The Skills Sharing Network is a independent collective of drama facilitators and youth drama leaders who meet bimonthly at agreed venues throughout the country hosted by different facilitators each time. It is back after a short hiatus and Alan King, NAYD’s Youth Theatre Officer, was at the recent meeting in Monaghan:
So as I caught the early bus to the Garage Theatre in Monaghan I began wondering what the day would look like for the upcoming Skills Sharing Network daylong workshop.
As someone who facilitates regularly it is always a nice treat to go a workshop as a participant and not have to lead a group. I am sure those of you who facilitate regularly often feel the same. The feeling of just standing in a workshop and being able to play and have fun is a rare one these days and one that I welcome with open arms.
As I arrived the atmosphere was relaxed and inviting. Krista and Eileen hosted the event in the wonderful Garage Theatre. The participants were a mixture of old friends and new unfamiliar faces. Over tea we swapped stories of recent encounters and upcoming plans for youth theatre events.
Niamh McGrath led us through her workshop on Recyclable Puppets. We did a thorough warm up; especially focusing on our arms and fingers, essential for puppetry don’t ya know. Following some fun improv exercises we got down to the very serious work of making our own puppets from junk.
Niamh had brought a huge selection of everyday household items; milk cartons, scrap fabric, brushes and kitchen utensils along with other arts and crafts materials. Her many boxes of eyes I found fascinating and disturbing in equal measure.
I would consider myself someone who is not every creative when it comes to arts and crafts; my paintings and drawings are basic at best. Soon I was shifting through the tables of junk, finding new creativity with every new piece I discovered, be it a BBQ tongs or a pipe cleaner. I wasn’t alone; everyone was milling around, gluing, tying and stapling incongruous pieces of junk together to make recognizable faces and characters. By lunchtime we had a cast of characters ready for play.
Thanks to our gracious hosts we all enjoyed a wonderful lunch and another round of tea and chats. More ideas were swapped and plans made for future events.
After lunch we presented our puppets and performed some short improvs. There was such creative enjoyment in the room and all in a very fun and supportive environment. Certainly this is the type of workshop we could all do again and again. It was so enjoyable.
To finish off the day we all had suggestions for our favourite games and exercises and played these out. It was great to see similarities in familiar exercises but also how subtle or radical variations can make a tired game come alive with renewed vigour.
I think this is what makes the Skills Sharing Network such an essential asset to our work as workshop facilitators and youth theatre leaders. We all facilitate week in week out and are always on the look out for new and interesting ways to engage with our groups. Whether it’s teaching them new skills, building on what we already have or just exploring new ways of having the craic, we all need new ideas.
What’s more given this country’s current economic woes we don’t have a lot of money to spend on taking training courses. Training courses can be expensive and are sometime offered so the facilitator can generate some income. Nothing wrong with that except very often these courses can have little new to offer or the material is delivered at the most basic level. I’ve certainly left some of these with a feeling of ‘well sure I knew that already, I could have done that myself’.
The Skills Sharing Network is different in that those offering workshops are doing so for free. As they are committed youth theatre leaders I can only assume that their hope is to share their knowledge with fellow youth drama practitioners in the hope that they too will take something new away with them. I certainly did.
This is a great initiative and special recognition must go to Aine Caulfied for taking the ball and running with it. Very often we all say that we will do things and often don’t. Aine said she would take the lead on this and she certainly has. Those who were in attendance in Monaghan certainly got the benefit of her hard work and networking skills. Special mention must go to Kirsta, Eileen and Barry for hosting the event all to all those that attended. It was a brilliant day and well worth all the effort.
This is going to be the start of something great so you better get in there early if you want to host or take part in future events. Ultimately we will all benefit from initiatives like the Skills Sharing Network, and this can only be a good thing. For everyone.
To find out more about the Skills Sharing Network, visit their Facebook page.