Book Well

Book Well is “evocative”.

That is the conclusion that I have come to after being immersed in the Get Into Reading training sessions held at the State Library of Victoria last week.

There are so many other descriptions I could offer telling you what I think it is and what it is not. But even then you would be no closer to knowing the importance of this work and how it affects people.

It is a unique process that has profound impact on the well being of the individual. Research continues to try to identify how this reading aloud process affects the human brain.

It is surprising to feel the effects of listening to someone read great literature aloud. It sounds simple but it is not.

Aside from learning about the process, the other benefit of this week was the bonding of the group – real friendships blossomed immediately. There was a generosity of spirit that cocooned the whole experience. The experienced trainers from the UK set the tone for this I think.

We also shared a group task that took many of us well out of our comfort zones. We were to give a performance of Romeo and Juliet. Every one of us was to contribute in some way. And we were to use the text from the play; but could shape the play however we chose. It was to be 20 minutes long.

I, who has never performed before at all, was Mercutio. We performed a brief fight scene with Romeo, Tybalt, Benvolio and Mercutio. And of course, Mercutio and Tybalt both die.

Our performance was in the heritage listed Queens Hall of the State Library of Victoria to a small invitation-only audience. We had props, lighting, backdrops, music, costumes and a new script. This was all achieved in 4 days with only 1 hour at each end of the day for preparation. It was a lot of fun and a really positive experience.

Linking this task to the Get Into Reading program is difficult. I can only assume that by reading Shakespeare plays out loud in this way it gives us the confidence to read anything aloud to groups of people.

It is exciting to have shared this experience of Book Well with this group of amazing people and to be at the cusp of something new and exciting. I feel privileged to have been involved.

A little, aloud” edited by The Reader Organisation will be available later this year.

The creative stream

I was reading the Saturday morning newspapers; Michael Leunig’s article “Into the Unkown” in The Age; when halfway through his discussion about the creative process, I remembered my dream from the previous night.

In my dream I had seen a piece of art hanging on a wall. It was a moving image of an underwater scene with only the soft light-filled sea-green water and the head of a teenage girl who was looking out at the viewer and smiling with blonde hair adrift in the currents. And as I looked the girl came forward “out” of the scene. As she emerged from the flat wall image she became a white paper cut-out silhouette that protruded into the space of the room.

When I awoke and remembered the image I realised this artwork was a combination of the two exhibition themes that we have running in our art exhibitions this year; “from the deep” is on show now, and “off the wall” is our next exhibit.

So I paused from reading the newspaper, wrote down these remembered thoughts about the image in my dream, and then returned to reading the Michael Leunig article. “He gets an idea for a painting. The muse has paid a visit, the light has come on, inspiration has struck – whatever – and now the idea must be given form. The urge is powerful…” So I acknowledge that my idea is there. But I lack the confidence and impetus to act further and try to transform the idea into a painting/image/sculpture. I give up before I even begin. I know from past experiences that art ideas not given life grow stale quickly and lose their power; lost opportunities for creative expression.

Michael Leunig continues, “It looks competent enough but lacks the spark and mystique that was in his mind at the beginning. Something has been lost in the translation. How odd; it is not transcribing.” Yes I know this all too well. And this is where I give up. But Michael Leunig tells us to press on, to continue through the negativity, self-loathing, and feelings of failure. He says that in the abandonment of the ego, we will discover authenticity in our creative work.

The image in my dream reminded me of an exhibition of artwork that I had seen at Salamanca Arts Centre in Hobart last year. In a darkened loft there were several life-sized still life works. The medium used was video, so these “still life” images were of a scene that moved, but repeated itself over a short time span. One was of a cocktail party where the guests were artfully placed and dressed and they were seated around a coffee table eating antipasto and drinking wine. It was strange to stand there like a voyeur staring at these people and then seeing the repetition of the loops in the video. There were others: one of a person driving; another looking through a doorway screened by dangling beads; and more I can’t remember.

I wish I could tell you who the artist was. I have searched online with no success. I have emailed the gallery in the hope they will tell me. Stay posted and I will tell you when I find out. In my online search though, I did find some amazing art works of video art by other artists, so it was not wasted time.

Thank you to Sue from Salamanca Arts Centre for letting me know that the artist is Derek Hart and his exhibiton was titled “Film Stills“.

The Village Well

It was a long way to the Village Well. I took the early morning flight that rose out of fog and darkness in Portland, bound for Melbourne. Then a taxi ride through workday congested traffic to the old Abbotsford Convent.

Gilbert (pronounced with French accent “Jillbear”) Rochecouste greeted me warmly. He wore black and white plaid pants, pink shirt and a purple sweater draped around his shoulders. Jac (Jacque) was the other presenter.

The group of about 40 people were mainly from urban local government and a few were from housing development companies.

This Village Well Masterclass was titled Place Making & the Art of Authentic Engagement. They began by using one of their engagement methods; a conversation cafe. With fresh coffee or tea, and a couple of questions to prompt discussion, we immediately embarked on conversations with some new found colleagues, while ambient music played in the background.

The concept of place-making takes us away from using planning and design to solve community problems and instead focuses on people power as the means to tackling and enriching community living. It embraces history, culture, diversity, story, enjoyment, environment, and more and favours a fluid approach to achieving this.

We danced to “Staying Alive”. We sang as a choir “Amazing Grace”. We sat in the courtyard enjoying a healthy lunch. We listened intently to the colourful Gilbert and the practical Jac. We shared our stories.

All in all it was a positive, hopeful experience but I am left wondering how to translate this information into practical solutions at work and in our community. It is food for thought I guess.

Be an organisation, but act like a movement.” ~Gilbert Rochecouste

Read more about this at Urban Ecology Australia