Shaping narrative in a workshop

From ‘Moveable Feast Nine Diamonds’

First, we talked about the narratives we bring into a workshop. Then we talked about extracting narratives within a workshop. From this discussion we drew out some of the principles for shaping narrative as the culmination of a workshop. These are the principles we arrived at.

  1. The workshop leader needs to be flexible to what ensues from their original intention in order to be a clear channel from which the narrative can develop and a story can be born.
  2. Then the individual elements that arise can be woven into a collective telling.
  3. In order to achieve this the workshop leader needs to pay close attention to what is expressed as well as to what is verbally articulated.
  4. This process is about attending to the new ‘creature’ that is created during the workshop and understanding its nature.
  5. There is often a discernible point in the workshop process – a saturation point when the participants are ready to move from playing and exploring towards shaping a new structure.
  6. Part of evidencing the whole workshop in the final piece is demonstrating the craft of the artists as facilitators because the final showing is about everybody as participant and its quality rests on the facilitator’s skills. The artists’ involvement in the final presentation is a matter of fine judgement.
  7. The final part of a workshop is a microcosm of the whole event that reflects and reveals the narrative arc of the workshops. At its best it is a revelatory mirror for the participants.
  8. The final piece crystallises to the participants that they can achieve things beyond their own self-expectations and engenders feelings in the participants of Pride, Self Worth and Self Esteem.
  9. The aim is in the end to structure a revelation. A lot of the skill in shaping the final presentation lies in the decision of what to draw attention to, how to do it and in what order to put these elements together so that new meaning is made from what has happened in the workshop.
  10. The search is for a resonant metaphor/symbol/image that illuminates the process.
  11. This symbol often manifests in the workshop from the least likely place, the leftfield element, or the least expected person. Sometimes it is like a satellite from another galaxy.
  12. Fundamental to the whole process is ownership from within the group – the power comes from being with each other not from imposing upon or dominance over.
  13. The final presentation has to allow the audience in by being recognisable so that it becomes a shared experience for all present. Then it affirms and validates the achievements of the participants.
  14. Shaping story from a workshop’s narrative requires clarity of vision and a clear line of direction to pilot the process of the participating delivering this final phase.

All of these elements depend on a strong creative and collective process.