Art Changing Lives

I listened to Ken Robinson and others talking this afternoon. Thanks to BBC iplayer I was able to hear a Radio 4 programme that had gone out this morning, In His Element. It was about his role in helping to develop Derry City (stroke city as it is often called, not because of the high incidence of cerebral haemorrhages, but because depending one which side of the political divide you stand it is Derry or Londonderry.
If you’ve not heard of Ken Robinson before, I should tell you he is an educator, an inspiring speaker, ex Professor of Education at Warwick and Ted Wragg’s natural successor. If you’ve not heard of Ted Wragg, you have some wonderful catching up to do. He was a splendid man; warm, witty, fantastically intelligent. When he died several years ago, I cried and felt I had lost a friend.
But I didn’t mean to talk about death. I meant to talk about creativity and where it lies in our lives.
Ken Robinson definitely believes in the power of creativity. There’s a very famous TED talk by him, that I urge you all to listen to. Go on, it’ll improve your lives. I’ll put a link at the end of this, or even insert the video. See how I spoil you. He’s not talking about sticking sequins on a piece of card, which is al too often how creativity seems to be defined these days. It has a far wider scope. A scope that the good people of Derry and the South Bank both understand.
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Art Changing Lives


At the South Bank you can see art improving people’s lives. It is accessible, thought-provoking, fun. All around people are smiling. Whether because they are being given opportunities to learn something new:

Learning to Juggle


And don’t you just love a man who carries a toy rabbit around in his pocket?
Sitting in a garden on top of the Queen Elizabeth Hall:

Scarecrow, Queen Elizabeth Hall


Commissioning a poem from the poetry takeaway:

Poetry Takeawy


Playing on a rainbow beach:

Rainbow Beach


Having a snooze:

Having a Snooze


Or enjoying a beer at a bar made out of props from the National Theatre:

Propstore Bar


The creative vision that brought all this about awes me. I went to a talk last week by Handsprung, the people who make the horses for Warhorse. There’s an exhibition at the National Theatre about the play and the puppets until September. Creatives themselves, they were lavish in their praise and admiration for the way the National Theatre works; how it explores, takes risks, attempts the impossible. I think that is evident in the vast majority of plays staged there.
Our creative muscles need to be exercised every bit as much as our bodies, with our bodies. We can be creative in any discipline from nuclear physics to embroidery. Whatever creativity is, it isn’t simply about sticking sequins onto a piece of card.
Ken Robinson says it so much better:

17 thoughts on “Art Changing Lives

  1. I wish I had time right now to listen to this video; I will do so later. I do believe that schools squash creativity. I work with the younger set and I don’t know how many times I’ve heard preschool teachers tell children to “color inside the lines,”, “you’re doing it wrong, it’s like this,” or even give children grades on their own creations. It’s sad that so many educators think that it’s all about doing it “right.”

  2. Loved him (esp. once I stopped thinking he was Ken Livingstone). I appreciated his observation on movement/thought connections. T-shirt? Go for it!

    • Tell me when you find him and if it’s syndicated would you?
      Also, if you check out the conversation Laurel and I have been having about Hilary Mantel on Staffing Problems, what advice would you offer her. Btw looked on line, no sign of any Ken Robinson t-shirts.:(

  3. Thank you thank you~ you do indeed spoil us! I always enjoy TED talks so much.
    He’s absolutely right, the more connections we allow between our brain hemispheres, our bodies, and the earth, the healthier the whole she-bang will be. Also, so long as creativity and art are dismissed as unimportant, artists will struggle to survive.

    • Yes. Somewhere else he points out that although we are routinely discouraged from taking art or drama on the grounds that are not serious subjects and won’t get us jobs, we don’t advise people not to study Maths on the grounds that they won’t be accountants.
      Who do you recommend on TED? I prefer things I can listen to while doing something else.

  4. I’ve been saving this until my brain was in receive-mode. Lovely! And he’s funny! Being tossed out of the workforce made me confront my creativity so deeply that I hope/plan to make a living from it.

    any luck finding his newspaper column?

    thank you so much for posting this, Isobel!

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