After 20-years of running workshops, you’d think I’d pretty much have a blue-print plan indelibly outlined in my brain, but perhaps my recent experiences with school groups have given me a false sense of security from the joyful unpredictability of inter-generational work?
Whilst it is sometimes hard to remember that it is enjoyable when staring down the barrel of a situation you hadn’t quite planned for, it is the nature of the work and one of the main reasons why the itchy-blood syndrome of desk-sitting no longer became manageable and the shift to freelance was imperative for me. However, with future project possibilities starting to take shape, it’s worth reminding oneself of a few of the golden rules of working with mixed age groups and if it’s useful to anybody just starting out in this game then all the better:
1. Numbers will never be as expected: People don’t turn up (especially if it’s a freebie) and extras will always try and squeeze in – don’t take this personally, just have enough energy to compensate for small numbers and enough voice power to control the masses.
2. Check age-appropriateness of your activities: Even if you recommend suitability for 7 years and above, even if it is clearly labelled as a Shakespeare drama workshop, know that families don’t come in nicely formed packages with cut off limits – if parents are expected to join in, they will also sneak in the odd apparently incredibly high achieving 4 year old plus, for convenience sake, a terrible two year old or two – apparently the inability to walk and talk are no barrier to some darlings!
These two points lead me onto…
3. Have a back-up plan: In true A-Team style, make sure it comes together by checking off the list of ‘what-ifs’ in your head and having a solution ready, that way, at the end of the workshop you don’t spend the next few hours thinking about what you might have done differently and giving yourself a good mental kicking for not having had it up your sleeve just in case.
4. Less is more in terms of ‘stuff’: Props, bits of paper, exciting gizmos etc – a good family drama workshop should be able to run on a minimalist basis; it’s the granting of the ‘permission to play’ together that is the important element. It’s good to have morsels of inspirational magic but mostly it’s just more tidying, more to carry back at the tired-end of the day, and more to think about in ensuring the safety of those aforementioned turning-up toddlers – bamboo canes make especially great eye gougers in small fists!
5. Enjoy yourself! Remember what the alternatives are; stop stressing about every minor detail and that grumpy-faced teenager who doesn’t seem to be joining in very well; the more fun you have and control you relinquish, the better the atmosphere, the more exciting the outcomes, the more positive the feedback, the more likely the work offers in future, the less stressful the looming end of the month with no fixed salary coming in! It’s a win-win-win-win situation!