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I can’t believe it’s four years since my first introduction to Creative Life Story Work. What an amazing, rollercoaster, learning journey with Blue Cabin!
Looking back to September 2018 when Jenny and the team brought us together with fellow Associate Artists, Elena, Nic and Pady, the excitement was building. There were many unknowns as well as a conviction that this was a really important project to be part of.
In my proposal, I wrote of being excited by the challenge of working with cared-for children and their supporting adults, and to develop creative print sessions specifically for their needs. I was also excited to work in partnership with Jenny and the Blue Cabin team and to learn from their powerful approaches to helping children with experience of the care system.
Rooted in rich Therapeutic Life Story Training with Richard Rose and the Social Pedagogical approach of Thure Johansen, I mapped out my ideas on large sheets of paper. These are a visual treat for me to reflect on; there’s a splurge of creative ideas, lots of questions and an artist’s toolkit.
As well as needing physical tools, kit and equipment, the artist’s toolkit I mapped out in 2018 includes curiosity, intuition and seeing things differently. It involves listening, sharing, empathy and working together and adaptability, being responsive and dealing with uncertainty.
And at that time, before we started on our first round of All About Me with children and their carers in South Tyneside in September 2019, like everyone else I had lots of questions. Some of the key ones relating to the role of an Associate Artist were:
In response to some of these questions, my 2018 list includes:
By working through the first six rounds of All About Me, we now have a clearer idea of how it can work and how it does work. We have a wonderful expanded team of Associate Artists, with Lisette, Ruth, Paul and Alison. We each have a tested set of tools, activities, resources and prompts as well an approach that supports children and their carers. And we know that this might need to adapt and change.
We know that it is a joyous, creative, emotional journey. We know that it does help children understand something of their life stories and we know that it’s often the start rather than the end of the journey.
Blue Cabin provide amazing support to their Associate Artists and we have an understanding of how we can help each other. A combination of structured support as well as informal chats and buddying really help.
So, as I prepare and deliver the boxes of materials, resources and prompts for my seventh round of All About Me, the anticipation, joy, and some nerves, are starting. The excitement is building again. This helps me prepare for the sessions coming up; for the uncertainties and unknowns – about the children, their experiences and situations and about being back online and fingers crossed everyone’s technology work – with an awareness that I’ll need to adapt some of my activities to ensure that everyone gets the best from the process.
Looking back on my initial thoughts in 2018, it’s amazing to realise how spot on they are.
As Blue Cabin Associate Artists, we are trusted and encouraged to be artists in the Creative Life Story Space, to bring our experiences and understanding of what it means to be an artist, and use these skills and our artists’ toolkits, to help young people understand their life stories through creativity. It’s a unique and exceptional role.