Raport 1 (Gr. 3)
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Report of the local pilot workshops
Venue: 218 Women’s service Bath Street Glasgow
Date: 18/25 April/ 2/9/16/23/30 May
Leader: Elly Goodman and Carly McCaig
Guest tutor for 1 session only (23 May) – Rachel Mimiec
Please present your own experience in the most instructive, simple and clear way.
- 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?)
Turning Point Scotland provides person centred support to adults with a range of complex needs, they offer support services that address addiction, recovery, trauma, mental health, homelessness and social and criminal justice across Scotland.
The 218 Service is part of Turning Point Scotland and provides an alternative to custody for women in the criminal justice system. The service offers programmes of intensive support and group work to empower women to address the root causes of their offending. With a view to support them to break the cycle of offending which results in the ‘revolving door’ syndrome of maintaining their involvement in the criminal justice system and prison service.
The service offers a 12-bed residential unit and a Community Engagement Service for women who still reside in the community. As many of the women who access the service have a wide range of mental and physical issues, the service provides an integrated health team and psychological therapy team to address these. The service works with women aged 18 and over who have had criminal justice involvement in the last 12 months. Many of the women who are referred to the 218 Service will have a range of complex needs such as addiction, mental health, physical health, trauma, chronic low self-esteem as well as social isolation.
The women who are in residency at the service are supported and guided through an intensive recovery programme. There are many healthcare staff such as nurses and psychologists as well as staff to support and steer women through the recovery process.
Many of the women who participated in the ‘Create a Puppet, Create Yourself’ workshops were administered medication, as part of their personal detox programme prior to coming to the workshop. This can affect the character and mood of the group, as people are at different stages in their recovery journey, e.g. some women had difficulties concentrating for extended periods and would find excuses to leave the session if they struggled to engage. This rarely happened, however, it is a factor that we initially observed when we first met the group. The group in residence know one another relatively well, although the population is transient as women move through their recovery programme and graduate from the service at different stages. The day care participants appear more grounded, but understandably their attendance was less consistent than the women in residence. All the women we met have complex needs, they are separated from their children, they are survivors of domestic or sexual violence, they are homeless, and they display repeat offending behaviour. The centre operates like a prison; no one can move around the building unescorted, the doors are locked and can only be opened by staff members with a swipe key. Meals are at set times, as is the group work. The centre is also situated right in the heart of the city centre of Glasgow which is surrounded by shops, restaurants, pubs and clubs and is constantly busy. The obstacles of not being able to be part of that society must be extremely challenging for the women, especially when you are living in the area, surrounded by distractions and not being able to interact with it.
Please describe the pilot workshops (the working process in detail, divided into each session, description of the venue, materials, tools, etc.)
The venue within the 218 building is a small basement room with two windows with no view, there are collapsible tables in the room to reconfigure the space if required.
We had worked at the centre recently and were perhaps expecting some familiar faces of women and staff to take part. However, we learned that most of the women we had previously worked with, some six months ago, had since graduated from the centre. A new group of women joined us with accompanying staff members and a resident nurse. There were seven people in the group, all in full-time residency except one woman who was from the day service. We couldn’t rely on past workshop successes at the centre and it felt like starting again, not only with the group, but also the workshop content and initiating the puppet making as an activity.
We began with a word-play exercise which created a sense of competition and surprisingly a divide in the group. Our aim was to encourage the women to focus on the task presented to them and to inject a sense of fun and relaxation to the room. In the beginning, most of the women appeared suspicious, serious, distracted and sceptical. We decided to implement a new idea by introducing paper and exploring its many uses. Everyone was encouraged to make a paper aeroplane and write wishes inside the fold before sending it flying across the room. This helped add to the playful atmosphere and generating an enthusiasm for working with paper. The group were then encouraged to make anything they wanted out of brown paper which yielded good results. The instant gratification of making something with a finished result meant that people began to let their guard down and start to enjoy the session.
We observed the focus had changed and the group were committed to the process of making, they were absorbed in what they were doing. Everyone made something; from a large hat, to an eagle sat on a nest of eggs.
We decided that it felt like the right moment to introduce the puppet example, we weren’t initially going to show a puppet, however we felt the group would understand better what was being asked of them.
The group was transfixed with the puppet and seemed really into the possibilities of the use of it. Everyone appeared interested and were quite vocal about how they were feeling. The group worked diligently, and all made the first stage of the head and arms successfully. In the end, it felt like the group had taken a lot from the session and seemed upbeat which for us as the leaders was a huge relief and extremely fulfilling.
We had ten women in the room today with good return attendance and five new women, so we had to divide our teaching between the people starting the puppet process from scratch and those who were continuing from last week’s session.
There is always a member of staff in the room plus a nurse, as all the women are on detox medication. The staff members take part as group members.
There was scepticism from one person who appeared uncomfortable in the room and struggled to engage with what we were introducing. She said she thought it was childish and demeaning, she required quiet one to one work to reassure her and allay her fears. We observed that she became more interested in how the puppet could tell a story and how that story might develop.
We laid the brown paper, string and scissors out on the table to ask the group what they saw in front of them, however the group’s responses were literal, and they could not grasp the abstract concept. They simply saw paper and string, even though we worded the provocation in various ways. They didn’t see beyond the actual materials in front of them. Once everyone had their materials they very quickly became industrious and worked hard to complete their puppets. One woman completed hers to a very good standard and the woman who had initially struggled and was reticent became interested and engaged. It was clear that she had let her guard down and trusted the atmosphere, especially when she saw that others were achieving results very quickly.
There was an upbeat atmosphere, and the women took a short break and then brought in a pot of tea and biscuits to share, which brought a sense of community to the room. The woman who had struggled had initially made excuses to leave and yet got so lost in the puppet making that she forgot about her excuses and remained engaged for the entire duration of the session.
The group were keen to show their progress and sought affirmation from us that their puppet was correct and that they were doing it correctly.
There were seven women in attendance today; two of whom were new to the group. The space was different to the normal room that we’ve worked in before because of a problem with water leakage so we had to adapt to working in a smaller and less familiar room. We were fortunate that there were still some puppets that needed to be completed so the women were tasked with finishing all the existing puppets which they handled diligently.
There was an industrious atmosphere, with the group determined to get the puppets finished. We were pleased to observe that one of the more sceptical women in the group offered help to one of the staff members and corrected some of her work. This showed that the women were using their initiative. They were familiar with the making process and comfortable enough to share their new-found skills with others in the room.
It was evident that the group were pleased with their finished puppets and that good work had been achieved. Each puppet has its own style and individuality; in length of limbs, body shape and character.
After the break, we began exploring ideas surrounding simple storylines and seeing what each puppet could achieve physically. The women enjoyed this, starting off with sporting stories about achieving goals; looking at the puppets unique physicality and using that for maximum impact.
We observed that the room felt noisier as people felt less intimidated; conversation flowed freely as they worked.
We had seven women participating today; all previous attendees, plus one member of staff. Everyone was keen to find their puppet immediately and seemed really pleased with what they had created. They used coloured string to further embellish their work and others followed suit. A lot of time was spent doing this and the atmosphere felt productive.
One woman (we will call her ‘C’) came into the room with quite a negative attitude, but soon became absorbed in transforming her puppet which distracted her from the mood she was originally in. C was drawn to a ball of red string and worked out a technique to make a hair weave which she became very focussed on. Once she had added red hair her puppet took on a whole new character.
After a short break, the group returned. We took a moment to observe everyone’s puppets and made positive comments about the look and character of each one. We then split into groups and created ‘cinematic moments’ that would be instantly recognisable to everyone. This involved creating iconic moments from well-known films and helping one another to manipulate the puppets within the story re-enactment. The women seemed to enjoy the art of playing and cooperated well together. There was a lot of laughter and a sense of playfulness within the group.
Once we handed out writing paper to formulate story ideas the atmosphere changed, and interest faded a little. We wondered if the connotations of white paper and a pen at the table reminded the women of school and not achieving. We tried giving prompts of ambiguous titles such as ‘The Challenge’ and ‘Make my Day’ but the group responded less favourably than with the previous activity. The puppet example had given the women a framework. When they were tasked with freeform thinking and asked to formulate those thoughts into a plan, they seemed to struggle.
The staff member who has been consistently working with us has been participating as a group member and has fully participated in all the sessions. However, it might have been useful for her to step out of her role and offer other solutions at that stage. One woman offered a story and experience of her journey to recovery. The others then had confidence to follow suit. Some women copied the same idea, as it is a universal story closest to their own experiences of addiction and recovery. Other women decided on lighter fictitious stories and others in the group listened. With a bit of encouragement, the group created simple stories based on their puppets’ physicality and wrote up a short story draft. We also discussed music possibilities that would complement each piece and the women’s choices and ideas were noted.
There was a smaller group of five people this week as some of the women were attending appointments and one woman had graduated from the service. We were keen to develop storylines which did not require excessive amounts of writing. We decided to take a different approach.
We introduced a group storyboard that everyone interacted with and contributed to. We worked on one story at a time on the whiteboard, introducing the following structure:
- observing the characters normality
- something happens
- the outcome
The groups grasped this idea quickly and were engaged with the process of adding to one another’s stories on the whiteboard of ideas. Whilst the stories were developing, we played the music soundtrack choices that complimented the character and plot. The women felt pleased with the decisions they had made. There were bold musical choices made which added to the productive atmosphere and an overall a sense of achievement.
After a short break the group returned and worked in small groups where the owner of the puppet acted as a director and guided the puppeteers through the storyline. There was a genuine spirit of support in the room as the groups progressed with their puppet story.
The women in the group have become much more familiar with me and Carly. They seek approval and appraisal and frequently use our names throughout the session when they question what they have achieved. They enjoy receiving positive feedback.
It is apparent that the group have become quite attached to their puppets and a connection and investment has been made with the project. We concluded the session with a short sharing of ideas and asked the puppet owners to talk through their storylines as the pieces were being performed by the puppeteers. This was an important moment in the group as each person was taking ownership over their own creative ideas and speaking confidently to others in the room.
The session ended positively, and we were especially pleased that ‘J’ – (the nurse at 218 Women’s Service) was happy to attend the next session on her day off. She understood the impact that the project was having on the group and recognised that continuity was crucial as we progressed into the final stages of the project.
This would have been our final session today, but we decided to delay our final session for a further week to accommodate staff absences from both the Citizens Theatre and 218 Women’s Service. We invited Community artist Rachel Mimiec to join the session to assist with the rehearsals and be an extra pair of hands with the puppeteering. Rachel is especially experienced in working with women’s groups in the community and has worked closely with Elly and Carly for many years at an emergency respite residential centre for women experiencing homelessness. Rachel brought interesting material with her such as cardboard, silver foil and red cloth which added to the creation of landscapes for each of the storyline settings.
This week was one of the least stable weeks of the whole project. There were no members of staff present during the session because our usual staff member was on a training course and the nurse wasn’t there either. The women seemed distracted. Some were clearly medicated and appeared subdued. Also, regular attenders such as ‘C’ and ‘L’ were not present. No one could explain where ‘L’ was, and ‘C’ had left the 218 programme and had decided to return to live with her family. There was also a new woman in the group who hadn’t been part of the previous five weeks, so she decided to assist another group member. Although she was helpful, she had a big presence in the room and was sometimes a distraction to the other women. The storylines were adapted to see what could be achieved with the new group dynamic.
‘LR’ was heavily medicated and struggled to concentrate. I encouraged her with her character and storylines and tried several different methods to engage her, but she couldn’t grasp what we were asking of her. When we gave her a selection of ideas and she was able to see what the puppet could achieve she became more interested and then added suggestions to her story which was an analogy to her own recovery story. Rachel was able to create further simple paper props for each storyline such as a basketball net, a lion and a set of stairs. The group were pleased to see their landscape come to life.
We rehearsed three stories and various women took charge of different aspects of the puppeteering. We discussed final choices for music and how the group wanted next week’s final session to run. Some women were relaxed about performing in front of other members of the centre and others weren’t comfortable with the prospect of anyone else joining the session. ‘T’ concluded the workshop by saying, “But we’ve put all this work into the puppets. We need to show our work!” It felt like a fitting end to the day.
This was the final session and we were pleased to see the women return having also remembered to wear black clothing. There was a sense of apprehension and nervousness. We reassured and encouraged the women that everyone who came to watch today would be supportive.
We got on with the task of rehearsing and there was a good sense of team spirit with everyone helping one another in each individual story. ‘LR’ couldn’t be with us today, but we all felt it was important that her puppet was animated as she had put a lot of effort into making her puppet and had made good progress last week with her storyline.
An audience made up of residents, day care attendees, and staff joined us, and there was a supportive atmosphere. All four stories played out. There were stories of recovery, of reaching and achieving goals, of friendship and kindness. Each story was recognised and applauded and with each performance the women’s confidence grew.
We were very pleased to see that the women had committed to the project and had clearly accomplished something important. The manager of the centre was very complimentary, as were other staff members, who were visibly moved by the puppets and their stories. L’s story of recovery was particularly powerful, and she was very open about how her story evolved and the choice of music which really enhanced the isolation and painful moments whilst in recovery. Everyone was vocal and congratulatory. It was fantastic to see the women relieved and positive that they had completed something. We all shared cakes and juice together and the women were holding onto their puppets as they moved into the other room to have their lunch.
We were really pleased how the project concluded. It is clear the women have taken a lot from the experience.
- Please present the most interesting/representative case studies of adults participating in the workshop.
When we first met M, she appeared extremely reluctant and disinterested in the project. It was clear from the moment she entered the room she was struggling with the concept and didn’t see the point. This is understandable when the women we encounter at the service are dealing with a raft of chronic emotional, mental and physical complexities. ‘M’ found it difficult to engage and her inadequacies were further highlighted when she saw other women beginning to create their puppets and perhaps being more open to giving things a try. Carly worked closely and quietly with her and they soon created a puppet which, although messy and scruffy, had lots of character. Once a simple blue string scarf was added, the character changed again, and it felt like a positive turning point for ‘M’ too. She became more expressive, she started smiling and engaging with the rest of the group and began to relax. The group made positive comments about her puppet and she seemed really pleased with her work. Her transition happened more slowly than the other group members. However, it was especially satisfying because she had been so negative when the project had first been introduced.
‘L’ is an interesting character as we have observed how detox medication affects her personality. This often made her slower to respond to ideas and in making decisions. ‘L’s’ strength was that she saw herself in her puppet and was keen to share a story of recovery. She was open to sharing a window into her world. Her puppet reflected her very well. ‘L’ made good music choices to enhance her piece and she seemed engaged and committed to the project despite the effects of her detoxification treatment.
‘C’ often attended the group in a negative mood, it’s clear that she is at the beginning of her recovery process so finds it difficult to adapt to the regime of the 218 service. The puppets have enabled ‘C’ to escape from her troubles and steer her energies into creating and making. ‘C’s’ story is aspirational, her puppet plays out how she might see herself in the future. Her character comes from nothing, develops into feeling stronger by recognising her creative talents and self-worth. She dreams of her talents being acknowledged and seeks fame. Her overall storyline is that, in the face of adversity, you can achieve anything. This has been an important goal for ‘C’ to work towards and a useful analogy to further validate her own personal journey to recovery.
- Please define clearly the motivation mechanisms and learning approaches used during the workshop.
We adopted the attitude that everyone can create a puppet and that it is impossible to fail. We would reassure the women that no one would judge creativity and that it is something that everyone has within themselves. Everyone was given the appropriate attention, from those who required one to one attention, to the women who clearly wished to be left on their own to get on with the task. People who started a little later in the process were included and quickly brought up to speed and made familiar with the materials.
We also shared personal aspects of our own lives to break down the ‘them and us’ culture so that the women got to know our style and feel reassured that they are doing well in the session. Many of the women that we work with don’t have a formal school background and those that do tend to have negative connotations connected to educational learning. Therefore, it’s essential that our approach is upbeat, fun, intriguing and playful to keep the group’s attention and focus.
- Please write your comments/evaluation from the trainer’s point of view.
‘Create a Puppet, Create Yourself’ has been a fascinating project to introduce to the 218 Women’s Service, especially as they have not experienced anything like it before and perhaps would not normally consider introducing this artform as part of their weekly programme. The project has reinforced the impact the arts has on the groups of people that we work with and the role they play in the journey to recovery.
We have found it useful to work closely with the management team in advance of the project starting. It was also useful to have consistency, with support staff in the room to assist the women and to communicate with others at the service. It was also important for us to understand and be mindful as to how the women might react to the sessions, especially when they received their medications.
- Please describe any interesting point of view of the participants relevant to the piloting.
Working with an all-woman group has been interesting to observe shared female commonality. As the puppets were being created, conversations flowed freely. Topics included chaotic lifestyles, sobriety, motherhood, style choices, dancing to music, birthday gifts for children, ageing and menopause. This helped form a bond with the group and allowed people to feel okay within themselves. It was interesting to see how some women had experience of knitting, sewing or embroidery. This could be seen in some of the binding techniques that they adopted when working with the string to secure and shape the puppet.
The coloured string has been a welcome addition to the selection of available materials. It has enabled the group to add simple and effective touches to their puppet without changing them too much and turning them into dolls by providing them with paper clothes. Music choices with sung lyrics have worked surprisingly well too and we felt that the women made some discerning choices that enhanced their storylines.