Tue 3 June: Creativity & Wellbeing for children and their adults

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Maya Angelou

“Capitalism has stolen our stories.
It sells them back to us, like bottled water.
They are never about us.
They never listen.”
Hannah Nicklin

Stories and the permission to tell them emerged as one of the insistent themes of Tuesday afternoon’s discussion on “Creativity and Wellbeing for children and their adults”. A conversation ostensibly about the kind of work that London Bubble does through Speech Bubbles* (in schools) and Story Bubbles** (in non-school settings), it gradually expanded into a much broader and deeper dialogue about the importance of storytelling, the relationship between parents and children, the role of creativity in society, how our experiences with drama can shape our lives, and the creation of safe spaces – be they theatres, schools or libraries – in which to unleash our imaginations.

Both Speech Bubbles and Story Bubbles are unusual in that they create a space where adults as well as children are invited to play. It was repeatedly stressed throughout the discussion that the creativity nurtured by Story Bubbles is as much for parents as for their children; a space is carved out in which parent and child can spend time together away from other pressures, playing and exploring their relationship. It is also vital, everyone agreed, to ensure that this space is a safe one, in which all participants feel supported to take risks. It is a place for “serious play” – playfulness taken seriously as a key ingredient for our wellbeing, as both adults and children.

As everyone attending the discussion took time to talk about their own relationship to this practice, it was striking how inspirational and formative theatre had been for those in the circle. Many spoke about their early encounters with drama as children and how this had equipped them to cope with the world in their adult life. These experiences were reflected in memories of Speech Bubbles participants who had visibly grown in confidence through the sharing of their stories. Often, it was noted, the simple recognition that they might have a story worth telling had a huge impact. It was also highlighted how the children are able to tell their story freely without feeling impeded by the act of writing it and the adult critique that goes with it, and how this “freeing of imagination” is core to the practice of both Speech Bubbles and Story Bubbles.

Longevity and fidelity were repeated words, stressing the importance of work that continues over months and years rather than projects than parachute in and out of communities. In a society that is moving ever faster, a point of stability is becoming increasingly important in people’s lives. The continuation of play and creativity was also discussed in terms of relationships, be that a healthy dose of playfulness between parents and children as they get older or the experience of watching theatre through one’s children’s eyes over the years.

And there was a crucial defence of imperfection, physically embodied in the charming figures of Looby and Dabby***. The creation of a safe space is also to do with making a space in which it is OK to make mistakes – in which mistakes might actually be beautiful and joyous. The conversation kept circling back around to this elusive idea of permission: permission to share stories, permission to be creative, permission to be playful, permission to try and permission to fail.

*Speech Bubbles is a drama intervention programme that supports referred children in KS1 to develop communication, confidence and wellbeing.

** Story Bubbles offers ‘story drama’ sessions to support children’s communication development and increases the skills, confidence and playfulness of their parent/carer.

*** Looby and Dabby, along with the Hedgehog are much loved characters that help create and enact stories.

CLICK HERE to read about the other sessions which took place at Bubble during Creativity & Wellbeing week 2014

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