10. 07. 2018
A HotHouse: Sleepless, soulful & sometimes silly.
Over the June long weekend 13 creative practitioners passionate about working with young people and in exploring regional practice converged on Whyalla. Attendees of the Youth Arts Facilitator HotHouse spent the weekend sharing practice, reflecting on personal and professional goals, scheming new ideas, unpacking big questions, being inspired by Whyalla and each other and considering how together they can nurture and advocate for the youth arts sector locally and nationally.
Attendees of the HotHouse shared space slumber party style in the hall of D’Faces on Friday and Saturday nights before moving to the Middleback Arts Centre stage on Sunday night. Although the group was small, the enthusiasm of the night owls was pretty overwhelming and many of the group were left worse for wear on the sleeping front. However the depth of connections has led to new project ideas and some seedling collaborations. We will report back in a couple of months to see which things grow!
In a single weekend, we could barely scrape the surface but some of the activities and discussions across the weekend included:
- Small task based activities led by attendees to experience each others practice, reflect on different styles of facilitation and remember what it feels like to participate (this included a vocal choral exercise led by Jesse Budel, a dance routine led by Belili Valkyrie, focus exercises led by Christopher Bond and a writing task led by Jessica Martin).
- Sharing food and downtime together for that all important relationship building (this included some late night impromptu dance battles and a poetry sharing circle)
- A shared mapping exercise to locate where everyone is currently working or is from and locations across the state that attendees are interested in working in for the future
- A braindump of big ideas on the first morning, followed by an individual deep dive into one of those ideas and opportunity to investigate it and report back over an hour on the last afternoon
- Some tips and tricks for working with schools, working with councils and working in the screen industry
- Frank and honest discussions and sharing on the challenges of working with young people, in communities generally and in regional communities specifically
- A session looking at national practice considerations in relation to Community Arts and Cultural Development Funding, which led to a broader discussion and the group creating a shared list of potential funding sources
- An introduction to Whyalla for those new to the region, including working from D’Faces and the Middleback Arts Centre and a 40minute mini tour of the town led by Whyalla attendees.
This HotHouse weekend built on some conversations and networks developed through Country Arts SA’s 2016 Micro Artist Retreat led by Lenine Burke and as the host of the weekend, my aims were to
- bring together youth arts practitioners to seed some new connections and potential projects,
- introduce attendees to Whyalla as a potential site for projects and ideas (I’ll do another post about ‘why Whyalla’),
- identify some projects that I might be able to support and contribute to in my role as Creative Producer, Youth,
- invest in some skills sharing between the group
- and give everyone some space to reflect on where they are up to and where they are heading.
On a personal level, I also wanted to be inspired and invigorated by the weekend – which I most definitely was. It was a real gift to spend the weekend surrounded by committed and skilled creative people who share my passion for regional communities and working with young people.
As the host, I’ve been reflecting on these HotHouse aims as I read back through the feedback from everyone who attended. We collected some initial hand-written thoughts on the last day of the weekend and then followed up with a 10-question survey a week or so later. This is to capture the different layers of feedback once people have had time to reflect and return to their day to day lives. It is always super interesting to see how different things resonate (or annoy) and a good reminder that what can seem obvious to us might not be to others, and that what feels natural for us can feel very unnatural for others.
As an example my personal facilitation style is very flexible and quite organic, for people who are very methodical and linear this can feel frustrating, confusing, annoying and even a bit scary. For me as someone who is very organic, I find facilitation styles that are very methodical and linear can feel slow, rigid, annoying and sometimes a bit boring. Neither of these approaches is better or worse than the other – they can both be excellent (or annoying!) – but some approaches will suit some participants better than others.
It’s also a good reminder when reading through and analysing feedback to keep it in context and actually read what is in front of you (not what you personally experienced or remember experiencing). If eight people said they had an incredible time and one person said they didn’t, it can be easy to focus on that one person and lose sight of the other feedback. Of course that doesn’t mean you should dismiss that one voice either, the dissenting voices always have something useful to add, especially when we are looking for improvements for the future! It just means keep things in perspective and be prepared for responses you might not expect.
“its better than any overpriced (wanky) arts conference i’ve ever been to, everyone is much less guarded, so generous, enthusiastic, about networking, and finding ways that they can continue to keep working, playing and learning from each other.” – Anonymous survey response post HotHouse
The attendees of the 2018 Youth Arts Facilitator HotHouse held in Whyalla over the June long weekend were: Christopher Bond, Jessica Martin, Shay Leach, Deborah Hughes, Nathan Lambert, Jess Cahill, Tania Kunze, Belili Valkyrie, Olivia White, Jesse Budel, Rob Golding, Matcho Intrumz Cassidy and Alysha Herrmann.
Shay Leach captured some footage and interviews across the HotHouse weekend and we will share a little snapshot when they’ve had the chance to edit. Stay tuned.
IMAGE: By Shay Leach, from photographs taken during the HotHouse.