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Thursday, 4 November 2010

Remember, Remember the 2nd of November!


I have just carried out my first workshop for the 'Hands On' Project which focuses on day centers in Knowsley for people with learning disabilities and aims to introduce support staff and their “clients” to new creative activities and give them the confidence and inspiration to continue using their new found skills them selves.

This workshop was just for support staff to participate in, and I aimed to create a day they could enjoy and a chance to create for themselves. Within this I tried to subtlety address some of the key points of the training, to show; how much can be achieved with limited inexpensive materials, that process can be more valuable than the end product, that things made during the workshop can not be labeled right or wrong, and that the role of the support worker is to enable the ‘client’ to create for themselves.

I decided to take Bonfire Night as the starting point for my workshop as it is so full of sensory possibilities, and a familiar theme to most.

'Multi Sensory Speed Dating' - Participants find out about each other by asking things like 'What does your home sound like?' and 'What is your favorite smell?' This was followed by 'Show and Tell' were we each showed and talked about a personal object.

Bonfire Night Things - With lights dimmed and a soundtrack of fire works playing, participants put on the scarfs, felt and smelt the leaves and tucked in to some toffee apples.

'The Big Red Suitcase' All of my materials travel to workshops in this. During previous workshops with adults who have learning disabilities, exploring the suitcase and getting to know the materials through touch has been popular. So I asked participants in this workshop to close their eyes and get to know the materials they would be using.


Participants discuss and write down the smells, sounds, sights, tastes and feel of Bonfire Night. This progressed to translating feel both in terms of touch, and emotion. Fear was the word used to describe people who feel isolated and don't want to leave the house on Bonfire Night, and for those who find the sounds of explosions hold painful memories of war.

Drawing Winter Music

Drawing Winter Music

Drawing Winter Music - With each others hands, a bonding activity, which caused hysterics!

Creating fireworks collages


For the second half of the day I had planned activities that would directly reference the roles of support workers when working with people in a workshop. The first was to create a 'guy' in pairs. One person in each pair was to be 'the artist' and had to make the creative decisions about how the guy would look, the other person had to be 'the artist's assistant' making suggestions and gathering materials. The group quickly renamed the roles as master and servant!

After making the guys I asked each pair how it felt to work in that way, and if they had stayed in role. An interesting debate followed where we talked about how difficult it is to be enthusiastic about creating but then having to 'hold back'. I was really impressed with how readily everyone admitted to 'taking over' in their working lives when they are meant to be enabling, and how determined they were to change this.

I had called the final part of the workshop 'Mystery Activity' on all information given out prior to the workshop. Working in different pairs this time, I asked the participants to design an 'activity' and then make it, as if they were planning something for their 'clients' to do at the day center. Most pairs built on the sensory theme of the day. Above 'musical shakers'

A 'Texture Box' with a variety of 'feely' surfaces on the outside and a selection of textures and surprising objects on the inside.

This was a particularly good example of creating something out of any/minimal materials. Each piece of card has a different tactile material secured to it, some even made noises when you handled them. I liked the simple effectiveness of these sensory 'flash cards'.


After the workshop Jean and Gerry, led a round up session in which we all discussed our roles within a workshop setting and came up with lots of useful creative solutions to problems that arise. I felt it was a very successful day, and the feedback was very positive, I even gave my soundtrack of fireworks to one participant who had been inspired to run an activity later in the week at her day center. Ideally all workshops contribute something to it's participants, but this felt particularly meaningful, as the repercussions of it could reach far wider than the immediate satisfaction of the people who were present. I hope that this is the case.

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