Community art is a high wire act

This is often the trickiest stage of a workshop – somewhere towards the end of the first half.  The novelty has gone. People, places and situations you barely knew before start to seem familiar. The group is acquiring patterns. It’s less about discovery now, more making something worthwhile with what’s been discovered. You find yourself wondering whether anything is really happening. Are we making progress? Confidence can flag with energy.

Experience tells me to recognise those feelings, but not to heed them. It’s just part of the process. You have to sink a lot of foundations to lay a bridge.  Still, a point comes when, somehow, almost miraculously, the threads knit together and unconnected ideas gel. We’re at the point now, I think, where we all have to trust in the foundations that have been poured and the effectiveness of the co-creation process. It will set when it’s ready. For the professionals in the group, it’s a time to give confidence. It is not always comfortable to carry other people’s trust, but it’s part of the job.

Happily, today we had the first dance workshops by Antonio Bukhar, from Uganda via Berlin, and everyone got to move. It was a joyous morning and gave the group a chance to express themselves differently.

Most of the rest of the day was practical too—sound work with U. Narauskas and music with Gediminas Zujus. In the afternoon, Antonio gave a talk about his work in community dance, and I spoke about performance using Streetwise Opera and Graeae as examples of good practice. And we returned to slide-making, taking inspiration from the woodcuts of Kathe Köllwitz and Frans Masereel to work only in monochrome.

But it might be the lunchtime conversation between all the artists that turns out to be the day’s key moment. We’d met on Sunday night (in the convivial photo below), but hadn’t really know much about each other’s’ ideas or experience. It was only now, with the programme well underway, that we were in a position to consider where we might be going together. What will be performed on the Cabbage Field on Friday morning. I still don’t know. Community art is a high wire act.

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