Raport 1 (Gr. 5)

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Report of the local pilot workshops

Venue: Phoenix Futures Recovery

Date: 10th/17th/24th/ 31st May 2018

Leader: Neil Packham and Elly Goodman

Please present your own experience in the most instructive, simple and clear way.

  1. 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?)

Phoenix Futures Communities of Recovery Glasgow Service supports adults who are affected by substance misuse to take the next steps in their recovery journey. They support individuals to overcome any barriers they may face on a day-to-day basis and aim to reduce social isolation across Glasgow. They also provide a mentorship scheme where mentees are offered a programme of peer support tailored to their individual needs. Mentees receive practical support around issues such as housing, benefits, money management and physical and emotional health. They also receive support to integrate into the community.

Please describe the pilot workshops (the working process in detail, divided into each session, description of the venue, materials, tools, etc).

Workshop 1

We arrived with our paper, string and scissors expecting to meet approximately 10 people; there were 3 people present. We were reassured more people were on the way and another couple had genuine reasons for not being present. The staff were still enthusiastic, but I think embarrassed by the turnout.

We were in a fairly small room, with 2 tables set up. We met the 3 men (we shall call them ‘G’, ‘N’ and ‘D’). They initially appeared quiet and slightly suspicious. With the group so small, it obviously placed more attention on each of the participants. Although they needed some convincing, they all said they would give it a go. They were, however, quick to embrace the initial exercise of describing what they saw when the objects were laid out in front of them on the table. They were able to grasp the concept and saw waves, sharks and killer whales within the materials set on the table. They also enjoyed the scrunching up the first bit of paper and were then keen to get on with the task; everyone quickly became relaxed. ‘G’ instantly took to it and needed little support, he stated that he enjoyed doing creative things. As the session progressed there was a sense of group cohesion and support for each other, people started to talk quite openly and there was a positive relaxed atmosphere in the room and a lot of laughter. ‘N’ and ‘D’ needed more support with the process and admitted to this being out of their comfort zone. At the close of the session, they all said they enjoyed it, spoke enthusiastically and said they would be back the following week. The staff who hadn’t been in the session, were impressed by what had already been achieved and praised the guys.

Workshop 2
We obviously hoped that further recruitment would have taken place. This week there were 4 people, ‘C’, ‘J’, ‘M’ and the only person who returned from the previous week, ‘G’. ‘C’ instantly seemed distracted and anxious, he had an appointment to make and was clearly pre-occupied with this. ‘M’ immediately apologised that she would also have to leave early to collect her children from school. Both of them worked quickly and managed to progress with their puppet. ‘C’ left for his appointment but said he would return the following week. ‘M’ was clearly taken with the process and was more reluctant to leave, she was engrossed in what she was doing. We learnt that she was relatively new to the Phoenix project and had been quite fragile up until just recently in terms of her recovery.

‘G’ was a quiet man, unassuming, clearly intelligent and creative but something had gone wrong in his life. He was totally consumed in the making of his puppet, he spent a lot of time examining it and looking deep in thought. ‘G’ was very self-contained but would join in conversation when prompted although he would have been quite content in saying nothing.

It appears that many of the men we’ve met have had some experience of the custodial (prison) system. A big character in the group and a complete contrast to ‘G’ was ‘J’. He was certainly not someone who you would instantly expect to be enthusiastic about puppet making, but he got on with it, keeping a close eye on ‘G’s’ puppet. He was full of humour and quite loud. He laughed at himself when he told his friend on the phone, “I’m making a puppet!” His friend said, “You’re a puppet!” (this is a common derogatory term in Glasgow) He didn’t care; he was enjoying himself so much. At the point when his puppet only had one leg, we asked him if he was going to add another? ‘J’ only has one leg himself. He replied, “Why not give it 2 legs?”. He then commented it had taken him 27 years to admit that he was disabled. Towards the end of the session, ‘J’ became very competitive when he saw the quality of ‘G’s’ puppet and the detail he was putting into it. ‘J’ openly expressed his desire to make a good puppet.

The session closed in a very positive way, although only 2 people were present by this point. It appeared they were getting a lot out of it. ‘J’ commented on how he always needs to be busy; he has recognised it is when he’s not busy that he gets into trouble. He clearly wants to put the past behind him.

Workshop 3
At the start of the session only ‘M’ and ‘G’ were present, ‘J’ sent his apologies for being absent.
‘G’ continued to work diligently; he had decided that his character was a fisherman. We had been talking about hobbies and interests to find a good starting point and he began to make a fishing rod.

We spoke about looking at the puppet and seeing something about yourself in it. ‘G’ understood the concept of it being an analogy of his situation. He commented, “It’s just someone fishing”. He was very sure about music choice, he wanted something quirky and comic. Whilst ‘M’ continued to work on her puppet, we started to work on ‘G’s’ puppet’s story. He took on the directorial role and had detailed ideas. He was someone who had really invested in the project.
‘M’ was very enthusiastic and embellished her puppet to look like her. She decided her story reflected her love of dance and how she gave it up and what might have been, she said her daughter is reliving her passion for tap dancing by going to classes.

We suggested she take her puppet home to work on, she commented that, “My puppet is safe here and that this is for me, not my kids.” We playfully explored the world of dance with her puppet and tried to find the right kind of music, she was very particular about this. She also created hair that reflected her own hair style.

Towards the end of the session another woman, ‘A’, came into the room; a member of staff, who had been through recovery herself. She was unwilling to take part but having been offered a bit of brown paper and some guidance she became more committed to the making process and relaxed. A further woman came in who, initially, was a distraction to the group. However, ‘A’, realising the distraction she was causing, tried to encourage her to take part and they made a puppet together.

We recognised quite early on that a formal performance was going to be difficult, although we hoped we could at least show off ‘G’s’ and ‘M’s’ performances to staff or other people in the unit at the time. We also spoke of filming the outcome on a phone.

Session 4
We were determined to make the best of the situation, expecting to see ‘G’ and maybe ‘M’ at this session. Unfortunately, ‘M’ couldn’t make it, she was dealing with a domestic problem. ‘G’ was first in the room. We quickly motivated him to work on manipulating his puppet and bring some detail to the story. There were only 3 of us which made it hard to see the reaction of the puppet. ‘J’ arrived a few minutes late, he was keen to get on with his puppet but kept saying that, he’d left it too late and he should’ve been here the week before. He kept commenting on how good ‘G’s’ puppet was and then wanted to give up, as it wasn’t going to be as good. ‘G’ encouraged him to continue, which he did. A new guy had come in with ‘J’, who wasn’t really prepared to start making a puppet, we engaged him in the filming of ‘G’s’. He was slightly disruptive at the beginning; making suggestions about the storyline, however it was good to hear ‘G’ stick to his story and, importantly, the kind of character he had established. The new man thought the puppet should be angry at not catching the fish and become aggressive, but ‘G’ insisted that was not what the character was about, the puppet was quiet, patient and thoughtful, not, “Some hard-man from a scheme!” (‘scheme’ – Glaswegian for a tough housing estate). This could be interpreted that ‘G’, wants to reject the way of life that he’s trapped in and wants to portray a different aspect of himself. He stated he didn’t want his story to be about recovery. “If you said you were into history, art or geography in my area, you’d be battered, you had to be into football or fighting.”

We focused a lot of our attention on this story and attempting to put together a film. ‘J’ continued but was losing faith, repeating that his puppet wasn’t good enough. We switched our attention, fearing he might leave the process, with a feeling of failure and disappointment. We looked for a quick way to bring some attention to his puppet, we decided to change the environment and go outside, where some washing was hanging on a line. We had to be playful and spontaneous. The group of 3 came with us and became drawn into our enthusiasm and determination. This became a highlight of this ‘pilot project’. It wasn’t about the skill of the puppet making or the manipulation, or even the story, but how these 3 men embraced this situation and worked as a team. It had completely re-ignited their sense of play. It was as if it took them back to their boyhood. They were genuinely working together and supporting each other as a team. There was a complete change of mood and it seemed the perfect way to end this project at Phoenix.

“Who would have thought that paper and string could give you such a buzz.”
“I didn’t think I could do anything like this at the start.”

There was a clear sense of pride as they stood, having their photograph taken with their own and other puppets that had been made over the weeks.

‘G’ took his fisherman puppet home. ‘J’s’ was left on the table. ‘M’s’ was left in a safe place in the office. ‘G’ the last man to join, didn’t make one but we’d guarantee he’ll remember that afternoon.

Please present the most interesting/representative case studies of adults participating in the workshop.

‘G’, who attended all the sessions, had particularly good crafting skills and quietly put a lot of care and attention into his puppet which yielded great results – possibly the best puppet we have seen out of all the workshops that we’ve led. ‘G’s’ work was thoughtful and considered and his simple story of fishing was beautifully portrayed. It suggested a reflection of himself in more positive times in a peaceful environment; an escapist point of view. It was as if the process re-awakened a sense of play and creativity within ‘G’. He received much praise for his work, helping him to feel valued and give him some self-worth.
‘J’ also enjoyed the puppet making and chatted away whilst he made the puppet, laughing out loud when he proudly told his friend what he was doing and finding it hilarious when his friend teased him over the phone. ‘J’ was happy to share lots about his life whilst he was making the puppet and said it had taken him over 27 years to admit that he was disabled (he had lost his leg to heroin misuse, some years ago). He wasn’t necessarily proud of his puppet but, having been sceptical, and losing faith, he totally engaged with it at the last moment and admitted he’d enjoyed the experience.
‘M’ seemed very pleased with her puppet which was a reflection of herself and a re-enactment of her past relationship with dancing – ‘M’ made it clear that the project was for her, rather than for her children. It was clearly an outlet for her own creative expression and she seemed happy with her story and music choices. It was a pity she wasn’t able to complete her story.

Please define clearly the motivation mechanisms and learning approaches used during the workshop.

We made it clear from the start that there is no such thing as failure. Instilling that each puppet will be different and develop its own personality. We adopted an attitude that everyone can do this, whether you consider yourself creative or not.

We feel it is essential to keep a positive atmosphere in the room and to build a bond with individuals. You must respond to people quickly when they need guidance, keep a good sense of humour and share stories whilst working. What have people got in common? It’s about always trying to keep this positive. Even with a small group, you must divide up the tasks, particularly when new people join. It’s also essential to make new people feel as important as everyone else.

Please write your comments/evaluation from the trainer’s point of view.

The group responded well to the playful/imaginative element when they observed the display of paper, scissors and string. This got the group established into the mindset of the project. The making of the puppet was a strong point and using the paper effectively to create the appropriate body shape and limbs, using less string for flexibility was useful.
The weak points were when someone had nearly completed their puppet and then someone new arrived, meaning that people were at different points in their puppet making experience. It’s not clear how to change this because of the nature of the group; except for a couple of individuals, it was an ever-changing group.
We felt confident that the group members were open to respond to ideas as they are part of a programme that requires open and honest discussion as part of the recovery process.

Please describe any interesting point of view of the participants relevant to the piloting.

The support and encouragement given from other participants.
‘J’ expressing that his puppet wasn’t ready, wasn’t good enough in comparison to another participants.
The pride in the feeling of a sense of achievement at the end.
The fact that ‘M’ pointed out that this experience was for her, not her children.
The ownership of the character of an individual’s puppet, when another participant wanted to take the character of the puppet in another direction. He didn’t want his puppet to be seen as aggressive; he wanted it calm and thoughtful. Although the maker denied it was a reflection of himself, claiming it was ‘just a guy fishing’, it certainly appeared that this was the case.