Blue Cabin colour block graphic

Reinventing the triangle

Associate Artists,Nicola Golightly, shares her experience of social pedagogy training.

Hello – My name is Nicola Golightly, I am an adoptive parent of 2 and an artist / designer, born and bred in the not so distant lands of Kingston upon Hull, living and working in Tees Valley – namely Stockton on Tees. I have worked as a professional artist for the past 14 years. This has involved a number of approaches, collaborators, step changes and most importantly (I’d say) it’s involved a tremendous amount of learning.

I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to work and collaborate with Looked After / Care Experienced Young People since 2015, as both a visual artist and Arts Award Advisor with both Tees Valley Arts and Creative Learning North East on a number of projects. My approach to all participatory work has always been an open minded one, creating the right environment for individuals to feel motivated, inspired and achieving a sense of self-fulfillment through the medium of design and creative activity – be this doodling, digital design or play – but essentially all inspired by my own creative practice and centred around design-led approaches.

I would be a liar if I said my work with those care experienced young people and care leavers has not informed my own life decisions – it certainly has. It has informed the choice my wife and I made to adopt not once, but twice; my further approaches to working with people; and most certainly my ideas for my own self authored / designed projects and collaborations. My decision making has without doubt become more aligned with different ‘life forces’. I have become more aware of the impact my work can have. I’m not a superhero, but I feel a sense of social responsibility for the change I can make in my tiny square of the world.

So, there we go, that’s the foundations of the thing. Where do we go from here? Well, the most recent step change came from the marvellous folks at Blue Cabin, Treehouse Associates, South Tyneside Council and Richard Rose of Child Trauma Intervention Services.

Social Pedagogy Training – What does it mean to be human?

Through the Life Story Work collaboration between Blue Cabin and South Tyneside Council, I was honoured to be invited to be one of 5 ‘Associate Artists’ to explore the ‘Life Story Work’ done with Care Experienced Young People in South Tyneside. This began with a number of professional development training days, firstly with the incredibly knowledgeable and lovely Thure Johannsen from Treehouse Associates. In a quiet room in the beautiful surroundings of the Thought Foundation in Birtley we embarked on a training session like no other. Thure had a perfectly kind and humour filled approach to informing us how Social Pedagogy works, it’s history, who it can benefit and the way in which it is a foundation for a thoroughly sensible approach to education. Having done some training with Thure and Jenny around Social Pedagogy, it was great to revisit this and refresh my knowledge and understanding. I have found it to be so grounding that the methodology of social pedagogy aligns neatly with the way I have been approaching learning for a number of years. I have referenced ‘the common third’ numerous times since the training, sharing the theory with fellow artist peers.

As an artist/designer, post education I have taken part in training around behaviour management, teacher training, child protection etc. Never before has an aspect of training had such an effect, whilst enlightening my creative soul, it has also enhanced my understanding and experience as a human. It has opened my mind to the way in which I approach the planning and devising of future creative participatory workshops and sessions. I can now trust a methodology and understanding which solidifies my thinking, with clear approaches and processes. It’s about offering an experience which considers other dimensions and everyone who is around the table, whilst understanding your own role and boundaries. I would recommend anyone take part in training of this type if you get the opportunity.

My work as an associate artist continues. We have had the pleasure of further training around Life Story Work with Richard Rose. Richard is another very experienced soul! A social worker and experienced Life Story Work professional, two days in the same room with this man had an impact on both the creative experiences I am designing as part of this project as well as the approach I will be embracing with my own two children, telling their own life stories. I truly feel that this project is a gift. To be trained in this area and to be able to play a role in the reconfiguration, learning and delivery of this new phase of working with South Tyneside Council and of course Blue Cabin.