This weekend I did a mini-workshop at the Greenbelt Festival. Greenbelt is like no other festival on earth. Where-else could you start the day sitting on an earth mound looking over a Duke’s lawn before enjoying some aerial theatre, taking in a couple of talks about drone warfare or climate change,drop in on some storytelling, enjoy some impromptu jazz or folk and then round off the day with a comedy show under a fairy-lit canopy? No wonder I go back year after year.
This year, though, I offered to do a writing workshop, on the theme of ‘how do we build a hero’? I’d planned it for 7-9 year olds, but had to think on my feet when my audience turned out to comprise mainly under fives. Out went all attempts to get them to do any writing. In came dividing them into two and getting one half to make chicken noises and one half to impersonate tree frogs as I made up stories about Kenny my chicken on the spot. For half an hour I sat under the trees in the warm summer sun and told stories. I think it rates as one of my most terrifying half an hours of my life, but I learned a lot :
a) be prepared – you might not get the audience you’re expecting
b) if you’ve got an audience, you might have to start ahead of time. Little ones don’t tend to wait around
c) find a way for the children to join in. If you’re not going to be able to get them writing, get them acting out the story, or making noises
d) keep it short – after 20 minutes I suspected they were starting to eye the ball pit, so I started to wind things up
e) keep smiling.