Some stories and some gifts

Published in Features on 23 Mar 2015

It is some time since I blogged here – apologies to anyone who missed me and apologies, also, to anyone who would have been happy for me to stay away!

This time around is all about stories and gifts. The first story is that of the Creative Conversations that I have been working on for 3 years with Edinburgh Council and the wonderful Linda Lees, who has been the driving force behind them.

We have featured all sorts of people from well-known educationalists like Sir Tim Brighouse, technologists like Stephen Heppell through to artists, teachers and even an obstetrician. The variety has been wonderful, the conversations have been informative, inspirational, practical, astonishing, challenging – the adjectives and descriptions flow. They have been well reviewed, most recently in the Consilium review of Scotland’s Creative learning Plan, but the most important thing about them is that they have had impact.

Heather Luchessi has been a participant and presenter in the conversations. She was a talented artist and educator in any case, but the conversations helped her to break through in her work with young people at St Crispin’s School in Edinburgh. Heather deployed a range of techniques that enabled her pupils, who had an average developmental age of 18 months, to create genuinely impressive work and to exhibit it in a city centre gallery in Edinburgh. That made a huge impression on the children, their parents and the whole school community. It also shifted a lot of people’s attitudes to what could be achieved with learners and showed the power that creative work can have.

Lucy Vaughan is now a member of Linda’s team, but was working with the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh when she attended the Conversations. They inspired her to think completely differently about the way in which the theatre should engage with schools and young people. The result was Project Dream, closely followed by Project Scrooge and they are your first gift. Google them and see how the theatre and its highly creative team worked intensely with school to develop terrific cross-curricular projects related to the themes of the plays. I was amazed at the way schools were physically transformed by the young people involved and amazed at the quality of the learning that took place.

There are so many more examples that I could offer and, I suspect, there have been more follow-up activities that I am not even aware of. The main point is that the approach has had a profound and positive effect on the way that educators and artists think and has changed the experience of many young people. It has achieved this without following the current mantra for fixed targets and detailed planning. We invested in the approach as an act of faith.

I know that it is a ludicrous comparison, but I think that there is an analogy with the iPad, where there was no identified demand for a tablet device that could be seen as occupying a strange midway point between a laptop and a phone. When it emerged the demand was almost immediate and it grew as people developed apps that exploited its possibilities. It was a genuinely creative intervention in the market place which created demand and stimulated activity.

The Creative Conversations have done something similar. Participation has increased both from people who simply want to attend and react and from others who want to lead sessions and contribute ideas. They also offer gifts. Contact Hays Education for a free booklet written by Tim Brighouse and I on Ten Challenges to Becoming a Truly Creative School.It is absolutely free, short and concise and very colourful. It has to be worth a try!

The other gift is the You tube presentation on A Creative Conversation with Paul Collard.It was a gem among the conversations, rich in research, anecdote, argument and example and well worth a look. I am pretty sure it will lead you on to other links and more gifts.