Shaun Blezard is the Artistic Director of Dalton Creatives, a new organisation based in Cumbria to provide cultural activities which are fun and inclusive to the local community. Sharing spaces and play are vital components to this - especially for adults.
I’ve worked in the community for 20 years, in arts and music, and the big thing that always strikes me is the loss of the willingness to play as we get older. When I work in primary schools most of the young people play naturally; they’re up for giving things a go. This starts to change at secondary school and becomes a major barrier in adulthood. There seems to be an attitude of right and wrong adult behaviour that slowly creeps in as we get older, and it can be constricting. Why do we lose play and how do we recover it?
The embarrassment of being wrong or being judged holds many people back. The idea of making a fool of ourselves can really ramp up our anxiety levels! But really, what is the worst that can happen? We make fools of ourselves? Is that so bad? I don’t think so. Working with young people for so long has knocked my edges off, so to speak, and now I like to help others loosen up a little.
The sharing of community spaces is very important in creating an atmosphere of creative play. We need to make a space that feels safe and fosters individual creativity. I always run sessions by mutual consent, in that anyone can sit out when they want, and everyone feels valued and respected. There is nothing worse than feeling bullied into doing something, through a ‘come on what’s wrong with you’ attitude. This pushes people back in their shells. I know I find meeting new groups hard work and like a little time to ease in; many people do. Letting people ‘be’ can be a powerful tool.
Then what do we do? We are creating family friendly events in Dalton. Taking part in the Fun Palaces movement is a great example of this: we are making our local community centre a place for all ages to come and explore their creativity and imagination - with Lego building, scrap art, playing home-made chopping board guitars, learning to fix things… we invite people of all ages to come and have fun. And we get away from the notion of pushing the kids towards the fun, while you have a brew! Future planned events currently include family friendly music concerts and communal cooking.
We want the young people in our community to show the adults how to play, by experimenting with fun again. Our motto: bringing people together in shared spaces.