Tuesday, 31 July 2012

'Please don't shoot, I'm only playing...'

There are many versions of sand-play and sand-play therapy since Dr Margaret Lowenfeld introduced her ground breaking work in the postwar years; or should I say following WW2!  Play Therapists and Dramatherapists and Jungian therapists all have collections of small  objects and trays of sand in order for people to create small worlds, and tell stories about their lives.  The objects can be small stones, shells, buttons, buckles, items from dolls houses, animals for a farm yard, wild animals and mythic animals, and lots of people from different occupations, ages and ethnicity.  Also there are usually trees, bridges and fences, birds of the air, creatures from the sea and domestic pets.  And more.

The debate I am having at the moment with friends and colleagues is the use of weapons in the play room.  Most people say, 'Oh it is harmless - children have always played with bows and arrows - or guns - or plastic swords.  Surely knights with spears or soldiers with guns don't do any harm'.  After all 'they are only playing'.  My mind shifts to the child soldiers being trained to shoot their families, the fact that many countries have been riven by war long term.  Are we living in a culture of war or a culture of peace?  Or a culture for war or a culture for peace?

By arming children in the play room, in an age when fantasy and reality are often confused, especially on television, is reinforcing the weapon culture.  I just don't buy this, 'children need to be able to express their anger so thats what the guns are for' - there are plenty of ways to express anger without weaponry.  Anyone for a jog?

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Elsie Bartlett (1910-2012)

Elsie joined the Creative Care drama group from the very beginning, some 18 months ago, at the Glastonbury Care Home.  Already over 100 years old, she showed a zest for living, and an insatiable curiosity.  Elsie would join in  every  creative activity, from sand play to drawing to music and movement.  She participated in our 'Seaside Holiday' interactive performance and her immediate participation encouraged others to follow suit.  She will be remembered for many years to come, and as a tribute, a new book for carers and therapists, 'Creative Care: creating an alternative pathway...' is dedicated to Elsie.

Which leads me into the sheer excitement and discoveries of my first Churchill visits to Malaysia and Czech Republic, and the great frustration with actualising of the visit to St Petersburg.  I have heard that there is amazing work with the arts and especially masks and theatre, with elderly people.  But to get access to it and a formal letter of invitation, which is necessary to get a visa, is quite another matter.  Watch this space!

As a follow up to one visit in Malaysia, I am returning in September to see if an arts initiative can happen in 100 bed ward for elderly people.  I shall divide them into groups of 10 beds, and work with trained volunteers to do music and movement, singing and storytelling.  Lets see what happens!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Cute little Cubs

Ah, Cute Little Cubs...but beware the telephone iron fist!

Increasingly we are seeing appealing images on our screens, especially in the afternoons, of cute leopard cubs that need saving, desperate children that need feeding, disasters that need supporting.  If we give just £5 per month or even £3, we will be making an enormous difference.  AND we will receive a cute little toy or regular newsletter...

What we are not told is that we will also receive persuasive telephone calls: telephone calls that try to re-assure us they are just giving us exciting new information, or an update on the campaign.  What the 'phone calls are really about is asking us to give yet more money.  Psychologically these calls or promotions feed into an area of our brains that feels we have not done enough, rather like those school reports that merely said 'Could do better'.

Furthermore, is it really allowed to make such calls at 8.45pm to pensioners living alone?  A recent example illustrated how trapped people become in these situations; a pensioner's daughter answered the telephone as her mother was unwell, and when challenged was told coyly, 'Is it really that late - I AM so sorry - we will we ring your mother in a few days'  When asked not to ring, the same coy voice said that only the pensioner in question could make that request!

Yes I could do better, and be more of Friday's Child who is loving and giving, but I am a pensioner, too,  and Saturday's Child who has still to work hard for a living!

Monday, 2 July 2012

Dancing with respect!

As part of my Churchill Fellowship I have visited residential care homes in Prague and have seen some wonderful creative and artistic work with people with dementia and people who are elderly and frail.  The 'Dancing Man', Petr Valeta is extraordinary with the energy he transmits to older people, many of them in wheel chairs or with frames.  Petr dances both for the residents as well as with them.  His sessions comprise group work that gets feet tapping, hands clapping and an anticipation for what is to come next.  He dances with each individual, enthusing them to go beyond their body limits and really dance, treating them all with the utmost respect.  Then he performs for the group and they are enthralled.  As a former professional ballet dancer, Petr is able to combine his own talents with his therapeutic care-home experience and provide something truly magical!


Dr. Petr Veleta was born in 1952 in Prague, Czech Republic.
He graduated from the Dance Conservatory in Prague, one-year internship at the London School of Contemporary Dance, Academy of Music in Prague - majoring in choreography,
Charles University in Prague - Ph.D – "Dance and exercise program for seniors”.
He worked as a ballet soloist in Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava, Music Theatre in Prague and as a chief choreographer in Theatre in Olomouc. As a dance teacher and choreographer, he worked at Slovak and Czech Republic and in several projects in England and Germany. Until 2011 he worked as an assistant director of the National Theatre in Prague. He is a director of Peter´s Dance Centre Prague.
Other activities include dance a movement therapy for seniors with mental and physical disabilities, which is carried out within Czech Alzheimer Society programs and  the Center of Gerontology in Prague 8.

Watch this space, as I plan to bring Petr Valeta to UK as part of our Creative Care training programme.