Our Future Selves – using objects from real life


Our Future Selves has teamed Daisy (Disability Arts in Surrey) with DAO (Disability Arts Online) in a series of creative writing workshops in resource centres across Surrey. On Monday 9 April Colin Hambrook and Wendy Young facilitated a creative writing workshop at Arts Matters in Redhill.

A dramatic photo of a clear orb on the seashore

Ben Small was commissioned to produce a series of photographs inspired by thoughts of the future.

The future is a topical subject in every way, albeit shaky, scary, optimistic, exciting, mysterious – and we got stuck into ours in two hours of magical writing, discussion and realia…

Realia? You may well wonder at this intriguing word!

Realia involves the utilisation of an object e.g. a photo, souvenir, heirloom that represents the participant in some way. The object chosen has a link to the past and the exercise, to think how does it compare now to back then?

After introductions around the table and saying a little about why we write, Colin kicked off with his object – a print of an intense self-portrait aged 13. It was passed around and it seemed to touch every one of us. And so it was for all of our objects – from a tiny Buddha from China, a poem about fear of the future, a picture of a boat of finely written alphabet letters falling into the water, to a Winnie the Pooh hardback with a lovingly handled curling dust jacket.

A soothing, healing and deep conversation in the trusting circle opened up something of our past and what we see as our future. Harping back to the past, one lady presented her paper model of a harp. She had taken the instrument up again recently after having had a break from it since childhood. There was a bit of an ‘ahh factor’ about her story.

For participants who hadn’t brought an object along to the workshop, it was easy to grab an artwork from their portfolio at Arts Matters. (More later about the ambience and atmosphere of this 100 year old ex-church hall turned exquisite arts and crafts machine!)

It seemed easy to then write for 10 minutes about our objects, about how we see ourselves in the future, if your future self could talk to you with hindsight? Pens scurried paper and it was hard to stop when Colin called ‘time’ on our ‘streams of consciousness’ i.e. just writing and not thinking about punctuation or grammar – a priceless exercise for any writer or to get ‘stuff’ out of our heads and onto the page!

Pairing up, we chose five preferred words or short phrases from the piece for our partner to write on separate post-it notes – ‘found words’. These were randomly stuck on paper and Colin and myself read them out playfully but building up a rhythm and it showed how much fun you can have with words!

With the power of technology we all got a copy and each person wrote poetry picking a word or phrase here and there from the sheets.

It was a fantastic afternoon and it was hard to leave such a wonderful place. Unfortunately, that old devil called Development has hit Arts Matters and so time to find a new place of worship – for this is one heck of a church of art! Everywhere you turn, there are pieces that could match any contemporary art gallery I have visited.

Mark Cremmen and his team who do such a great job there are on the lookout to recreate this important space in a new location which is a vital part of the community.

Here’s a poem from the workshop of ‘found words’ which is a homage to all attendees for their magical input and making it a memorable afternoon.

Eyes twinkle and I enlarged the scene
Waves of electricity lashed over me
Resonating sound
Jesus! Here’s my charm, take it
No need for it now
My expression got lost
A kind kid used the right word
A healing escape to a forest of contentment
All the tomorrows undecided, fragmented
Tumbling over one another
Rattling inside a tormented mind
Longing for connection, movement
My young self excited
Thankful. Lost freedom found.