Friday, 25 November 2011

Creative Approaches to Well-Being - continuing my education in the big wide world

Last week was a bit of a mile-stone for me, as I went to collect my MA results. Although being very pleased with my fancy bit of paper which said I had got a distinction - and being amused that the woman on reception who made my alumni card put that my qualification was in 'MA Applied Theatre (Drama in the cumminty)' [fail!] - it was also a slightly sad moment, as I realised that (for now) I had reached the end of my full-time education. Moping about this to the beautiful Miss Fox, she helpfully reminded me that it marked the end of my formal education, but that I would always keep learning, keep the curiosity burning,* and continue to educate myself, out in the big wide world....

Now, a week has passed and I have been fortunate enough to have already had the opportunity to immerse myself in new ideas and information, new debates, and exciting new practice, as I was able to attend a two-day conference on 'Creative Approaches to Well-Being' entitled: Play's the Thing. Hosted by Escape Artists, this was a stimulating and creative couple of days of workshops, talks and panel debates, all exploring the topic of well-being and the contribution of creative practice and research.

I was able to attend this conference (despite my relative poverty) because I won a free pass after coming second in their 'Speed talk' competition, where they offered the opportunity to pitch an idea for a 5 minute talk, and those voted as most popular would be able to both deliver their short presentation and attend the rest of the conference. My talk was, quite predictably, on the topic of my MA thesis: the use of Drama to build the personal and social skills of young people in the transition between child & adolescent and adult mental health services. Definitely fitted the theme of creativity and well-being, but I think I under-estimated the challenge of condensing my 12,000-odd word thesis into a coherent 5 minute speech...

For me, highlights of the conference were:
 - Prof. Felicia Huppert's erudite keynote speech on well-being on an international and personal scale, including where the UK sits in the levels of well-being across Europe (not so good, we should definitely start looking to Denmark for tips! If nothing else they produced lego, The Killing and Sandi Toksvig...) and how positive mental states broaden and build cognitive processes
 - Ansuman Biswas' fantastic physical, vocal and mental warm-up (and for providing some amazing hugs) at the start of the conference, and Briony Greenhill's gorgeous group singing session to end it
 - Alex Fradera's improvisation workshop - stole some exercises I've already used with one of my Drama groups
 - Hearing more about international prison theatre
- And, of course, the opportunity to meet so many interesting, creative people who give a shit.

And here is me and my friend Natasha honest example of creativity spawning well-being.
(Photograph by Christine Cellier)

So, I can safely say the well-being agenda is on my agenda. For anyone interested, I would certainly recommend Pat Kane's article in the Guardian, arguing that 'a real diversity of input is essential to thinking and feeling our way beyond the cyclical hysterics of capitalism' (although it would be even better if you could hear it in his lovely Scottish accent...).

My education can and shall continue beyond the university walls; it is a life-long process - and I'm prepared to approach it creatively...

*a couple of years ago my inebriated housemate identified 'curiosity', along with empathy and one particular aspect of my physical appearance, as one of my top qualities:

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