Yes…that is me dressed in a tiger onesie standing in a church garden with my friend Paul…who is dressed as a caveman. Albeit a caveman with Indie band yearnings. Why were we doing it? Well other than for our own entertainment we were just about to embark on our first journey into the imagination of children as part of The Story Machine.
A few months ago I was inspired by the imagination of a friend’s 6 year old son to set up creative writing workshops where the kids have the chance interact and direct characters through the plots they create. After mentioning this to a few friends to see what they thought I gained the courage to actually think about putting a session together. I already had in mind a few friends that I wanted to work with it on as leaders so contacted them and thankfully they all seemed just as enthusiastic as me about it.
A few weeks later I received an email from my friend Jo who is a director of the local annual Art Trail in [Leigh] (http://http://www.leigharttrail.com). Every year they run a day of children’s workshops in the garden of one of the churches in town and this year she wanted to include us!
I was stoked but also terrified because this cemented that I couldn’t get too scared and run away from doing something I had thought of, as I had done in the past. So I got my troupe together, we had some very silly meetings to run through ideas and also ensure that all profane language was out of some of our systems before we were put in front of children.
Saturday 31st soon rolled around and we made our way to the church gardens, costumes and props in hand nervous but excited to have some fun. I must admitI was worried that all the kids would choose the other workshops where they could get messy with clay, design skateboards, dabble in animation and photography. However I remained patient and soon enough one little girl made her way over to our spot to begin a story.
Soon enough we had around 10 children singing, directing us, drawing the stories and generally causing a ruckus. In the space of four hours I had tea with the queen, had been lost in the woods, fought a Knight, been to the moon with an Olympic swimmer called Juno and conversed with an army of space mice about the best way to fix a broken rocket. It was relentless and perhaps the most fun I have had in a very long time.
One thing I hadn’t quite bargained for was just how dark and bizarre children’s minds are. In a fight between a witch and a spaceman the latter was directed to cut off various bodily parts of the witch. Nor had I realised how much I was going to laugh. My cheeks actually ached at the end of the day from smiling so much. One of the best images of the day came when one of the kids drew her witch on the paper we had laid out for them. She turned to me, looked me straight in the eye and said,
“My Witch has three legs, the middle one is extra long and because of this that is the only one which can wear a shoe”
It was an intensely rewarding day and an emotional one at that. When one parent came up to me and said that her son had gone home to write all of the stories he had made after the first session and then begged to come back in the afternoon I knew that it had been a success. Now I can’t wait to do it all over again!
Morning light on the last day.
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Jack & Sharon
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