I have just come back from the most fascinating and inspiring workshop led by Nikki Clayton, former PhD student in the Department and now Open Museum Officer for Leicestershire. She was to be joined by the poet Mark Goodwin, but he was - unfortunately - unwell. However, Nikki coped admirably without him!
The session took the form of a the poetry workshops run by Nikki and Mark for school and community groups in Leicester, albeit an abbreviated version. Our small group undertook a series of short free-writing exercises based upon the contents of two different resource boxes, the first held six miniature model chairs. These objects formed the basis of our first exercise. We wrote for three minutes non-stop using the chairs as triggers for our creativity. My list inevitably consisted of a list of descriptors, but already several in our group were displaying quite a talent for creative writing. Although, as one of those was a published author of poetry in his native Iceland (*coMagnusugh*), I wasn't surprised!
The next exercise involved folding a sheet of paper in half lengthways. On the right-hand side we wrote another stream of consciousness this time prompted by a collection of model rural homes (thatched cottages, half-timbered houses, etc). This inspired an outpouring of homesickness from me. This task was followed up by writing on the other half of the paper on the subject of deserts. My response rather made me fear my state of mental health, to be honest. Clearly in a very dark and depressive mood. ;) Finally, we wrote a new 'poem' using the words written on both halves of the paper. This created some really brilliant results, very evocative. I would reproduce my effort here, but Nikki collected up our poems to pass onto Mark, who has been commissioned to produce a work for the conference based on our creative writing produced in the session. We suggested that perhaps we should receive a share of the profits!
The discussion that followed revealed the potential of such an approach to museum objects, especially with regard to working with mixed ability groups and people for whom English is not a first language. Very inspiring.
All in all it was a very enjoyable session. Anyone who couldn't make it missed a treat. It was fantastic to sit down and do something quite different - beyond the conference 'norm' - for a couple of hours. I only wish I could write my thesis using a similar method!