My Team – Session Reflection

Gabrielle Barnby, Orkney 2022, Culture Collective, Age Scotland Orkney, creative sessionsI read back my post session reflection and cringe. The first thing I have noted down is disappointment at running out of time to use my new feedback form. But really I could see how well the session went from the relaxed expressions on Robert and Sam’s faces, from their surprise that time was up and their appreciation for the preparations I make.

At the end of session, with the theme of ‘My Team’ on my mind, I observe a team in action helping Sam stand and disengage the breaks of his walker, as I try and disengage the brakes on his mind. The dial-a-bus arrives to take Robert home to where his wife will be waiting. These small quickly assembled and disassembled teams receive little acknowledgement, and might seem an insignificant mechanism rather than members of a team. Perhaps that’s an illusion of the here and now.

I think that’s why I like the Walt Whitman poem so much, it links people. Both Robert and Sam knew him and were excited by the prospect of the poem. Sam read it so well, the fluency of reading surviving when recalling memories is difficult. ‘I’m losing my words’ says Robert in sympathy, and then handles adroitly George Mackay Brown’s prose.

Nina, the dementia support worker who has joined the session today, returns from the door. I pause in my reflection and we evaluate the session together. ‘Sam was definitely taking it all in today, and Robert he’s into the detail of everything.’

I ask Nina to try out my new feedback form, and while she does I watch the Age Scotland Orkney team in action, taking away my cup, emptying the bin, offering to give out leaflets for the planned Spring Foy.

It strikes me that life is really more like a web, that everything given circulates in myriads of ways. Isn’t it amazing that the Blue Brazils, a down at heal Cowdenbeath football team, have enlightened our sessions so much? I bet the players never thought of that as they left another defeat on the field.

As we talk Nina shares her own experience of exclusion and inclusion. I notice how much she opened up about her experience of living with a hearing impairment, specifically noting herself how Robert’s attention inspired her to speak more. He met her courage to face challenge with interest and compassion. I think of the strength of her advocacy, and the team that brought her into a new sensory space. It was wonderful to hear about her journey. All this conversation was inspired by the slow meandering through our gratitude lists with a few scribbled words. The simple prompts took us from the football terraces to tour guiding to sensory impairment and adaptation.

Gratitude list

Something I am grateful for when I am with other people…

Something I am grateful for when on my own…

A small win I am grateful for…

I discuss the ‘soft start’ of our sessions with Nina, it seems so slow, and yet is invaluable for creating the space where the group roams. The subject of listening was on people’s minds today, that essential interrelation between people. This surprised me a little, I suppose I thought we’d be talking about teams, what they looked like, their purpose, the ‘glory’ of success. Instead this session became a deep reflection on those small moments of connection between people – the repartee on the terraces while watching a team, the way that failure teaches and allows for more compassion and growth than a win.

I found Sam’s advice from his experiences guiding visitors around St Magnus Cathedral inspiring, ‘You have to stop, and listen to them listening to you.’

Robert says Sam gave the best tours. I believe it. This idea of transforming an interaction, moving focus from the words spoken to the quality of reception interests me. It leads me back to Nina’s hearing impairment and her openness to change fundamentally what and how she receives from the world around her.

I wonder if such a fundamental change is possible for all? It’s a journey that needs courage to begin in all partnerships and teams.

I also wonder, how we grow the confidence to keep singing our songs, believing and trusting  that someone else somewhere is singing with us, strengthening our tune.

Gabrielle Barnby

If creativity for wellbeing interests you then try this wee video which gives an overview of how the arts contribute to social, physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

Culture Collective, Creative Islands Network, Gabrielle Barnby, Pier Arts Centre

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Gabrielle Barnby