Embracing Arts Workshops - Another string to our bow! By Claire Sundin, EA Artistic Director
Updated: Feb 12, 2022
Alongside performing, I have been a drama facilitator for over 20 years. I love it, I love connecting with children and watching them become engaged creatively within an educational setting. As Artistic Director of Embracing Arts, I love making accessible theatrical experiences, connecting with children who are neurodivergent or have needs that cannot be met within a mainstream environment. I love using a ‘sixth sense’ to bring them into our theatrical world, or rather let them bring me into their world. Lockdown was so hard (juggling work and a 2.5 year old was exhausting on a whole new level!) but surprisingly it did give our Embracing Arts team the opportunity to expand our outreach, and I did manage to find time to start developing workshops for SEND schools - it’s something the team had been wanting to do for a while.
When a semblance of calm was restored and we were able to move around slightly more freely again, I connected with David Jenner at St Nicholas School in Canterbury, and he explained that his school was in need of sensory workshops to aid communication and engagement - something many of the pupils had been isolated from for quite some time. He explained to me that those who would benefit most from this service were pupils with profound multiple learning difficulties (PMLD), as there was little arts provision for them, and with our specialist knowledge and experience of working with this demographic, we would be a great fit. I applied for funding and the the wonderful Ragdoll Foundation granted us financial assistance to trial some workshops over a couple of days. It was a chance to do some much needed Research & Development. What a wonderful time we had! Working with one of our actors, Elliot MacKenzie (who has a plethora of SEN experience), I created a sensory adventure through 'The Seasons'. Elliot created some beautifully atmospheric music, which we were both able to improvise vocally around. It was a joyous experience, completely different and unique for each of the three classes we worked with as well as for each individual. The shift in these children was palpable. They went from uncertain and disengaged to curious and creative. We managed to create a connection with every pupil, even if it only lasted for a few minutes. The puppets were a huge hit, as were the sensory elements such as water, wind, sand, leaves and the music and musical instruments brought it all together.
When we returned on Day Two, I was amazed to see the difference in some of the children. Immediately they connected with us, and we sensed a level of familiarity. We repeated the same journey with them and they were so much more willing to put their trust in us to guide them and help them explore. We made some beautiful connections: one of the pupils clung onto my legs and refused to let me leave along with presenting Elliot and I with the most beautiful thank you card made out of handprints. The feedback we received from the staff was wonderful. These children desperately needed more exposure to the arts, and I’m pleased to say we will be returning to St Nicholas over the course of a six-week period to continue our work. I am incredibly proud of what we are creating with this arm of Embracing Arts. It’s something I’ve been dreaming about for a number of years and I’m so glad it’s coming to fruition. If you would like to know more about our Workshops, please visit our website or email firstname.lastname@example.org