Hospital Scene

May 1st, 2012

Everywhere I turn I find a cut. Respite care here, special schools there, here a cut, there a cut everywhere a cut CUT – EVERYBODY CUT!

You blew it, you forgot your line…. At the end of this number, you were supposed to say….. uhh What’s he supposed to say?…

Older lady limps over & reads from the clipboard, deadpan: “I don’t want to die. I want to live.”

Hospital bed figure groans with a mouth full of tubes….

Well, look if you can’t say it, you can’t say it… we’ll just have to cut it, that’s all. CUT IT! Pick me up. Next set up….

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Just started my internship in an up & coming London Borough and boy is this borough thorough. Started with a meeting to set up my work plan at their shiny theme park office located in a city sized complex on the Thames. Before my first day I was treated to a visit to a SEN school, and was overwhelmed by some things:

1. The Social Inclusion Officer’s post at this school is being dissolved at the end of this school year.
2. Its SENCO is seriously thirsty for evaluation results re what creative practice – esp musical – facilitates what kind of learning whether soft or scholastic

My head was spinning when I left – partially because I was gutted that this dynamic and inspirational woman, who has been doing so much for what she is paid to do, will now be jobless; and a strong continuum of human progress will have been stifled and its work unsung. I was also struck by the idea that music has a purpose and magical power, which needs to be means tested. Is it possible – how? Qualitative evaluation, perhaps, but you know that if there’s a price tag it’ll need quantifiable results.

2 days later, in the same state, I approached a hospital esteemed for its use of creative practice to help SEN children through school, in order to R&D their great success. I am privileged enough to be friendly with a coordinator there who introduced me to the head teacher. When I arrived there was musical entertainment in the foyer – I’d stepped into a musical composite of bygone era – Dorsey, Duke, Porter – and was captivated by the dulcet tones of a gorgeous blonde lady, accompanied by elegant piano and sultry stand up bass. So very impressive: Hospital Arts. I was greeted by my incredibly overloaded friend, on and off his mobile – practically a one-man outreach service for his grads. When we arrived upstairs, I was so inspired by the ambience of the setting.

Admittedly when introduced to the head teacher I was a little starstruck …. silly me. After a few pleasantries, I tried to ask some focused questions about process there – how they chose which creative practices to facilitate which kinds of learning, how it might be aligned to curriculum, how it was measured, perhaps benchmarked. Perhaps I wasn’t focused enough because my innocent questions and organic curiosity was rewarded with hostility from this person. I was accused of trying to manipulate the conversation toward my own ends – which were never identified btw – that I wasn’t exhibiting signs of a person who’d come to openly understand their work at all. It was suggested that I should simplify my questions – I began to feel as though I might be one of the students there. I was assured that only the finest quality of artist worked with the children at this hospital. I asked about facilities, having noted that they had several computers – one of the children was watching a film with some rather adult looking content – not hardcore but it was violently cavalier. Because I’m interested in the shape of ASD, I’d mentioned that my reading had led me to understand how certain of those within its spectrum were fascinated by technology and many were good with computers. I wanted to learn if and how they utilised their technology to facilitate those children. I was admonished for profiling children with ASD – that every child is different. As for measurement, each child’s aptitude would be individually assessed by teachers within Individual Education Plans (IEP). I asked if artistic practice was aligned to curriculum or if practitioners were actively involved in shaping or assessing IEPs. It seemed obvious I was upsetting this person – so I asked her if there was something insulting in my line of questioning. Apparently not, but it was to be noted that my idea that a pratitioner might influence an IEP was absurd in the extreme. When I asked how she had chosen which kinds of arts activity to engage the children, she clarified that she had chosen the genre within her field of study.
Though it didn’t seem like a successful interview, by any stretch, I was invited to participate in a drama workshop for kids with behavioural problems. After a watered down variation on the catch-the-thrown-ball-say-my-name-game the group of delinquent teens were encouraged to form two groups which would square off at a dividing line – one side preventing the other side from crossing, no talking, nothing physical. Needless to say it didn’t stop some light rough housing within a hospital building. The feeling of aggression was palpable and it didn’t seem particularly deftly executed. At one point we had to all stand by and listen as one teenager bragged about how she dealt with gangster dynamics – because ‘they all know me’. Apparently that was a breakthrough.

“All Bibles or sacred codes have been the causes of the following Errors.
1. That Man has two real existing principles Viz: a Body & a Soul.
2. That Energy, call’d Evil, is alone from the Body, & that Reason, call’d Good, is alone from the Soul.
3. That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his Energies.

But the following Contraries to these are True

1. Man has no Body distinct from his Soul for that call’d Body is a portion of Soul discern’d by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age
2. Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy.
3 Energy is Eternal Delight
Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained; and the restrainer or reason usurps its place & governs the unwilling.
And being restrain’d it by degrees becomes passive till it is only the shadow of desire…..”

Excerpt from ‘The Voice of the Devil’
‘THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN AND HELL’
William Blake, 1793