a long overdue update from across the pond

By: Emma DeWitt

Hello friends!

I apologize for taking so long between posts! I made some changes to my work schedule and things got incredibly hectic. The last few weeks have been so full.

I haven’t gotten the chance to describe the program I am working with so here is a quick summary: The group is called Syrus Consultancy, and it is a small group that runs spoken word/poetry work shops for young people in a wide range of situations. Five years ago, the founder and director of Syrus Consultancy decided to use his story as an ex-offender to build an inspirational, arts-based program that introduces young people to artistic outlets for managing negative thoughts and behaviors, particularly those that could lead to criminal activity. The core of the program is built off a book of spoken word poems he wrote while he was incarcerated. I am enjoying getting to know Chris’ work and to see young people connecting to his story. I am especially fond of a group of boys that we work with on Mondays in Croydon. At my job in a youth program in New York I work with mainly 11-14 year old boys and I enjoy the age group so much! Boys that age have this great mix of goofy and absolutely earnest energy. It can be a bit hard to get them focused but when they are there, they produce amazing work.

In addition to delivering workshops and writing my own curriculum, I have been working on a collaborative video/performance piece with a London-based artist. I am finding that the shock of being in a new place is both incredibly inspiring and a bit daunting when I am trying to do creative work. Sometimes it feels like my brain is so full of new ideas it doesn’t know where to start! That is why I have been really glad to be working collaboratively with a slightly more experienced group of artists– I am learning a lot. We are hoping to launch a tumblr in the next few weeks that tracks our artistic process – we are using a style of collaboration where we heavily document our conversations about the piece. Be on the look out for the link! I have also gotten to attend multiple critique sessions where artists perform or present early versions of their work and then we all sit around and critique each part through a roundtable discussion. I cannot adequately express how energized I feel by working within such a vibrant artistic community.

Finally, I just returned to town after shadowing someone who is doing full-time respite foster caring in Western England. I signed on to do this shadowing because I felt like I wanted more experience working within another part of the Council Services system and it was quite the experience! I am currently collecting my thoughts about it and will be sharing a post early next week.

Time is going by so quickly, I cannot believe it has already been a whole month since I arrived.

Until next time,

Emma