We must challenge our own ideas before inviting others to do so. Theatre practitioner and events producer Jolie Booth encounters a mind-broadening first Brexhut workshop.
I was drawn to working with the Brexit issue by my strong desire to respond to the divides I witnessed opening up between my own friends and their families, in some cases causing irreparable rifts. Not only that, but also an overwhelmingly uneasy feeling that I too had been divided and conquered.
Getting involved in Brexhut was one way to start that response in earnest…
The session began with Simon leading some physical warm-up and trust games that helped us to get into our bodies and at ease working together. It also moved us into a more open and gentle head-space. These games led on to exercises that encouraged us to start expressing our feelings. First as an abstract exchange of noises and movements. Then with each of us entering the space to be more direct: "I'm really angry”… "I'm really scared".
We connected with those feelings then built on the energy of the person who had spoken before us, finding different ways to express what was arising in the tones of our voices and in our physical movements. This led us into talking as pairs, taking turns to substantiate those strong statements and letting the fear, anger and frustration pour out of us.
Each couple had a different experience. Rachel and Hannah had an intimate connection and found it opened up areas of a blossoming friendship they hadn't yet explored. Guy and Jess found their frustrations come out around limitations and obstacles that were hindering them. Simon and Jolie found they shared the same angers and fears about the future and also shared hopes for how things might work out positively.
This section of the workshop highlighted the level of connection, openness and revelation that we hope the Brexhut participants finally reach. To engage with the piece emotionally and feel free to express themselves openly.
In the second part of the session, things got really interesting. We got around the table to share ideas for groups and communities we'd like to work with as part of the project. Then we assembled into pairs, opposite one another at each side of a long table. One side had to sit still while the other side moved along to interview each person opposite, like an artists’ speed date.
After each interaction, we all took a moment to write a list of communities and groups we each felt that our interview partner would find challenging to approach and speak to about the project.
At the end of the session we read out our astutely observed suggestions. On my list were property developers, the army, police force, ‘ladies what lunch’ and gentlemen’s club types. It would certainly be uncomfortable for me to interview any of these people about their feelings on Brexit.
The point of this exercise was to identify a healthy cross-section of groups to approach. The initial sheet we threw our ideas on to included all the people we'd like to talk to. The speed dating exercise exposed us to all the groups we would find it uncomfortable but ultimately necessary to include.
It was a clever way of doing it and we came up with some exciting and slightly scary suggestions.
For homework, we were tasked to select three groups from those we feel positive about and three from those we feel negative about; then begin thinking about how we might make initial contact with these six communities…
I, for one, can’t wait to hand mine in.
Want to be a Brexhut collaborator? Get in touch and get involved.