected for this project because they had some problems that they felt they could not talk about.  However, one girl did tell me that her Alien was lonely.  This should not have thrilled me as much as it did, as I felt I had made some sort of break through.  All in all, I learnt that most of the children I was working with were very happy, bubbly children with no real personal issues that I could help them resolve.  This is of course exactly how a child should be, but for the purpose of story building and problem solving, well I felt I had kind of missed the point somewhere.  By the end of the session I had a great many happy Aliens, with no problems to solve…where had I gone wrong?  I suppose the activity for most had succeeded at expressing their internal joy but they had forgotten their Alien had a character and how each picture they were taking related to the Aliens story.    Maybe they never really had  had an opportunity to ever access their feelings enough to be able to express them?   Maybe they are just very normal happy children, the way they should be? Or perhaps they were just too young for the exercises I had devised?

One thing I learnt first hand, (as I had been warned by the senior teacher at the start) was that these children although quite pleasant and happy, really did lack a great deal of imagination.  What I hadn’t realised was exactly how much and that for them to be able to access that part of themselves, I would have to spoon feed them with many different imaginative ideas, instead of expecting the playful ideas to come from them.  I suppose, this is what makes them so different from most of the kids I’ve ever known.

What’s Next:

1. Sharing Personal photographs:  Homework reviewing photographs taken by children unsupervised at home etc.

2. Story Building with Props:   Using props to photograph alongside Alien dolls to create a cohesive narrative.

3. Outdoor Expedition: Children take photographs of their aliens to document how the Alien feels in an environment outside of the school.

Other Useful Links:

PhotoGiraffe Worksheet Exercise 5. PDFhttps://photogiraffelive.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/4-intro-to-alien.pdf

Story Telling with Persona Dolls:  http://www.teachingforchange.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/ec_personadolls_english.pdf

Emotional Literacy 101:  http://www.examiner.com/article/emotional-literacy-101-how-can-we-use-dolls-to-help-children-talk-about-their-emotions

Let’s Ask the Dolls Tutorial:  https://plus.google.com/photos/117052915866560521594/albums/5372812705499284737/5372813578364009986?banner=pwa

Teaching Kids Photography: http://www.artfulparent.com/2012/01/guest-post-frame-it-teaching-kids-the-art-behind-photography.html

Teaching your child about Emotions:  http://connectability.ca/2010/09/23/teaching-your-child-about-emotions/

Children Expressing Emotions Through Photography: http://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr&id=pTXJFG9J7pQC&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=expressing++emotion+through+photography+children&ots=ZdjZrv9QSn&sig=oDp059l_6pog7RBZdUV6mQ7MWps#v=onepage&q&f=false

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

Being Self Employed: The Art of Survival.

23 Jan
Blue River One:  Copyrights 2012.  All rights reserved Hannah Leach

“I left university with no idea what I was supposed to do as a career, and completely confused about how to make a living. I think my vision had been clouded by the idea that you have to get an academic degree in order to then get a 'proper' job...” ~ Hannah Leach


Hannah Leach is 29 years old and a self employed painter, hypnotherapist and a writer, which she has been since the year 2000, when she moved from East Yorkshire to live and study in Birmingham.  Originally having obtained a BA Honours degree in Cultural Studies and Sociology she has found that since graduating, she has had to become “a jack of all trades” in order to fund her own skills and talent. She feels that being self-employed – for her – has not always been a choice, but rather a necessity, because after university, the only work she could find was through temping agencies. It took her six years to find a permanent job, which was still only a part-time administrative position.

Hannah thinks that this may have a lot to do with the conventional ideology that many of us are brought up to believe; that is to say, if you study hard, are intelligent and get good grades, then you are guaranteed a great job once you have graduated.  However, the skills that she has always had were just not required in the conventional job market.  In order to survive by making an honest living, Hannah had to learn that if she wanted to work, then she would have to start creating opportunities for herself.  However, it took quite a few years before she had the confidence to start taking her own skill and passion as an artist more seriously.  But ever since she has started to promote her work as an artist, it looks like Hannah Leach has a promising ‘self employed’ career ahead of her.  Hence, it currently seems that Hannah’s only regret is that she hadn’t started promoting her artwork more seriously until now!

Having already been exhibited twice last year she is currently preparing for her first solo exhibition, scheduled for 6th Feb-13th April 2012, at the Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham, UK. The Old Joint Stock gallery is an absolutely gorgeous and very popular venue, with its traditional old English architectural style. This venue has enough space to exhibit more than just one artist, but the collective effect of all of her paintings in one area will bring an explosion of colour to the walls of the Theatre Gallery.  Hannah’s exhibition at the Old Joint Stock will be made up of a collection of impressionist paintings created by oil on canvas, with a few acrylics, watercolours and pastels.    She is also setting up her own new website, to display low-resolution images of more of her paintings and as well as selling her existing work she has finally started her search for commissioned work.

Purple Trees One:   Copyright 2012.  All rights reserved Hannah Leach

...I was one of the students who was being groomed to go to Oxbridge. It’s only in very recent years I’ve discovered that I learn best by actually doing something in practice and I slightly regret not doing a more practical, ‘hands on’ course, like art.”


How long have you been painting?

 I’ve been painting since I was a small child.  I did Art at GCSE and A-Level and won prizes in it at school, but I remember thinking that I’d be bored if I studied Fine Art at University!  I wanted to do something which I saw as being more cerebral, hence choosing Cultural Studies and Sociology. 

 

Why didn’t you study Art at University?

I thought that doing a subject that required lots of essay-writing would be more stimulating for me than painting all day.  I had quite a limited notion of what studying art would involve. As a teenager, my parents and teachers considered me very academic, and I was one of the students who was being groomed to go to Oxbridge.  It’s only in very recent years I’ve discovered that I learn best by actually doing something in practice and I slightly regret not doing a more practical, ‘hands on’ course, like art. 

Why do you regret not having studied Art? 

Although my course was fascinating at times, I feel like it took me away from myself and the skills that I already had.  I left university with no idea what I was supposed to do as a career, and completely confused about how to make a living.  I think my vision had been clouded by the idea that you have to get an academic degree in order to then get a ‘proper’ job.

Do you make money from your art enough to survive? 

No, not from my Art – I’ve only recently started exhibiting/selling.  But I am self-employed as a Hypnotherapist, which is quite a creative line of work – it lets me choose my own hours and I just about make enough money from that to get by.

Snow:  Copyright 2012.  All rights reserved Hannah Leach

“I thought that doing a subject that required lots of essay-writing would be more stimulating for me than painting all day. I had quite a limited notion of what studying art would involve.”


 

Why do you think that there aren’t enough jobs or paid work for Artists?

Well, I suppose to do something really creative or inventive, you have to be your own boss, or at least choose your own projects.  Whereas if you’re working for an employer, you’re being paid to do a particular job which may not (probably won’t) give you the freedom to develop your art the way you really want to.  I know that some universities or big public organisations offer residencies to artists, but other than that I can’t think of many paid positions that would let you just get on with whatever art you wanted to do.  Working for an organisation can be good for some art forms – for instance, dancers join companies, and obviously actors need someone to employ them.  But I think if you’re a painter or writer, it’s pretty much essential to be self-employed and create your own opportunities rather than hoping someone else will give you a job.  I don’t mind that at all, because I dream of a life in which I don’t have to observe any typical ‘working hours’! 

How many of your paintings are being exhibited at the Joint Stock?

Fourteen, I think!

Are you selling your work there? If so, what do the prices range from?

Most definitely!  Prices will likely range from £45 to £500.

Does it cost much to mount your paintings? How do you display them?

Most of my oil paintings are on canvases which you hang straight onto the wall, so they don’t need framing.  Smaller pieces or ones I’ve done in watercolours or pastels need framing but you can pick up cheap wooden frames and then do the painting to size! 

Oil painting materials in general are pretty expensive, but I get nearly everything from Delta Pi in Selly Oak, Birmingham, who do 2-for-1 on canvases.  You can also get cheap canvases from The Works, but I wouldn’t buy their paints or brushes again – as in the past I have not found them to be of good quality.

Brindley Place One: Copyright 2012. All rights reserved Hannah Leach

“...to do something really creative or inventive, you have to be your own boss, or at least choose your own projects. Whereas if you're working for an employer, you're being paid to do a particular job which may not (probably won't) give you the freedom to develop your art the way you really want to...”


What kind of galleries have you approached to exhibit?

I’ve previously exhibited at the Birmingham MAC and at the We Are Birmingham shop.  I approached one well known gallery in South Birmingham who politely said my work probably wasn’t commercial enough.  There was another, very small, place in Harborne which has since closed down – they were happy to exhibit my work, but I had a crisis of confidence at that point and never got round to taking anything in to them.  How strange of me.  And there have been a few others (in Birmingham and in York, where my parents live) who I’ve emailed but have been given the brush off.  The manager of one place, in York, was rather rude.

Why do you think that there aren’t enough galleries that support less known Artists?

Well, if they are a commercially run business then of course they need to be realistic about whether or not they can sell a particular artist’s work.  And an unknown artist certainly can’t guarantee the sales.  I don’t blame any gallery manager for turning down an artist who they know won’t make any money – but I do feel it’s wrong to turn someone away when you haven’t even seen if they’re any good or not.  I don’t expect The Tate to be interested in my portfolio, but when even local galleries won’t glance at a new artist’s work, it makes you wonder just how you are supposed to get started.

What kind of galleries should unknown Artists target to get an opportunity to exhibit?

Either very small, independently run galleries…. or somewhere like the Old Joint Stock which is unusual in that it’s a pub which just happens to have a small gallery space upstairs.  Evidently they don’t rely on selling paintings to keep the business afloat – the alcohol does that for them – so it doesn’t matter too much to them if you sell just one or two pieces or none at all!  I think it’s becoming more popular for bars, restaurants or coffee shops to use local artists’ work as decoration – so there will be plenty similar opportunities if you hunt around a bit.

How do you think Artists can create more opportunities for themselves or even each other?

Word of mouth works well – friends can tell each other whenever they spot a potential opportunity to exhibit or publish.  Twitter, facebook etc are obviously very useful if you have a particular event you want to promote, although I think social media can create a lot of pressure to have the ‘right’ people on your friends list.  I don’t think there really are any ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ people to network with – it’s just important to know other people who have similar aspirations to you and maybe are at a similar level in their own development.  For me, a real turning point in my life was joining Birmingham Writers Group.  The people I met there took seriously the idea of doing something creative for a living, and we talked realistically about how to market our work and make profits from it.  Even though what I’m doing currently isn’t directly writing-related, being around like-minded people gave me the confidence to leave the job I was doing and become self-employed.

Prague Castle: Copyright 2012.  All rights reserved Hannah Leach

“I don't blame any gallery manager for turning down an artist who they know won't make any money - but I do feel it's wrong to turn someone away when you haven't even seen if they're any good or not.”


What advice would you give young Artists thinking about a prospective university degree course?

Heh, I’d probably tell them to ask themselves whether a degree is really necessary!  I dunno, I’d say if you actually want to study a particular subject – whether Art or something else – then do; but I’d advise against doing anything because it seems like the safe or sensible thing to do.  It really is counter-productive.

In terms of feedback on your work, PGLA can say that they see faces, characters and action in the lights and shadows of your paintings.  Can you confirm if this is deliberate and in keeping with your surrealist style?

Hmmm, well the light and shadows are crucial to giving the paintings their character.  Recently when I’ve been looking at the collection all together, I think there’s a very slight hint of menace about some of them (although I’m only talking about a cartoony sort of menace) – as if something was lurking in the shadows.  I didn’t put any literal faces or characters in there on purpose – apart from the creepy mask-wearing people in ‘Carnival.’  But you know how in fairytales and Disney films, trees and other features of the landscape are given human characteristics like long reaching arms and gnarly arthritic fingers?  That sort of imagery is definitely in my mind when I’m painting landscapes.

Where do you want to be in the future?

Just doing what I do, but over time I keep altering the balance between each thing – painting, writing, hypnotherapy, and a couple of other things which I do more as hobbies.  In the last two years, most of my energy has gone into getting myself established as a hypnotherapist, leaving not-much time for other creative projects.  So in the next phase of my life, painting may become more prominent, and hopefully writing will follow suit.  Hypnotherapy will still be my main job, but my practice is reaching a stage where I don’t have to be giving it constant attention. 

Of all the art forms or projects I do, there isn’t one that I would want to have precedence over the others for very long –so I’m not someone who in an ideal world would want to spend all their time writing, or all their time dancing, or whatever.   I’m happy when I can move between different projects in a cyclical sort of way.  It’s not fickle because the cycles always come around again.  So, it might seem that I’ve ‘lost interest’ in something that used to be important to me, but I haven’t really – anything that’s important will eventually come back into the foreground. 

Carnival:  Copyright 2012.  All rights reserved Hannah Leach

“...if you actually want to study a particular subject - whether Art or something else - then do; but I'd advise against doing anything because it seems like the safe or sensible thing to do. It really is counter-productive.”


From September 2012, universities can charge from £6000 to £9000 a year for their courses. Although the institutions that choose to charge the maximum will have to prove they are increasing access to students from poorer backgrounds.  The choice to increase fees lies with each individual university, but because their funding has been dramatically slashed, it’s likely they’ll all be asking for the full whack.  This now means that young adults who are deciding on a potential university courses have to think longer, harder and more sensibly about the right course for them as making any wrong decisions could not only be a waste of valuable time but also it could prove to be a very expensive mistake.

Another important factor that most young adults consider before making the choice between the right and wrong course is employability.  According to a recent article in the Guardian, recent research suggests, graduates without work experience stand little chance of securing a job this year despite a rise in vacancies.  These facts put together will probably increase the pressure on those students who wish to get educated from a higher educational body, but at the same time wish to make themselves more employable in the current job market.  And for those whose creative skills are not suitable for the conventional job market, such as Artist, Musicians, Poets, etc it maybe that the decision between a practical course that would be more financially beneficial may prove more appealing than that of studying a creative course which may result in you being an artist, struggling to make ends meet post university.  We at PGLA would strongly suggest that whatever you decide to do regarding your future, you should always make learning and practice your number one priority.   When making choices about a course or career, you will be more successful choosing something that you are genuinely passionate about rather than opting for something that you think will be more financially beneficial to you.

Here are some links to pages that are related to some of the topics discussed within this article.  We hope that they will prove to be useful to you. But before you click away from this page, we highly recommend that if you live in or are passing through Birmingham between February –  April 2012, be sure to check out Hanna Leach collection of impressionist paintings at the The Old Joint Stock.

Thanks for plugging in Guys and a great big thank you to Hannah Leach for providing us with a very insightful look into  ‘The Art of Survival’  for self employed Artists alike.

 

Financial Support for Students

http://www.thesite.org/homelawandmoney/money/studentmoney/tuitionfees?gclid=CNGcvd-14q0CFSgntAodazkIVQ

http://studentfinance-yourfuture.direct.gov.uk/costs

Find Arts Funding

http://www.artquest.org.uk/

http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/funding/

Get your artwork exhibited

http://art-support.com/exhibitions.htm

http://www.artquest.org.uk/articles/view/how-to-get-an-exhibition

http://painting.about.com/od/careerdevelopment/a/galleryrepresnt.htm

British Art Gallery Directories

http://www.redraggallery.co.uk/british-art-galleries.asp

http://www.britisharts.co.uk/artgalleries.html

http://www.allinlondon.co.uk/directory/1082.php

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