Every now and then, something special happens … and you say to yourself, “I wish I had a camera right now!”
Well, at last year’s Aireys Inlet Open Mic Music Festival, there was a moment when Mark Seymour (yes, the 1 & only) stopped singing for 30 seconds and ‘stared-down’ someone in the front row. That someone was our youngest boy. Young Hamish (now 6 yo) has an uncanny knack of engaging with people of all ages. In his own unique and genuine way, he brings attention on himself. He doesn’t show off and he’s not loud. He simply connects with people and he draws them in.
Mark went on to comment about his little staring game with Hamish and said something like … “You know when look into someone eyes that they are going to be trouble at school!” After Mark’s sensational performance (with his current band The Undertow), we had a photo taken of the 2 of them. It’s nice but it didn’t capture “that” priceless moment during the performance.
A few night’s ago I discovered a treasure trove of images from last year’s festival over at Peter Marshall’s photography website. And there on page 5 was “that” moment – a series of images the captured the essence of engagement.
If you have my previous posts, you will be aware that I spent time working with the folks from Australia’s contemporary Circus and Physical Theatre sector. The event was called the Flashpoint Forum and was hosted by the sector’s peak body ACAPTA.
When the 2 days of Open Space was over on the Friday, everyone (26 plus a few others) came back together on Saturday. I’ll admit to feeling nervous about this day. I was asking myself questions like … “why don’t we simply continue Open Space for another day?”. Here’s a story the group created, performed and recorded in just a few hours. On the Saturday morning, the group decided they wanted to create something … a story that brought together the essence of their conversations … and product that could be shared with others in their sector.
Rewind to Wednesday …
Flashpoint started and people arrived last Wednesday afternoon. Dinner that night featured an inspired talk by Kelly O’Shannassy (CEO of Environment Victoria). Kelly’s key message was that we need to re-imagine the future, side step the barriers and move to solutions that create new systems, new ways of creating stuff and of working together. Kelly provided another dimension to our forum theme, “The World Needs Saving and Circus & Physical Theatre is the Answer”. The new dimension was about ‘re-imagining our future’ … re imagining the future of this sector to make it stronger.
After Kelly, we were all treated to the vocal and comical brilliance of Intimate Apparel.
History Trip – Once I got the group started with the ‘ways and wares’, I sat back and participants took the lead on mapping and sharing stories of Australian contemporary Circus and Physical Theatre. Everyone was completely engaged and energised by this activity and the outcome is going to become a book!
Another little harvest was a set of ‘key features’ from their history that we need to remember and carry forward into the future. I used a set of photos called Visual Explorer (CCL link here) to elicit these ideas.
Lifecycle of Emergence - You can read all about this activity in a previous blog post here.
Then, after 60 second report backs from each action group, an offer came the group. A few wanted to capture their key insights from the forum – insights beyond the action topics. So, before the closing circle, we played ’35’ to capture the key insights. You can read about 35 at Viv’s blog here.
Even more performances … this sector knows how to throw a party and improvise!
Given the influx of new participants, we started by ‘re-living’ the whole forum from beginning to end.
It was clear the group wanted more conversation and this reinforced my self talk about continuing Open Space for another day. Instead, the group framed their own question and we entered a World Cafe process. The idea of creating something together emerged and the group set about creating their structure and story which became the video above.
To support the group, I offered the Story Spine and Pecha Kucha structures – neither were used but they did focus the group on the ‘process’ of their task.
The Flashpoint Forum taught me more about the concept of ‘holding space‘ than any event before. For the first time I was able to get out of the group’s way and provide a space and process to support ‘their work’. I noticed more about this group than any other I have worked with and responded in small ways to support them.
For the first time as a facilitator, I managed to STOP myself from trying to control stuff … and let the group work it out. This was true for the Open Space and for the more structured sessions. Lot’s of lessons here!
Here are some other games we played as a group on Day 1 of Open Space at the ACAPTA Flashpoint Forum in Sydney. The games were run by Dan Aubin, Artistc Director with CirKidz.
As I said in my previous post, seeing a whole group of people at a conference make room to just ‘play’ (and move other conversation topics to prioritise this) was so refreshing. I noticed a significant change in the connection between participants after this 2 hours of play – a new social-contract between people seemed to emerge.
Bombs and Shields: Walk around the room > without telling anyone choose a person who will be your shield > choose another person who will be your bomb > now move around the room keeping your shield directly between you and your bomb in order to stay safe > at the end of the game there is a count down and everyone freezes >identify your bomb and shield by pointing and then sit if you can draw an unprotected straight line to your bomb.
Groups of: A quickly as you can form groups of 3…7…10…2…etc
Back car (see my own detailed description of this game here) :With a partner choose a ‘car’ who will be the front and a ‘driver’ who stands behind the car. Without talking the driver uses their hands to communicates signals on the back of the car that communicate: forward, turn left, turn right and stop. When comfortable, add reverse, accelerate, a horn and any other controls you may imagine. The driver must be clear and the car must only do what is communicated to them even if that means crashing into another car. Bus addition: Form a single file line and try as a bus with the back person passing the signals through to the front. Try and sense the group and move as one bus.
One minute circle step in:With no leaders or followers the group must sense when a minute is up and collectively take one step into the centre at the same time. You must make an eye connection with each member of the circle.
Name, name, name: A circle with one person in the centre. Their objective is to say someones name three times before they can say their own name once. The circle folk are the judges. Now work on rhythm and explore creative strategy.
Group count: Verbally count with each person saying one number whenever they like. If two people speak at the same time…start again. Ouch. The object is to find out how many people are in the group.
Swords of paris: Two teams face each other. One leader steps out from each group. Group A leader present 4 sword moves so every knows them. Then the battle starts as the entire group A performs the moves in synch while group B dodges the slashes and pokes with side leans, ducks and jumps. Then it is Group B’s turn to respond. Judges may respond with a winner observing accuracy. Start simple and grow the complexity as far as you like.
It was an energized session. It was agreed that we should use games and movement exercises to focus, connect, express and play at future ACAPTA and circus community gatherings.
I am facilitating a 4 day forum (The ACAPTA Flashpoint Forum) with a great bunch of people from the world of Circus and Physical Theatre. We have people here in sydney from street performers to federal funders … trapeze acrobats to administrators.
Today in Open Space, the whole group came together for 90 minutes to simply play and share games. Viv has written about this urge here and here … for me it seemed the group was yearning to step away from the ‘intellectual’ stuff and ‘connect’ with each other in deeper and more human ways – and so they played. Tomorrow, it’s back to the conversations that matter most.
Driving Cars - the next game of Driving Buses is the progression
To warm the group to movement and action facilitator calls out to form pairs … then groups of 7 … groups of 5 etc … creates lots of movement and swapping and changing groups … end with forming pairs again
Each pair decides who will be the ‘driver’ and who will the ‘car’ – the driver stands behind the car and places his/her hands on their shoulders
The aim of the game is for the driver to develop a set of contact-gestures (without and word being spoken b/w the car and driver)
The driver needs to work out a gesture that tells the ‘car’ to: [beginning with] drive forward, stop, turn right/left … [once these have been mastered] … reverse, accelerate and finally a horn! The interesting thing here is how the driver and car have to be totally in tune with each other and been aware of all the other traffic on the road!
The facilitator also sets down some boundaries: Absolutely no verbal communication b/w car and driver (laughter is allowed!); Ensure that the pairs have ‘flow’ before moving beyond forward/stop/left/right;
BIG boundary = The gestures are NOT allowed to actually push/steer the car (in other words the driver cannot physically redirect the car by turning the shoulders in the desired direction). The physical gestures we worked out were (and variation b/w pairs was huge):
1 Tap on 1 shoulder – turn left or right
squeeze shoulders with both hands – drive forward
simultaneous tap on both shoulders – stop
pat on the bum – honk horn (lol) … you get the picture
Once pairs have mastered driving their cars, the facilitator can then say ‘everyone speed up’ … ‘all cars need to reverse park into this space’ … etc …
Then the CAR has to close their eyes and TRUST … this really heightens the stakes and the need to work together and support each other! Also awareness across the whole room goes right up.
Then the Driver swaps with the car and has to rapidly develop a completely different set of gestures to steer the car – this is harder than it sounds … repeat steps above
Driving Buses – this is really challenging and fun!
Ask for 3 pairs of driver/cars to join up – give them 60 seconds to work out (as a group) what gestures they will use for forward/reverse/right/left/stop/accelerate/horn
Same for Cars but this time the team of 6 people stand in single file with hands on the shoulders of the person in front
This time the person at the back is a driver of a BUS and the person at the front is the BUS … everyone in between has to pass the ‘gesture’ along … and you guessed it, the BUS is really SLOW to respond to the initial instruction … it’s way harder than driving the car and results in more bumps, collisions between different buses!
Again no talking and it’s like a physical form of Chinese whispers where instructions can ‘stuff’ up between people. If the gestures are not really clear then it’s a complete disaster. Facilitator can provide a couple of time-outs to let groups rework their gestures.
Facilitator then asks the buses to weave in and out of obstacles and reverse-park into tight spaces … and whatever else you can think of.
Two other games I will describe later include a Group Name Game (yet another variation on remembering names) and a Sixth Sense Stepping game.
Last week I have some cartilage scraped from my right knee and it’s amazing how many fellas around me at 40 have had this done. Currently taking it easy and doing lots of gentle rehab at home. Due to the months of limping, my left knee and lower back are starting to play up too. Most say to me, “It’s just old age Geoff!”. Enter
I’m an optimist and I know I’ll be fitter and stronger than ever. I’ll no longer be running and Karate will go on hold for at least 12 months. Time to dust off the old bike (or buy a new one!) and go from traditional to Standup Paddle surfing for a while.
So yes Hugh, I do remember the time when all the old, injured guys were still older and ‘more injured’ than I.
Just realised I have passed my double century of blog posts! Here’s my 201st post featuring 3 cartoons that happen to be sitting side by side on my desktop. These cartoons are also very linked by the people around them and concepts they explore.
The first features “The Slips” (and that’s me in 3rd slip). The Slips is an international consortium of blogger and facilitators. Many of my 200 posts have featured links back to the blogs of Anne Patillio (wicket keeper), Viv McWaters (1st slip), Johnnie Moore (2nd slip) and Chris Corrigan (4th slip). Thanks to Simon Kneebone for the artwork!
The next 2 are linked around the theme of status and power. This second cartoon is from the stables of Hugh McLeod over at Gaping Void. I just love Hugh’s ability to cut through and be totally honest and blunt! As part of the The Slips, I am constantly working with the Improv principle of Yes!And – which also inspired the name and theme of my blog. When new ideas and new ways of doing things are proposed in workshops, Yes!But … can often be heard as the automatic response. And if you don’t hear it, watch and you’ll see it in the body langauge!
The last one again comes from Simon Kneebone and was drawn at the recent Show Me The Change conference. The design team for this gig happened to be The Slips (told you these pictures were linked!) and we embraced the principles of self organisation and emergence in it’s design. The other concept we brought was the notion of Keynote Listeners and Participants rather than Keynote (Expert) Speakers.
Over the past couple of weeks I have had the pleasure of playing (and working) with an “International Consortium” … of sorts. We call ourselves The Slips and we are (from 1st to 4th slip) … Johnnie Moore (UK), Viv McWaters (Australia), me (Australia) and Chris Corrigan (Canada). Without a wicket keeper we’d be useless and Anne Pattillo (NZ) takes up this position.
We have been working together for some time now, however, our methods (and deliveries) have been somewhat ‘unorthodox’.
Until this May, The Slips had never been together in the 1 place at the same time. That had only ever happened on Skype. 4 of us managed to get to the 2009 Applied Improvisational Network conference in Portland, Oregan – with our 1st slip missing in action! Apart from all being facilitators, we all share a passion for applying Improv to our craft.
It now looks like The Slips will be together again in Amsterdam this September at the 2010 Applied Improv gathering. Who knows what we collaborate on together afterwards in the UK? We don’t know yet either, but, whilst we continue to learn from each other and have fun … something is bound to happen!
We came together as a results of many small offers. We build on each other’s learning through our blogs and in conversation. We inspire and support each other. On some levels we are the same – and very different. We love what we do.
To sum up, I’ll draw a great post written by Viv here.
From Viv …
We come from Australia, New Zealand, UK and Canada. We share a love of improv, are skilled facilitators, blog, use open space, are curious, adventurous and love to travel. We like to do risky, edgy work. We each have our own businesses and work, naturally, in different parts of the world. We’re generous, with what we know and what we share. We each bring different, and complementary, perspectives. We play together. We work together. We’re individuals. We’re different. We agree, we argue, we struggle, we care.
Are you seeing a theme here?
Before we worked together we were friends. Separated by oceans. Connected by ideas. Inspired by an audacious plan. We’re still friends. Maybe even better friends. Family. Love. This is what binds us. This is what makes working together a joy. This is why we’ll do it again.