As I walk into a bright, industrial space that used to be an old fire station workshop, I am immediately hit by groups of children and their parents immersed in coding, robotics, crafting outfits from cardboard boxes, generating noises, doodling and redoodling and doing dance and maths puzzles. The energy was electric.
This was ‘recode’, an event organised on 11 Feb 2017 by the Institute of Imagination that saw the coming together of geeks from arts, science & technology into a melting pot of participatory activity in the old fire station workshop building on Lambeth High Street.
A chance meeting at an arts event hosted at The Lyric Hammersmith in September 2016, led to being introduced Emma Callow from the IOI. After chatting and exchanging ideas about what you could do with a cardboard box and masking tape (I think that was the sign we should work together!) we swapped emails and Emma then visited our experimental choreographic project that takes place at the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) for BA(Hons) Ballet Education students who are training to be dance teachers.
We were thrilled when Emma invited us to perform & deliver a workshop at recode. My colleague Dennie Wilson and I worked with our students to design a participatory dance experience around our new dance work ‘All plastic bags deserved to be loved’. We retraced our creative process back to: plastic bags being blown across the studio by fans; games of plastic bag keepy uppy; watching the American Beauty plastic bag dancing in the wind scene; and student Georgia’s sketches of us working through creative tasks.
On the day, after the 10 minute performance where audience and the Doodleman (see doodle image above) were asked to draw responses to the movement, our fully booked workshops engaged 80 children and adults in a beautifully chaotic and creative mahem. The joy on the children’s (and adults!) faces as they had ‘permission’ to chase a flying plastic bag across the blue carpet made my heart soar. They flew, they span, they jumped, they twisted and tumbled…and when the plastic bag was removed, the movement qualities that emerged were magical. This paved the way for small group creative tasks that took inspiration from the performance drawings. A final sharing of group dances presented a recoding of our earlier performance.
I left with a huge sense of pride in how the students worked so sensitively and artistically with the participants. They truely embraced everything that is at the heart of inclusive, creative practice: art & people.