Cool Things – Just a Sprinkling of Magic

Carol Bowden is one of the Associate Artists who work with Blue Cabin to provide creative opportunities for care-experienced children and young people in Darlington. Here, she explains how two days of creative activities at Theatre Hullabaloo were filled with all different kinds of magic.

Easter is a time of magic. If you don’t believe me, just let me explain my thinking. Landing in Spring, a time of flowers blooming, lambs being born and the days getting longer, Easter symbolises a time of fertility and renewal. There are no prizes for guessing why it is the rabbit that is one of the symbols of Easter!

The Christian religion also celebrates Easter and, as religions do rely a little on symbolism to get their point across, the egg is there to represent the stone rolling back from Jesus’ tomb, marking his resurrection just three days after his death. Obvs it also has the fertility/renewal vibe going with it, ‘cos it’s an egg, innit! Chickens and that! It’s not just for us chocolate lovers, but more of that later!

Anyway, the point is that magic runs through Easter and the Cool Things Creative Days (two of them) over the Easter holidays, with Darlington Virtual School, were full of magic!

If you look up the word “magic’ in Wikipedia, you will see it has a few different references, and the “magic” that happened over the two Creative Days were those relating to “ceremonial”, “chaos”, “illusion” and “magical thinking”.

Ceremonial Magic: encompasses a wide variety of rituals of magic.

There’s no arguing that the day was filled with a wide variety of rituals. Lucy, who organised the event with Darlington Virtual School, had arranged a programme of activities (rituals) for the young people, on both days, that gave them so many opportunities to be creative and playful, and to try new things, that they barely had time to stop (except to eat lunch, ‘cos we’re not monsters!). They had Play & Theatre with Pady, Clay Sculpture with Paul, Music Making with me, Owl Printing with Michelle and Owl Goggle making with Sara. Each activity (ritual) happened in a different room, the families being led from one to the next, and there were rituals in the creation of each piece of work that led to a magical result. The day was planned with military precision (ritual), breaks included, and ended in us eating and drinking together – the ritual of community (Higgins 2014. Pp137-143; Merker 2009. pp45-59).

Chaos Magic: a contemporary magical practice developed in England in the 1970s/Marvel Franchise

Whichever side of the bed you lie on (1970s contemporary philosophical magic or the Marvel franchise – so powerful that it can bring destruction to the cosmos) chaos magic is also referred to as “success magic” or “results-based magic”, “chaos magic claims to emphasize the attainment of specific results”. Boom! Results! However, if you read the word “chaos” and a shiver runs up your spine, you’re not too far from some of the experiences of our day either! The late, great American Composer, Stephen Sondheim, couldn’t have put it better himself: “Art, in itself, is an attempt to bring order out of chaos”. Throughout the day, the young people created and crafted wonderful works of art. However, to get these results, they made quite a mess and a lot of noise and chaos definitely reigned at times, but that all came together with some focused concentration and tongues sticking out of the sides of mouths, as well as some hidden talents in mime and performance blossoming in front of our very eyes!

Illusion Magic: the art of appearing to perform supernatural feats

To me, this is what art is. Creating and performing and making it all look not just amazing fun, but also like it’s a piece of cake! You want to draw in your audience, get them involved and make-believe that they can do it too. And you know what? They can! The art of illusion was manifested through costumes, masks, printing presses, little boxes with hidden surprises and clay that could be moulded into any simple or fantastical shape. They were able to hide behind costumes and masks and become someone else, suspending disbelief, and they improvised musical performances on the spot, making it look like a piece of cake!

Magical Thinking: the belief that unrelated events are causally connected, particularly as a result of supernatural effects

Both of the Cool Things Creative Days ended with a visit to the theatre next door to watch a performance, “Baba Yaga” on the first day and “Secret Owl Society” on the second. The young people were invited throughout both performances to use their imaginations to fill in the gaps in the stories. There were costumes and imagining and so much pretending and connecting the dots in the stories, that they were pulled in and part of it all. The children experienced the magic of theatre, of hard work, skill, imagination and participation/collaboration and they sat in wonderment as they drank their hot chocolate together at the end of the day.

Chocolate: a food made from cacao beans. It is used in many desserts like pudding, cakes, candy, ice cream, and Easter eggs.

Easter wouldn’t be Easter without some chocolate. Egg form or bar form or hot frothy chocolate in a cup form, bring it on! After such a fun-filled, magical day, we all gathered at the end to drink hot chocolate and eat huge chocolate egg-laden cookies together. We got time to stop and sit together, share our thoughts together, gather our things together, and be a special community of new friends who had shared a wonderful day full of ceremony, chaos, illusion and magical thinking. We were all tired, inspired and with bellies full, we all said goodbye, for now. That, my friends, is “magic”!

Find out more about Cool Things Darlington, our programme in partnership with Darlington Virtual School.

Higgins, L. (2014). Community Music In Theory and In Practice. Oxford University Press. Merker, B. (2009).Ritual Foundations of Human Uniqueness. In (Eds.) Malloch, S. & Trevarthan, C. Communicative Musicality.; Exploring the basis of human companionship. Oxford University Press.