Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Creative Writing and Consultation

Thank you to the 20 people who came to the creative writing and consultation event hosted by Create KX at the School of Life on Wednesday 19th November. I found the workshop really interesting, especially the mix of people, ideas and approaches within that one room.

I wanted to post up some of my notes from the session as a way of reflecting and sharing the thoughts generated over the 2 hours.

Where does it end?

A conversation that really struck me was around the question ‘where does consultation finish?’ Are we stymied by the idea that consultation is something done to a group of people and then finished with? Instead, should we be looking at consultation as an ongoing process, something which is done with rather than done to? I wonder if our project-driven arts funding and our society’s need to ‘finish’ things (ok, that’s a grand statement, but I think there’s some truth in it) makes it problematic to argue for the ongoing. Maybe because we’re not sure how to measure its successes? I’m not sure.

What can writers offer?

We talked about writers working as translators, finding ways of crossing the communication gap between those involved in regeneration. We also talked about them as interpreters.

People were struck with the idea of writers creating more abstract responses which can then be interpreted by other professions (architects, designers etc.)

There seemed to be a feeling that the brief exercise led by Aoife Mannix achieved two main things. Firstly it was accessible, relaxed, enabled people to have their say. Secondly it to some extent worked as a warm up, diffusing mindsets, opening up thoughts, which could then lead to quite remarkable and personal responses to the question ‘what does home mean to you?’ that might not have been accessed if the question had been asked cold. I found this really interesting, that we might use creative processes to open a path to finding more accurate and intimate responses to important questions.

Here’s one of the communal pieces of writing we created with Aoife:


Earl Grey, because I’m worth it

The smell of your skin on an autumn evening

Would you like to come for dinner?

Birdsong and Gravel

Home-full and home-less. So blessed and so confused by having two homes separated by sea. Home is love, but loves are split too. Home is somewhere between my father’s and my husband’s arms.

A bit of politics:

Someone raised the interesting issue of how creative writing might take a role in critiquing and challenging the bureaucracy and politics of regeneration. How might that work? And how might that be funded? We circled that question too – how does who’s paying affect what we do? Might we end up doling out propaganda rather than opening up genuine debate?

We touched too on the ethics of what happens afterwards, who takes responsibility for the listening that is needed if consultation is to work.

What’s important?

~ Doing with not doing to

~ Not going into the process with an idea of what the answer should be

What’s needed?

~ Really robust case studies that can be used to convince (maybe reluctant) organisations to engage with this method of working

~ Effective communication - people won't work in this wayif they don't know about it

I’m interested in this idea of case studies, perhaps in trying to get a project off the ground that sets out to consult in this way and explore and document the possibilities. And then the communication of that knowledge and experience comes second, giving people the confidence and skills to find their own ways of engaging with creative writing and consultation.

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