On Saturday 24th April 2021, educators, artists and others passionate about arts education, met online to share good practice, pick up top tips and celebrate creativity and the arts. 
 
Dr. Emma Kell and the Aspire team put together a vibrant programme of speakers and writer to create and share content across the day. The event was brilliantly captured by graphic recorder, Rebecca Osborne. This material is currently still available, and we wanted to share some of the great work of the contributors. 

Putting the Focus on Creativity 

In her opening presentation, Debra Rutley raised the questions: 
• Why is creativity important to us? 
• And why does our current school system stifle creativity? 
 
She mentioned some of the people who inspire her — Brené Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, Guy Claxton, and Sir Ken Robinson, who we wrote about in a recent post. And she raised the point that being creative makes us vulnerable.  
 
Debra’s presentation highlighted the fact that, in many educational settings, the focus is on the perfect, finished article, rather than the creativity, the process. She stressed the ethos of Aspire — that the young people they work with are worthy, regardless of what they produce. The value is in “allowing them to reconnect to achievement through creativity”. Of which play is a vital part. 
 
Debra believes passionately that creativity has the power to change lives, and this comes across vividly in her talk. 
Image: Tim Mossholder, Unsplash 

Art Transcends Language 

The second introductory speaker was Conor Powell, who opened by sharing his film INK. Connor talked about the challenges he has faced being neuro-diverse, and how the arts have helped him. He explained that when you see an artwork created by someone who speaks a different language from you, it’s possible to understand the artist through their work. 
 
Conor also picked up the importance and power of play, and how, through play, you can reach insights. 

And it Helps us Breaks Out of the Neuro-Typical Lens 

And he discussed issues around the portrayal of disabled people in media, such as films. He highlighted that often, films about disability are not about disabled people. Rather, disabled people are shown as “other,” or in relation to neuro-typical people, usually through the neuro-typical lens. 
 
Watch the opening speakers for yourself: 

Other presentations we enjoyed include: 

Why We Do What We Do, by Susan Coles 

Susan discussed the idea of job descriptions and titles. She encouraged the audience to write their own job descriptions in a way that really described each person. She challenged listeners to be careful of labelling or packaging things, saying that, as educators, we are often “too busy, leading to a reduction in our strategy and our immediate consciousness of our moral purpose”. 
 
Susan talked about the concept of Schon’s Iceberg, and how perceptions, attitudes, values and beliefs are all below the surface. She reminded the audience of the importance of being true to themselves. 
 
She also mentioned the value of being an “Artist Teacher” – a teacher who is an active artist. She stressed the importance of making time, finding a quiet place to do your thinking, reading, and listening to music: to give yourself time to become who you are. 

The Art of Representation, by Imrana Mahmood 

Imrana discussed the significance of language used to describe the people who cultural organisations want to engage. She reminded those in positions of power that they have a responsibility to empower others. And she described projects she has been involved with, and some of the barriers and uses of language that she has had to challenge. 
 
She talked about the process of long table discussions devised by Lois Weaver. These allow people to have a voice and feel listened to. But they require preparation sessions to encourage all participants to sit at the table, and to re-assure them that they have a voice and a story to share. 

Key Takeaways and Why the Arts is Important 

At the end of the day, the panel featured speakers from the Education and the Cultural sectors, including Andria Zafirakou, MBE, winner of the 2018 Global Teacher Prize and founder of the charity, Artists in Residence, Imrana Mahmood, creative producer and arts educationalist, Teakster, an award-winning artist, Harmeet Sahota, a senior assistant headteacher, Helen Turner from Act On It, and Flo Awolaja, LinkedIn mischiefmaker and Edupreneur. 
 
The panel discussed questions such as: 
• What are the key things you have learnt about the importance of the arts over the last year? 
• As educators/people working with communities, how have you adapted your work to keep the Arts alive for Young People? 
• How can we raise inclusivity? How can we build cultural confidence for learners? 
 
Watch the panel discussion here: 
If you want to read more about arts education, and the value of music in the catch-up curriculum, check out our blog, Generation Interrupted
 
Or find out more about Sir Ken Robinson in our recent blog, Highlights of the Imagine If Festival

Our Top Picks from the Aspire blog are: 

Reading Is Power by Olivia Edmonds (the MWC team are big fans of reading). 
 
We have explored the challenges around mental health in previous blogs, so we were interested in The PERFORM Model for Better Mental Health of Musicians by Tabby Kerwin. 
 
We work all around the UK, so we were keen to read Designing the Leeds Curriculum by Kate Fellow. 
 
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