Since September of this year, I have led a series of support sessions called Cat’s Cradle at Spread the Word. The free monthly sessions bring together a group of writers to discuss challenges that arise when leading writing workshops or teaching.
I began Cat’s Cradle with an awareness that often, writers who work in facilitation may lack a regular sounding board. The work, while dynamic, exciting and challenging, can also bring up anxiety, especially for those not formally trained. In my own facilitation practise, I noticed I felt stressed, I needed help but I felt awkward about asking. I thought: hold on, I know loads of people doing this kind of work, why don’t we get together to share ideas? Wouldn’t it be better for our participants too if we had access to a wider range of skills and approaches, and if we felt supported? I was also thinking about those of us who work with vulnerable participants, and how we can lack access to supervision, confronted with delicate or challenging situations without always knowing where to ask for help. I wanted to make a space for all the question-marks.
“Cats Cradle is the perfect space to share ideas. In a job where you’re often working alone it provides a community to bounce thoughts off. It’s been really supportive and I’ve found it validated my ideas and encouraged me to be more inventive with my workshops.” – Lewis Buxton
Cat’s Cradle has run four times in the Autumn, and will continue in January 2017. Each person in the room is allotted time to present a current issue in their practise, and receive feedback from others present, sharing writing exercises, advice on classroom dynamics, and other resources. The group changes from month to month: some participants attend monthly, others just for one or two sessions. The writers come from a range of disciplines: some from fiction, some from poetry or theatre, and the diversity is echoed in the type of projects discussed. Members of the group work with primary school-age all the way up to the elderly, with prisoners, refugees, and in many different contexts: the discussion is richly varied and exciting.
“To have somewhere to share, be honest about my failures and anxieties and think through constructive ways to approach them has made it easier to do my work. It’s also made it more fun. When I’m supported, my students are better supported by me.” – Miriam Nash
What I love about Cat’s Cradle is the combination of minds, passion, encouragement and generosity: that in sharing, we remember why we do this work. It’s a space where you can say ‘there’s loads I don’t know about how to do this well, but I’m excited to find out’. It makes joyful beginners of us.
If you’re interested in taking part, please take a look at the next dates for Cat’s Cradle in 2017.
Jasmine Ann Cooray is Associate Writer with Spread the Word 2017. She was Writer-in-Residence at the National University of Singapore 2013 and BBC Performing Arts Fellow with Spread the Word 2014-15. A First Story resident writer, and worked as an assistant tutor with the Barbican Young Poets. Now working on a poetry and aerial arts show with Upswing and Equlibria about trust in relationships.
jasmineanncooray.com / @JasmineCooray