Designed and printed by Richard Houguez
As part of our aims of transparency and active participation, alongside promoting land travel within the Imagine 2020 network. We wanted the lab to start during the travel itself, offering materials and exercises to provide focus points before arrival.
The pack was printed on Ava the Risograph at the Commonhouse in Bethnal Green.
Click the links below for pdfs:
PDF - Introduction & James Marriott - Walking the South Downs
Neil Callaghan and Simone Kenyon
Neither of us are trained councillors or psychologists. We collaborate with many people and
are used to working with new people. However, the particular conditions of the Imagine2020
summer lab presented a situation in which we were not responsible for the programme itself
but for the smooth running of the programme. Our job was to hold the space around the
individual workshops, sessions and mealtimes. As well as offering a daily practice: a physical
and mental preparation, in line with the embodied knowledge approach of the lab. It was a
pleasure for us to be in the presence of such quality activists and artists. It was no easy task,
but we did the best we could. Isn’t that all we can ask ourselves, to do the best we can, and to
help each other do the best we can.
What follows are our thoughts, reflections and points to remember if we were to do this again for this particular context.
We consider the two main concerns of facilitation are listening and clarity. Listening to what people have to say. Listening to the situation. Listening to all points of view. Making space in which to listen.
We understand clarity to be about being clear. To be clear about expectations. To be clear with the information you give.
Sometimes you try to be clear and people don’t listen.
Sometimes if you listen properly it makes it harder to be clear.
But you keep trying to listen and trying to be clear.
If you’re going to be clear it helps to have a plan.
Even if the plan changes.
Listening takes time. Listening takes an active energy.
Time is an important factor.
There were sessions. There were mealtimes. There was the time it took to travel in between spaces. Then there were different understandings of what it meant to be on time. There are the things that have to happen. The things that are planned to happen. There is the planned time when ‘nothing’ happens. There are things that come up and you have to make space.
Know yourself. Listening and clarity can happen through you: your personality and body. Facilitation cannot exist outside of bodies. Be aware of the HOW. How do you listen? How are you clear? How do you keep time?
Know that you are not perfect. Don’t take it personally.
Know that it will be difficult. There will always be difficulties. Sometimes it will be more difficult than others. Allow yourself to fail. Allow yourself to be seen to fail. Trust that most people are kind, most of the time.
How do you empower people?
How do you make a space for everyone to be heard?
How do you encourage people to take care of themselves?
How do you encourage people to take care of each other?
How do you hold it all together?
What is the relationship between power and care?
What is the relationship between time keeping and respect?
What is the relationship between time keeping and power?
What are the structures that allow the silent to be heard?
What can happen in the time you have?
When is the right time to speak up?
When is the right time to shut up?
When is the right time to change your plan?
Where is the power?
Where is your responsibility?
ON FACILITATING AS A PAIR
Working as a pair is helpful. You can be in two places at once.
You are two bodies, two brains, two personalities – this is a good thing.
There is strength in your difference and you will have different strengths.
It is someone else to bounce off, to support or be supported by, to walk beside.
One person can hold the space, which allows the other person to listen differently.
One person can hold the space and the other can be quickly problem solving on their feet.
One person can hold the space and the other can have a breather.
The fact that we are a Male/Female duo may also be beneficial for the individuals in the group. But not necessarily.
Don’t make any assumptions.
You are from a particular time and place. Other people have different circumstances, brought up in a different era, from somewhere very different to you. We all see the world in very different ways. We all have our own assumptions, prejudices and understanding of the world. Be aware of assumptions you might take for granted. Try to meet people where they are at – no judgement.
Find inspiration from other people who you have worked with and can learn from. We have
learned a lot from people and their approaches to holding a space. We are constantly
gathering new ways and different ideas of how to be together.
We have both learned a lot from organising our own events and talks, meeting and working with inspirational people and their work including Liz Lerman, João Fiadeiro, Chicago based performance company Goat Island, Nic Green and many Body Weather Practitioners and movement based enquiries.
Simone has learned a lot from Natural Change Foundation, Devoted and Disgruntled’s use of Open Space Technology, Feldenkrais Movement Awareness and her walking arts practice. Neil has learned a lot from Jane Trowel and Platform, his colleagues, collaborators and teachers that span a wide range of creative geographies and working with large groups of young people for the NYT.
We would heartily recommend David Bohm’s book On Dialogue.
ON WHAT WE DID
We made space for checking in and checking out at the start and end of each day. Different
people have a different understanding of what constitutes a “check in”.
We consider it to be an open space in which anybody can say anything. Encouraging people to listen to themselves and where they are at; to say what needs to be said, to voice feelings. People should speak from themselves and their experience. It is a chance to listen and to be heard. It is a practice. It takes time. Checking in and out and adhering to a pre-planned schedule can feel hard, but its good to give this trusted space in which to speak. Sometimes the same people do all the talking. We trust that if active listening is encouraged that the people who like to talk might learn to make space for others and that those who can vocalise less easily will find the bravery to speak. It is good to consider that once someone has spoken they should then allow the rest of the time for others to speak and be heard. Not responding verbally to what people say is also important, active listening is the focus rather than a conversation or dialogue. Allow people to speak and be heard. This might not happen in a short space of time. It is a practice. It is also a space in which people should be able to speak in confidence within the group. This confidentiality needs to be agreed at the very beginning of your meeting.
In line with the embodied approach of the Summer Lab and the focus on tacit knowledge we led a short physical activity or training each morning. Some people are more aware of their bodies than others. We all have a body. We all experience the world through our body. For us it is a political act to understand and inhabit our body in as many varied and diverse ways as possible. Much of the work we proposed included working with others, because we believe that the only way to understand ourselves is through working with others. This is also a nice way to get to know each other, through working together without talking.
Encouraging self-management. We tried to encourage self-management. That people take care of themselves, each other and the space we inhabit. Over 5 days people can tolerate more than they might over a longer period of time. Self-Management is a lot about expectation. Make sure people know what their responsibility is. What can we expect to be taken care of and when do we have to self-organise? Don’t make any assumptions. Create spaces in the day where people can generate meetings that reflect their own interest and concerns. This was particularly important, as the week was busy with activities. These times where people negotiate and plan different groups to discuss area of particular interest or concerns is part of getting to the crux of coming together as a group. To build new structures and future plans.
Some suggestions on how to build group cohesiveness:
Help a stranger set up their tent.
Pick edible foliage and ferment it.
Share a text that you read aloud.
Share elements of your creative practice to one another.
Have a dialogue.
Imagine possible futures.
Discuss the present reality.
Let someone lead you with your eyes closed.
Build a fire together.
Respect the wishes of others.
Sleep on a hill together.
Fly a kite.
Play physical games outside on the grass.
Put on a latex fashion show.
Keep in touch.
Pizza night and massage
Since January 2013, my friends Hannah Clayden, Mario D'Agostino, Jo Waterhouse and I have hosted a monthly pizza dinner.
For each pizza we invite somebody whose work we like. Our special guest gets to choose the toppings of the pizza and can bring friends.
For each pizza we make placemats and come up with activities in honour of our guest, for example for the musician and artist Jenny Moore, we wrote a canon:
To introduce the summerlab participants to the pizza concept, I hosted a pizza evening, where we (of course!) made pizzas, sung Jenny's song and got drunk at the camp fire.
Complementing this collective activity, I also offered a more personal head massage service the following morning. During one of the massages I wrote down a quote by Jan Verwoert (I don't remember who mentioned it to me, was it you Jo Hellier?) that perfectly describes my idea of hosting, caring and sharing: "Give what you don't have to people who don't want it."