Emerge Cannock Chase: New Year, New Motivation!

After almost a month away from both of the Labs, I was worried that coming back after the New Year would be problematic; that the young people would be disillusioned and need re-vitalising. I couldn’t have been more wrong!

The Library group had dropped (slightly) in numbers, however those who came were more enthusiastic and focused than ever! We were able to begin with the good news that our budget had been confirmed and get started straight away with putting our comms plan into action and diving into rehearsals. We also re-capped on our focuses for the festival, what we have achieved last term and what was left to be done, and I asked if anyone had any concerns. The group had expressed a concern that we would not be ready for the festival, with one young person saying ‘I feel like we have lots of good ideas but we haven’t put them into practice.’ This was brilliant as it meant that they were beginning to think in a more practical way and had become aware that, perhaps, a bit more focused would be needed to get the job done!

It may have helped that I began the session by writing a large countdown on the board to give us a small fright. Before Christmas we were on track, however it was difficult to instil any sense of urgency or precise focus with such a large group, and with the festival feeling like a far off idea that would never actually come to pass. Now the countdown has begun, and we have a group which are really committed and fully focused on our end goal, I have no doubt we will create a great festival and the young people at the library will really step up to the challenge!

One of the highlights from our sessions so far with the library group has to be our lyric/poetry writing session. At first I was unsure how the group would take to it, after having the discussion before Christmas that poetry was ‘BORING!’ and even talking about writing lyrics didn’t seem to bring about much enthusiasm. We persisted because the group are all keen singers and we wanted to give them the challenge of writing their own stuff for the festival. Even if they hated it, at least they’d tried it, even if only for ten minutes. But, once again, they outdid themselves. Mal Dewshirst from our Museum Lab came to run the session and began using one Shakespeare line and got the group to pass round the paper with each new line. This created some initial fears, however with support we came up with some fantastic lines and surprising poems just by passing round a piece of paper with very little instruction. This really stirred up their imagination and before we knew it the whole session was taken up with group song writing and individual poems. Most impressive was Holly’s use of WW1 poetry to inspire a new piece about soldiers. Holly is not a confident writer and was very apprehensive to start, but we sat together, worked through lines and phrases to find the right fit, read and re-read the piece. In that session we discovered that Holly was a poet. Though she would never tell you that.

The Museum group had new recruits from a final recruitment push before Christmas which bought new life into the group. Some of the new young people were very nervous before our first session, but our fabulous group of girls at the Museum Lab made the 4 new girls feel relaxed, welcome and part of the gang. Myself, Mal and Christine finished that first session back so proud of those young people for their maturity and kindness. To me, if Emerge does anything it promotes teamwork and a sense of shared responsibility and creative generosity that is unique to the arts. Our young people at the Museum continue to show that to each other in the respect and value they give to each other’s ideas and the support they give each other in every session.

The other highlight with our Museum group was an impromptu music session. We had planned to create some songs, however this session had to be cancelled last minute and the young people had brought their instruments. So I used the session to see if we could try and develop some of our theatre ideas from a musical starting point. With only a short group discussion around our themes and general plot for each scene, the group split into two and began improvising and devising using their instruments to set the tone for the scene, and then layering the action on top. This was a big ask, but they really threw themselves into the task and the work created by the end of the session was really exciting and original!

Overall January has flown by, but it’s been a real turning point for our young people and the project has begun to pick up real momentum. We’ve got flyers printed, competitions and professional and community call outs sent out with fantastic responses, and some great sessions planned. Although there’s still a long way to go, I think we’ve kicked off 2019 with a bang!