Writer Brendan Murray is brimming with inspiration and ideas from the young people taking part in Damn Cheek’s recent Transitions Project workshops.
I’ve never really liked school workshops.
Which is odd in a way as I’ve been involved in their planning and delivery – on and off – for the past 40 years. I can’t quite pin down what makes me uneasy…
Perhaps it’s a feeling that they put me (and others) in a place of authority and knowledge to which I, for one, can lay no legitimate claim. Most of the time, I’m as at sea as anyone else (possibly more so) and my imposter syndrome isn’t helped by a vague fear the participants could turn at any moment and enact the closing scene of The Wicker Man. With me as Edward Woodward.
So, when Darren rang to suggest 2 whole weeks of school workshops, it’s fair to say he had to twist my arm just a bit. These workshops would be great he said. These would be fun. These would be the first stage on the road to a possible new play for young people exploring their hopes and fears for their future lives.
He knew what he was doing. A new play… And for young people… Damn him. Yes, and damn Damn Cheek. How could I possibly say no?
Of course Darren was right. They were great. And they were fun – right from the planning stage, through all 11 workshops to the final sharing. And all the time I was on the take. Because that’s what writers do. We nick stuff. We do it when you’re not looking; we do it right under your noses: looks, phrases, ideas. We’ll have anything; everything. We’re not fussy – not at this stage, anyhow.
At the planning meeting – an intense but generous day of creative give and take – it may have looked like I was making the occasional contribution, throwing in the odd idea or two – but really, I was stealing other people’s; squirreling them away for future use.
During the workshops themselves – beautifully delivered by the team – when my main role was to record responses, I was secretly tracking patterns and anomalies; eying up potential characters.
Some of the responses were perhaps predictable: Where do you feel safe? At home… In bed… With my family. All good stuff and worthy of note. But when the answer is In my old home… Down the air-raid shelter… By Grandad Bob’s tree… That’s the start of a story!
Even at the final sharing, when on the face of it, people thought they were listening to what I’d written, I was delightedly noting possible story ideas suggested by the audience’s fertile imaginings.
Travelling back with Darren on the final day (and I couldn’t tell you where that prosecco came from) I was forced to admit that the past 2 weeks hadn’t involved ritual immolation after all but had been productive and inspiring, and were – hopefully – just the first stage on that road to a new play (and an even bigger and more exciting project) for young people.
As the train headed southwards, my glass was charged, my heart full and my playwright’s swag bag fit to bursting. Just call me Burglar Bill. Or maybe Burglar Brendan, for copyright purposes.
Read more about our Transitions Project:
- reflections from Associate Artist and actor Mahsa Hammat Bahary
- Chris Drinkwater of the Child Health & Wellbeing Network writes about the crucial role of creative drama in helping young people manage change