Raport (Gr. 7)
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This communication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
Report of the local pilot workshops
Venue: SCRN, Gorbals, Glasgow
Date: 11/09, 18/09, 25/09, 02/10, 09/10
Leaders: Citizens Theatre – Neil Packham & Angela Smith (sessions 1 & 4)
Citizens Theatre – Neil Packham & Elly Goodman (sessions 2 & 3)
Citizens Theatre – Neil Packham, Elly Goodman & Angela Smith (session 5)
- Please present the characterisation of the group and the participants (special attention to the participants facing social obstacles, disability, economic obstacles, educational difficulties, cultural differences. How many would fall into this category? Which types of difficult situation are these participants facing?)
South Community Recovery Network (SCRN) is a peer led, person-focused recovery initiative. It has been created and developed by volunteers with lived experience in overcoming barriers throughout their lives to access routes to recovery from alcohol and drug misuse. They believe in active community participation to help reduce stigma and make recovery visible. Their philosophy is that a person’s lived experience is their best asset.
As well as dealing with the issue of their addiction recovery, most of the group members are on benefits, living on a low income, some of the women in the group are single parents, one young woman brings a toddler to the group. It can be assumed that due to their addiction problem members of the group may have mental health issues.
Please describe the pilot workshops (The working process in detail divided into each session. Description of the venue, materials, tools, etc.)
We arrived with plenty of brown paper, string and scissors. The first room we entered was an informal meeting room with a group of approx. 15 people; predominantly women. At this point we were encouraged to pitch our puppet project to them. A few people were immediately interested, a couple had appointments, one needed to collect her child from school, but it felt like we would had a good number of people who were curious enough to give it a go.
The workshop took place in a separate room next to a kitchen/café area, which was useful as it was where people were used to gathering. We spent some time waiting for people to come into our room, this was a slow process and we decided to go ahead with a group of five, however as time went on more people ventured into the room. We introduced the materials by creating a landscape with them and asking what they could see.
Some comments included, “I see potential!”, “It makes me think of sewing machines in an industrial setting.” and, “It looks like a valley of wheat.” The group members easily grasped the idea of symbolism.
Each person was then given a large pre-cut piece of brown paper, they stood slightly bemused for a moment but didn’t hesitate at the point of crushing the paper.
The participants were curious and open from the beginning, the atmosphere felt relaxed and there was a lot of laughter. The group members seemed to know each other well and were comfortable in each other’s company. They seemed a very creative bunch who wanted to work quickly. It is always difficult in the early stages when people are working at different paces; some racing ahead, others needing more attention.
The session was productive; people were openly praising others in the group for their efforts. There was no negativity in the room at all. People were also asking what the next session would involve. They were keen to get involved in the entire process. By the end of the time slot, everyone in the group had created their head, arms and body. Next week we will be adding legs and then we will begin to manipulate the puppets!
After last week’s enthusiasm and such a good turnout, we arrived with high expectations. However, the initial numbers were low; it took a while for people to gather. For this session, the group was predominantly made up of men, with two new people attending – 7 people in total.
One woman ‘M’ has taken responsibility for the puppets and the materials and she made a point of laying everything out on the large table very neatly. I felt like this gave the puppets some importance, some value, rather than just being in the big bag they have taken to being stored in.
A new man ‘F’ looked into the room at the beginning but was reluctant to come in. He was waiting for an important phone call, but we eventually talked him round. He kept looking at his phone throughout the session. We learned, towards the end of the session, that the phone call was to find out if he’d been selected to be goalkeeper for Scotland, in the Homeless World Cup in Mexico! (we are still waiting to find out what the result was) ‘F’’s puppet developed what resembled goalkeeper’s gloves! He grasped quickly that this could be a metaphor for his recovery process.
‘M’, who had been the most enthusiastic person the previous week, arrived with a considerably younger man, ‘R’, who was very fragile. Whilst ‘M’ returned to his puppet, Elly worked one-to-one with ‘R’. He wasn’t really in the right frame of mind to be dealing with the puppet and his hands struggled to work with the string. However, as conversation progressed the other men started to talk to him, offering support and advice. This was a key moment in this session and interesting to watch the older, more experienced men in the world of recovery, experts in the field, impart their considerable knowledge.
‘F’ even suggested that ‘R’ could assist at a meeting at the weekend; this little offer giving ‘R’ a sense of purpose and value. We can’t say how much the making of the puppet contributed to this scenario playing out, but the puppet making activity had brought the group of men to the table and created an environment where ‘R’ was relatively comfortable. This moment, with these men, could make a significant difference to his life.
At 4pm, when it was time for us to leave, conversation around recovery and support for this young man was in full flow and we didn’t want to interrupt, so we quietly left the room leaving ‘N’ to clear up for us.
We arrived early and set up the room, planning that all puppets would be completed today leaving 2 clear sessions to create the stories, rehearse and then perform in week 5. However, it took a good while for any of the group members to appear. Eventually ‘N’, who usually helps set up and encourages the others arrived, then came ‘L’, ‘J’ and ‘M’.
‘N’ who is always very enthusiastic about the project, had written a poem that reflected her thoughts inspired by the creation of her puppet. She said it wasn’t finished and needed some work, we spoke about recording it and creating a soundtrack to her piece. ‘N’ was very self-contained throughout the session, she had started to create hair for her puppet from twisted paper and persevered throughout trying to find a way to attach it to the head. She was very single minded in this challenge and despite the lack of obvious progress, she appeared very content and pre-occupied. We tend to leave her to get on herself. It feels like ‘N’ completely understands what the project is all about and can see the potential benefits.
‘J’’s puppet is very distinctive in that it has a particularly long body and when he saw the puppets on the table he was quick to repossess it. He laughed at its long body and made jokes about it but at the same time determined that he was going to address its appearance by giving it long legs. As he started on this, ‘M’ came into the room. He collected his ‘magician’ puppet and sat next to ‘J’. As much as I tried to motivate him about his story, his head was clearly somewhere else and spent the whole session talking about ‘recovery’ with ‘J’. It was interesting to see that ‘J’ who could quite easily stop making and just chat with ‘M’, continued to work with the legs in a determined way despite the potential distraction from ‘M’.
‘L’ was very distracted when he came in struggling to find focus. He is always full of chat, mainly about the ‘hedonistic lifestyle’ of his past. He needed a lot of motivation today and required one to one work. We discussed and explored possible ways to reflect ‘L’’s colourful, flamboyant and spontaneous personality in his puppet. He needed a lot of encouragement but together we found something that he was pleased with and recognised and helped bring his focus back.
During the session I positioned pairs of chairs in random different shapes around the space (ref: psycho drama exercise) asking individuals to respond to the narrative and character they saw. This was partly successful but only really elicited a constructive response from ‘N’.
When we arrived today, there was no one around. We made our way into the same room as before and we set up the tables and chairs, ready for puppet manipulation. Eventually, ‘L’ arrived and ‘J’. ‘N’, who is a worker with the group was also there and she said she would see who else was available to join in. We then saw ‘T’ in the café area, fixing a light fitting. He had been at session 1 but we hadn’t seen him since, we beckoned him in. He seemed genuinely pleased to see us and was keen to finish the puppet he’d started.
Neil began to demonstrate how to manipulate the puppets with ‘L’ and ‘N’ while Angela worked with ‘T’ to quickly finish his puppet. He only had legs to add, but he decided he also wanted to add hair too. ‘L’ was quite distracted, wanting to look up music on his phone. He wasn’t as focused as he had been in previous sessions. However, he enjoyed learning how to manipulate the puppets and Neil was able to keep him focused for long enough to achieve this. ‘J’ had disappeared at this point, saying he had something he had to go and do.
Neil spoke to the group members about what the story could be for the puppets that were completed. ‘N’ returned to her poem and we explored the essence of this, which was essentially about being depressed, lost and then discovering yourself. She understood the puppet couldn’t express the whole story in detail but could capture the spirit of it. The journey of recovery is a very complex issue. South Community Recovery Network’s ethos is about peer mentoring and support. ‘L’ saw a situation develop where his puppet could encourage and support ‘N’s puppet by using the metaphor of walking across a narrow bridge, this idea was initiated just by the long box that the brown paper came in. Both were excited and engaged in this. Talking through the story was fine but as we tried to manipulate the puppets they could feel this wasn’t so easy, however they persevered. This is always a difficult part of the process; as a trainer you want this to be as accurate and as slick as possible but is that as important as the story being told?
Manipulating the puppet, between 3 people, requires an immense amount of collaboration. It initially demands you are physically close to one another, which involves acute awareness of each other. You’re trying to communicate emotions and the story with subtlety; it requires a willingness to be responsive in an intuitive way but also taking into consideration the others, it involves compromise and making decisions as a team.
Where does the achievement lie and the most satisfactory outcome? Is it in working to achieve the accuracy of the manipulation and elevating the ‘production values’ or in telling the story in a fun, simple way without being precious and the considerable patience it requires, which many of the participants we work with simply don’t possess. It is important not to spoil the participants sense of achievement and that they don’t become frustrated by the requirements of the manipulation.
The final story that was agreed on was that ‘L’’s puppet enters and contemplates jumping off the edge of the cliff (the table). He decides not to and then notices ‘N’’s puppet lying asleep. He goes to her and tries to waken her. She doesn’t want to waken up. She is sad where she is. She wants to cross the bride to the other side (a positive place). ‘L’’s puppet pulls her up gently and encourages her to cross the bridge. However, it stops short of the other side. ‘L’’s puppet uses his body to complete the bridge, allowing ‘N’’s puppet to cross safely. She then helps him up at the other side and they embrace, happy.
Once ‘T’ had finished his puppet, he joined ‘L’ and ‘N’ to help them act out their story. ‘T’ could instantly see the symbolism of the story and he was curious about the reasoning behind the choice of storyline. Angela asked him what role his puppet should play in this situation if it was representative of him. He immediately said that he would already be across the bridge and on the other table (the positive side) because that’s where he is in his life. He told us that he’s made that journey and now he can encourage others to join him.
‘L’ also talked a lot about how his puppet was just like him – a bit anarchic and a supportive character. He happily agreed for his puppet to be the bold one, that would cross the bridge first and help another puppet do the same. He commented that he was the type of person who would willingly try new things.
‘J’ did come back into the session near the end but didn’t engage as fully as the others. He clearly had a lot of other things going on that were distracting him. Hopefully we’ll see him at the final session next week.
We were disappointed that some people were not present at session 4, as we were keen to rehearse several scenes. However, we made the most of it and one scene was rehearsed and will be ready to perform next week. We have agreed that the group workers will try to encourage as many people to attend next week and we will film whatever scenes we manage to create. The group leader also said she’ll try to arrange a small audience to watch the performance.
We arrived early to set the room up, ready for a performance and an audience. Although we had no way of knowing how many people would be in the final performance, let alone the audience. By establishing the idea of a performance space, we wanted to create a clear sense of focus and expectation of what we intended to achieve that day. They had been asked to bring or wear a plain black top of some kind and we had black gloves prepared. We were also aware that, although some of the group members had made puppets, there might not be enough people to operate them all. We obviously wanted everyone to feel a sense of achievement and of completion, to end the project in a celebratory way.
This had become a tight-knit group of people, very committed to the project. However, they are fragile, often speaking of having good days and bad days in their recovery process.
A considerable amount of time passed before the first person arrived – ‘L’. He said he would join in and had brought a black top for the performance. Quickly after this, ‘J’ arrived too. He was also keen to perform and had brought a black top in preparation. We enquired about the others and were told that ‘N’ had been sent home earlier as she was sick. We were disappointed to hear this as ‘N’ had been pivotal to the scene that we had created last week, and we knew she would have been sad not to be there. However, one of the workers, ‘LR’ rounded up a few people from a room next door and which created a more positive and productive atmosphere. As we started to introduce new people to the technique and address the story lines, other people picked up on a sense that something unusual was happening and other people started to come into the room to observe. Initially, we encouraged them to return once we had had a little time to prepare but as they didn’t really respond to this we included them almost as active participants.
Rehearsals happened hurriedly, with everyone working together quickly and efficiently. The ‘performers’ put on the black tops and gloves, which we referred to as their costumes. There was a sense of determination from the participants to accomplish a complete performance. It was interesting observing how the group negotiated the close physical proximity that operating the puppets demanded. We have noticed how difficult it is for groups to understand how detailed their operating needs to be to enable the puppet to express the desired emotion or action.
Understandably they wanted instant results, we know this leads to generalisation in the operation of the puppets and lack of clarity in what is seen by the audience. However, in the short amount of time we had, we were pleased to recognise that the participants had begun to understand what was required and started to comment on this.
The scene that the group created involved one puppet encouraging another to cross a narrow bridge from one table to another, offering support to each other on the way. This was clearly pertinent to their situation and they repeatedly commented on the analogy.
The people who had come in to observe (some of them had participated previously and others were new to the group) were actively engaging and commenting on what was happening. They gave advice to the performers and they reacted positively when they liked what they saw. The presence of the audience seemed to push the performers in a positive way.
We decided to film the ‘dress rehearsal’ which everyone was pleased with. This was a good way for the puppeteers to recognise what could be improved on and make some last-minute decisions and alterations. When the final performance got underway the performers were extremely focused on the task and managed to get all the way through perfectly. They clapped and gave each other high-fives as soon as it was over. There was a feeling of relief and satisfaction that they had managed to do it successfully. The atmosphere in the room was very positive. The performers also commented on what hard work it was physically. Even though the piece was short, they totally recognised the complexities of it.
After a short break, a couple of the core group members (‘L’ and ‘J’) stayed to provide some feedback on film. Both participants had interesting insights about the project and it was clear they had enjoyed it and gained immensely from participating. It was good to hear from them that recognised the therapeutic value of the project. Please view the video.
- Please present the most interesting/representative case studies of adults participating in the workshop.
From the very first session ‘L’ became a particularly interesting person within the project. He is a man in his 40’s whose clearly lived a very colourful life, that at some point got the better of him. He talked about his previous life fondly and with enthusiasm, always full of stories of previous wild hedonistic times. He was usually very talkative during the sessions and sometimes distracted, but always capable of re-engaging.
‘L’ was present at every session and was always quick to search out his puppet. He would sometimes sit and stare at his puppet and often commented how it was crazy like him. His puppet really came to life when he personalised it with braided coloured twine. He would reflect on how that used to be him, always at parties and getting up to stuff.
The most important aspect of ‘L’s participation is that as a result of this experience he has joined a theatre group at the Citizens, thus broadening his social circle, improving his social integration and becoming connected with a group that isn’t all about addiction and recovery.
Having said this, we also found it interesting that no matter how much he was encouraged by us or by his friend ‘J’, he wasn’t interested in taking his puppet home. Whilst totally engaged with it in the room, he couldn’t see any point in taking it home. For him, the puppet was something which was attached to the work carried out in the sessions and not to welcome into his life at home.
‘J’ had also been a consistent member of the group, his interest grew week by week. He was very keen to take his puppet home. His thoughts on the project are clearly expressed in his evaluation, (see point 5. below)
- Please define clearly the motivation mechanisms and learning approaches used during the workshop.
Right from the beginning we offered a clear structure to the process, although within this there was a sense of informality, once the information was understood. As with all our pilot workshops we adopted the attitude that everyone can create a puppet and that it is impossible to fail. We reinforced that no one can judge your creativity and that it is something that everyone possesses.
When people arrived late in the process, we made sure we included them quickly, brought them up to speed and made them familiar with the materials. Enthusiasm is an integral part of our delivery approach, as is positive affirmation of everyone’s progress.
When we arrived for each session, the room was always dominated by the tables being arranged as one large ‘meeting’ table. This didn’t feel conducive to a creative working environment, so at each session we made different configurations of seating, with the intention of trying to make it a more relaxed and creative space. We cleared most of the tables completely out of the way.
During the session we would regularly and deliberately, plant a topic of conversation, music, films, travel. We would take requests for music to play in the back ground, which often encouraged a story and an insight into their world, which in turn could be reflected in their puppet or used in a potential scene.
One person self-elected to take charge of the materials and puppets. She would bring them out of storage for each session, arrange them on the table and keep everything in order. This was a simple task but a role she took pride in.
- Please write your comments/evaluation from the trainer’s point of view.
The group began as a potentially large group, with a lot of enthusiasm the first week and very much supported by the staff, who also took part. However, for many reasons this slipped away, and numbers dropped. This became slightly frustrating but during every session we would try to rebuild the group and endeavour not to share our frustration with the group.
It is invariably impossible, when it comes to organising the scenes, for every puppet to be used. This can be quite disheartening, so we try to find a way of displaying the other puppets or introducing them in some way, i.e. sitting them in the audience, giving an audience member a puppet to hold and they can manipulate them to applaud at the end of the piece.
We’ve recognised that, when offering help/guidance to an individual in the making process, it is very easy to take over and the participant sometimes quite happily sits doing nothing, whilst you continue the making, clearly it should still be the person’s work for them to establish ownership and pride in their work. We tried to always remember to only help as much as needed and then step back to allow the participants to continue.
It takes a lot of patience to manipulate the puppets in the best possible way. Participants can initially find this frustrating and hard to understand. It feels like there needs to be some compromise here, in order that the pleasure and sense of achievement isn’t spoilt by the difficulty. We try to offer lots of praise and reassurance during this part of the process.
We have discussed whether it might have been more effective if we had run an intensive course over 3 consecutive days, rather than sessions being once a week for a number of weeks. Obviously, this has to be appropriate for the organisation we are working with, but we think it is certainly something to be considered for the future. We feel this would potentially solve the problem of people coming and going during the project.
- Please describe any interesting point of view of the participants relevant to the piloting.
‘J’ was an enthusiastic participant. He attended every session and analysed the process. This was an insight he provided to how he felt about the project:
“At first I thought, ‘Oh no! How do I make a puppet?’ But then I saw it come together and I got a buzz out of it. I was trying to make an alter-ego and trying to give it a bit of character; to bring it to life. My puppet is meant to be a superhero. He’s got lots of passion and empathy and he is willing to help. I’m getting quite attached to my puppet now. He’s a good role model. The project had therapeutic value. It makes you think about your life; your character and you try to incorporate that into the puppet. It helps you find solutions to the puppet’s problems. Trying to find an endgame. Is it a happy endgame? Hopefully.”