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Neil Packham, Elly Goodman, Angela Smith
Please explain how your workshop went.
The workshops have been well received by a small group of people who have been willing to take part and experiment with puppet making.
Dates: 11/09, 18/09, 25/09, 2/10, 9/10
Participants (number and profile): 6 females and 7 males.
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.
According to your experience, which are the strong points of the method that helped you in the workshop?
The strengths of the workshop were:
the gratification in seeing your puppet come together.
the manual work involved in its creation.
the feeling that you can’t fail.
the simplicity and the playfulness involved.
the group enjoying learning to work with the basic materials of paper and string.
that adjustments and adaptations can be made at any time to the puppet, in order to build its character or to assist in its manipulation.
the importance of keeping a good atmosphere in the group, giving encouragement and positive feedback.
being able to offer one-to-one assistance, without taking over the process.
the sense of achievement that was felt when the group delivered their performance at the end of Session 5.
the recognition of the amount of effort that needs to go into this for the performance to be of any quality.
the moment when the participants grasp the metaphor of their puppet’s story.
According to your experience, what can be changed in the method to make it better (which are the weak points)? What changes do you suggest?
Although we led them through the initial Psycho-Drama exercise of exploring imaginatively the objects of the paper and string, it was a difficult environment to take these exercises forward. We adapted some of this process to be more appropriate to the group, i.e. we used a lot of music to stimulate discussion and stories, we planted simple topics of conversation that took the group and individuals on a journey. When it comes to the point of creating the scenes it can be disappointing if someone’s puppet is not chosen to be used. It’s good to find a way to invest in those ‘abandoned’ characters. It takes considerable time and effort for the participants to understand how to manipulate the puppets with any accuracy. It’s only once the performance has been completed that they appreciate this and feel the desire to make it better.
The group responded well to the project and its structure. In hindsight it might have been more effective with this group if we had run the sessions on consecutive days, in an intensive block, rather than once a week. It could have helped with the consistency of the numbers of the group as well as making it a more intense experience.
Participants’ evaluation – please summarise the participants’ responses and if you have added more questions, please add their answer as well.
‘J’’s thoughts 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.”
‘L’’s thoughts about the project: “I thought it would be a good idea to make puppets, as a personal identification of ourselves… where we come from, where we’re going. When I saw it was just paper and string, I expected something else completely different. I didn’t understand what was going on with the paper. I had to ask for a bit of help. I got the idea of the colourful hair from a lot of people in my past, and myself, as I’ve had hair very similar to this. The character sort of grew on the puppets as we talked about them and gave them a personal identity. My puppet could go to a good home. Someone could get the benefit out of it. I think there is therapeutic value in this project. Definitely.”
How did they feel during the workshop and why?
Those that attended were absorbed in the process. Commenting and enjoying how their puppet was progressing. There was lots of laughter in the room and flowing conversation, sometimes about recovery but also stories from other aspects of their lives. There was a sense of satisfaction and surprise that they had created something positive using simple resources.
2.2. Which were the strong points of the workshop and why?
The process of the puppet making was a strong point. The practical, manual aspect of this leading to the creative. Being reunited with the puppet, the moment of feeling a connection with what is essentially paper a string but now means so much more. The creation of the stories, recognising the potential metaphor within the story. Working practically as a team developing the performance element. Encouraging team work, compromise, patience and feeling comfortable, working physically in such close proximity to one another.
Which were the weak points of the workshop and why?
The weak points were not about the content of the workshop but by the inconsistency of the numbers participating.
2.4. Do they think the workshop needs any changes?
No, it works well. When we had completed the scenes in the final session, there was a desire to do more, having learnt from this experience.
2.5 Do they think this workshop was useful for them?
Yes, it was a time to switch off from other worries, issues around recovery and the real world. It was a different thing to focus on. A new challenge and experience. A good way to look at issues in a creative way.
2.6. Would they use the things they learned during the workshop?
They may remember the techniques and make a puppet with their children. I hope they will have self-belief in that they can achieve ambitious things in their lives. They may remember that they tapped into their creativity and gave themselves permission to play again.
2.7. Which sessions did they like most?
The making of the puppets and building the characters, choosing music tracks and piecing together the storylines physically when they worked together teams to rehearse.
2.8. Which were the sessions they didn’t like?
2.9. Additional comments