A lot has been happening with the Children’s Council over the summer months.
In July and August, we decided to make the most of the holidays and had three-day camps where our young people were in for the whole weekend seeing exhibitions, meeting artists, designing their own council logo and much, much more. This was a really useful time for me as the facilitator because it meant the young people and I got the chance to chill out a little more than usual. Quite often, our sessions are so full that it can whip past and you don’t really have a moment to take it in. Three days in a row meant we had more of a window around the various points of activity to reflect, discuss and generally just get to know each other too!
The Children’s Council Logo has been in development since we first opened our doors and we’re delighted to say that our young people (very democratically) picked Rowan’s design as the most suitable symbol for their lanyards, t-shirts and whatever else we can get them printed onto.
This came from a really interesting section of our workshop in July where Aideen Lynch talked our group through design, clarity of image and style.
We had a real mix of designs on offer that went through various drafting processes before voting occurred and Rowan’s was picked.
One of the funniest moments from our experience so far came when I encouraged the company to give a drum roll before I announced the winner and for Rowan to dryly respond-
“I knew I was going to win”.
Loving that confidence, Rowan! Sure look- when you know, you know!
As an artist who works primarily with documentary materials, I was so excited for the Council to meet with Aoife and Cuan from Macalla Teoranta. Their company worked with The Ark around ten years ago on our ArkLink project. They enabled and supported the children who were part of our ArkLink Film Club to capture everday events in their lives in Fatima Mansions as their homes were demolished and rebuilt to regenerate the area. This work with the children culminated in an amazing documentary film called On the Block (you can watch the documentary here) which win loads of awards before being recreated with children in other communities across Ireland.
Following a screening of the film, our group were guided through the many aspects of documentary making- both technical and artistic. They were then divided into groups, given specific roles and left to create their own material. This was extremely useful for us as documentation and keeping record is a key activity in the Council’s first year. It was also really interesting to see the young people vie for particular roles in our mini production. Naoise and Ella wanted to be in front of the camera of course- while Grace and Ollie were far more interested in manning the equipment and understanding the technical ins and outs. That said, as the day progressed people’s instincts developed and even our more camera shy members gave some screen time a go!
Hopefully we’ll come to share the beginnings of that material with you here very soon but in the meantime, here are a couple of pictures that the young people have been taking themselves with their new Children's Council's tablet that’s specifically for them to use to to capture stuff that goes on in our sessions
The drama elements of our workshops over the summer months responded directly to the other documentary material we had been viewing and making with Cuan and Aoife. I really want our group to understand that their own experiences and memories can become a springboard into new ideas, fictions and other forms of creativity. During the August sessions, the group begun by sharing information and insight from their own rooms, streets, towns and even The Irish Times. Once we’d been through a presentation of all those materials, we then began to disregard or hold on to particular aspects of each area- twisting what was originally our own experience into something new and different.
We discussed the story about the man who had escaped from a warehouse down the country just recently where he and several other immigrants were being held and forced to work against their will. Taking the core theme of that real story, the group developed a short piece of prose about a rabbit in a cage and a little girl who rescued the rabbit- only to be told by her mother that she’d have to bring the rabbit back as they had no where to put it. Thematically, we noted that a lot of this piece chimed with another piece we’d begun to develop earlier in the year about a boy called Sam living in Emergency Accommodation. We’ve a lot of activity coming up in the next few months- particularly around Universal Children’s Day so I’m wondering what we could share from both these territories then.
Music from the stars...
Our Summer programme also featured our first music based session with composer and space fanatic Nick Roth taking the reigns for a couple of hours. Over this workshop, Nick’s main mission was to let our council in on the kind of music the planets make! This was a really interesting and off- beat (literally) session where our young people where drumming, chanting and singing the songs of our solar system. Nick has been commissioned to create a new music show on this theme, so hopefully his planets will cross paths with our council again soon.
A big dream for the Children’s Council is that they are placed in the folds of planning, strategy, programming and all other big conversations that occur in The Ark. As we are currently developing our strategy for 2017-2020, this felt like a really prime time to open up these dialogues.
I sat the Council down with a draft of the strategy - in particulalr. the core values document that details who we are, what we do, how and why. The task for the session was to ask the young people for their feedback and to generally find out if they agree with all the things we say we’re about.
Is this document reflective of your experience so far? Is there something we’re missing? Can you understand it? Does it make sense?
The feedback was really useful. The Council had a lot to say about the language of the report and made sure we used words that were clear to the ears of young people.
“Instead of 'bold' say brave or something. Bold to us just means naughty. Like you’re doing something you shouldn’t.”- Ella.
This sort of contribution was funny but ultimately really useful and Ella was dead right. As we get older we reinterpret words and find new meanings for them. What once meant bratty now means strong. It’s confusing!
The feedback we had from the children will now help influence the final draft of the strategy - due to be launched in November!
The Ark is going to be really busy over the next few months with DTF and various other celebrations. So stay tuned to hear more about our Children’s Council in the second phase of their year-long residency!
Shaun Dunne is The Ark's Artist in Residence