By: Heidi Murphy | January 03, 2018

We’ve been a bit on the quiet side the past few months, we ducked our heads down whilst we scurried around trying to get everything in an exciting position where we could shout about them loudly in the New Year. So here we go


Our Team Is Growing

Our team is growing bigger and stronger in 2018, as we welcome Katherine and Kate to the fold. Katherine is our outreach coordinator focused solely on engaging young people with learning disabilities with the arts; and Kate will be supporting everything office and admin based. We’ll also be piloting our internship scheme wider this year to support young creatives kick off their career.

 
 


Creative Futures 2.0

Last year we piloted our first Creative Futures Conference, and were thrilled to receive funding from Arts Council England and Worcestershire Arts Partnership to redevelop this for a second year. Over the next 5 months we’ll be working with filmmaker Paul Stringer to put together a digital arts pack highlighting the fantastic creative sector in Worcester. This will grow into our fantastic day of Workshops for young people and schools 12-15 in Worcester city centre which plans to be more fun and participatory than last year’s pilot.



Big Dreamers Festival

We’re proud to be supporting the Big Dreamers Festival, the first touring children theatre festival for Worcester. The festival runs from the 5th-7th April in Worcester and features shows for children of all ages, workshops including mask theatre and a community cinema. 

 

Arts for Young People with Learning Disabilities


In November we received funding from Children in Need to continue our work running non verbal drama workshops for young people with learning disabilities. Over the next three years we’re working with Open Theatre Company to develop programmes that improve equal access to the arts, and liaising with local organisations about how they can make their artistic offers more inclusive.


The Citywide Play Initiative

Since starting in September, the Citywide Play Initiative (supported by the Big Lottery . 

 

Fund) has asked the question ‘how do children engage with their communities?’We’re working with communities around Worcester to support young people aged 8-14, running play sessions and supporting them to develop their own community days.


If you’d like more information about any of what we’re up to; please get in touch!

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By: Heidi Murphy | June 27, 2017

The way that we play is changing. We spend more time playing online than outside, and we are not saying that’s a problem; but we want to ensure that children have access to play that connects them with their immediate community, and builds their communication skills.


According to Dr David Whitbread of the University of Cambridge, the play time that children do have is ‘’more heavily scheduled’’ than it has previously been in society. It is more or less agreed that play is important for the emotional and cognitive development of children, however ‘even the most playfully inclined children will not be able to play sufficiently for them to reap the benefits in terms of their learning and development, if they are not given the time, the space and the independence to develop their own spontaneous and self -initiated play activities.’


The Citywide Play initiative is about giving children the time and space to play; to build relationships with those in their communities and give them ownership over where they live. The project will see young people aged between 8-14 build their own community days, not only for their own communities but to build connections with people from different parts of the city.


The project is supported by the Big Lottery Fund, and will take place for 12 months across 2018.

 

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By: Heidi Murphy | May 26, 2017

I am not very patient. If you would like an example of this, someone emailed me about a project today (albeit a month after I originally wrote to them), a kind, exploratory email asking to know more about an initial idea I had. I, however, had to send a response saying I would be in touch; but I’d actually already put in a funding bid for this project and would hear back in… well about in about as many weeks as it took for them to apply to my initial, ‘oh! I have a thought,’ message.

 

This tends to happen a lot. A few years ago someone told me that work we were doing could have happened in partnership, had I not run away and started it by myself. At my best, it’s a trait that keeps me passionate, innovative and pushing boundaries. At my worst it makes me intolerable.

 

But what I love about the way that my let’s-just-jump-in-at-the-deep-end brain works is that it keeps the momentum going, and when projects are an uphill struggle isn’t that’s what’s important? It keeps the passion alive and finds ways to navigate barriers in a way that sometimes I don’t even notice how badly wrong things could have been – sometimes these solutions aren’t the most logical, but usually they’re the most creative.  Last week I considered buying 40 scatter cushions.

 

Our Creative Futures Conference (I’m not going to plug it to you, because it’s sold out), was dogged with early teething problems. The day after we thought we had a concrete plan, one of the planned speakers announced he was leaving his job; the day after we planned the workshop programme, one of the facilitator’s announced he was moving and wouldn’t be able to do it, the other organisation announced it was no longer running its engagement programme in ‘quite the same way’* (*read: funding cuts). We have sold twice as many tickets as I thought we would, and last week I was convinced that the venue we had hired wouldn’t have enough chairs.

 

Yet all of this, apart from the chair thing, my brain has taken in its stride. It’s still in that dizzying love at first sight stage, shouting ‘LET’S MAKE THIS HAPPEN!’ from the roof and talking incessantly and at length about the importance of transparency across all sectors for young people to make informed choices – even when there’s no one in the room.

 

Until I took a step back to reflect and evaluate the project so far, I wouldn’t have been able to name a single problem. It’s all going well, because I am still excited about it. Everyone involved is still excited about it. When there are issues, or potential issues, we can sit and talk until have fixed it and get excited about it again. It has been 8 months since the idea first came to fruition, but it honestly feels like it was last week.

 

What has changed though, is that this conference is starting to feel like an actual thing. A thing that’s going to happen. A thing that’s going to happen soon. We have actual people booked on, not just estimates, but human beings behind the numbers. We have chairs to sit them on. We need to think about how many napkins to buy. I think sometimes you need to take a step back and see what you’ve built, even if all there is at the moment are boxes of lanyards and spreadsheets. It’s so easy to get caught up in a project whirlwind, that it’s hard to see what other people are seeing. Fortunately (from what people are telling me), people are seeing a conference they’re excited to attend, where young people aren’t being spoken down to, and that has a fantastic menu. The next challenge is keeping this passion alive to build on this in a way that’s useful and just as exciting. 


The Creative Futures Conference is happening on the 7th July at Worcester Arts Workshop, more information is available here

By: Heidi Murphy | May 12, 2017

I pretty much win at mental health bingo. Throw some anxiety at some depression, and then sprinkle on a lovely bout of PTSD and you have someone who should really know their own warning signs by now. However, whenever I start to feel myself slipping into a murky fog, I tend to throw myself at work even when its somewhere I definitely shouldn’t be. As Mental Health Awareness Week comes to an end, I’ve written about the difference it makes being able to tell people that you’re in work only because you’re worried about your brain going into overdrive if it doesn’t have the distraction.


The Importance of Open Conversation

Last week, for the first time in my working life, I sat down and told someone that I was struggling – and the world didn’t end. After a month or so of feeling steadily worse, I sat down and told someone that I wasn’t sleeping, didn’t really know what day it was and was struggling to make coherent thoughts and that’s why it took me about 40minutes to draft an email. (aside, this paragraph has taken me about half an hour).

It was really nice. We drank tea. I cried a little bit, and then tried to end the whole thing early, to disguise the fact I was having emotions in a professional environment. We came up with an action plan. Being able to have this dialogue means that I don’t have to compete with myself to be at full throttle all the time, so that nobody thought anything was wrong.

Compare this to a few years ago, I was working in your standard corporate office, doing some casual admin and trying to find an excuse to run away for a hospital appointment every week without telling anyone I was ill. I rescheduled so many appointments, and nobody won in that situation.


Being Able To Change Spaces

I have a ridiculous fear of working in wide open spaces. Co-working spaces are more or less out, and sometimes just facing the door can bring on an anxiety attack about whether or not someone’s looking over my shoulder, and I’m doing my job completely wrong.

Being able to discuss this without judgement means that spaces can physically change to accommodate me and my anxiety; just by moving a desk and chair into a nook boosts my feeling of safety, and my productivity.

One thing someone told me is that if someone broke their leg, you would put a ramp in. If my brain decides that I need to go and cry in a bathroom out of fear because of where a chair is – it should be ok to move that chair.


Sharing Experiences Makes You Feel Less Alone

I was chairing a meeting a few weeks ago, and I completely forgot how to speak. Words wouldn’t form in my mouth and when they did, they tumbled out in sentences that were barely coherent. This happens occasionally, and I put it down to exhaustion; until I recently heard that someone with similar problems to me has the same thing happen to them when they feel ill. Maybe it’s still exhaustion, possibly from the pressure of trudging on (depression is surprisingly exhausting) – but it’s always nice to know that you’re not the only one experiencing something.  


If you're experiencing mental health problems, the Mind website has some fantastic sections on advice, and where you can go for support.


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By: Heidi Murphy | April 04, 2017

We start with a disclosure – not every workspace is suitable for children, and obviously what works for one parent may not work for another. We’re on a journey to find what works for us and our staff. Our trial guinea pig, Imelda, is a fiercely independent toddler, who is happy playing alone and usually loves meeting new people.


I have been sneaking Imelda into work for short bursts of time for a couple of months, trying to find that bridge between spending quality time together and also getting some work done. We’ve done ok so far, if little bits of admin need doing, I can get distracted to play the role of ‘’orange car” in the ongoing drama of ‘blue car likes to smash into orange car’ or Peppa Pig Jurassic Park in which Daddy Pig and family take a safari in their jeep and play with a brontosaurus.


CAGED Arts work really hard to build an atmosphere that’s supportive and welcoming to parents, we have a holiday policy that includes unlimited ‘wellbeing days’ –these can be taken for anything from parenting nightmare to period uncomfortableness, and are paid days of leave. We don’t have the world’s biggest office, and we work in quite a noisy building, so whilst we don’t have a crèche we do have a small selection of toys.


But I’ve been interested to see if I could cope and what would happen if I brought Imelda to meetings across the work day. This intrigue was brought about after a woman who came to a toddler group on work reasons, apologised for bringing her 2 year old son with her. She had nothing to apologise for, but I realised that whilst I was comfortable staying in the office, I rarely proclaimed that I took Imelda to work. So I decided to change this.


It was Friday morning, and after successfully packing two lunchboxes and navigating commuters on the bus, we arrive as unflustered as possible. We work in a building that’s usually quiet on Fridays, so I manage to sneak Imelda in unnoticed. For some reason, I feel like I’m being naughty and like I might be caught at any moment. And when I catch myself thinking this – I force myself to ask ‘what’s going to happen?’. Every time Imelda joins me at work, it feels like I’m doing something wrong, both as a parent and as a member of the workforce; like I’ve crossed streams that should never cross and suddenly I’m neither a good parent, nor a serious member of the workforce. But who I am hasn’t changed just because there is a small person clinging to my leg and singing about dinosaurs (she REALLY likes dinosaurs).


In short, nothing terrible happens. This, to be honest, is a blog post about nothing terrible happening. Our office, when it’s quiet, can be a space that is warm, inviting and safe – whilst still being a productive workspace. It’s a perfectly child friendly environment. There are no comments, when I take Imelda to meetings in the afternoon, and I am very careful not to apologise for her being there. She is not there by fault, she is a part of my day be design.


The only part of my day I find myself apologising for is when *someone* starts screaming, because she can’t play with someone’s shredder. Or when, later on in the afternoon I notice it’s suddenly very quiet, and Imelda has pulled dozens of paper folders out of the bookshelf and I have no idea which shelf from or the order they go in.


But all in all, nothing happens. I am not immediately disgraced as a failure for taking a child to work. Nobody shouts at me in a meeting, not even people who don’t like children. It’s clear that this is not the answer to rising childcare costs, or any long term solution, but it’s important occasional solution – knowing that the option is there. There’s a huge disparity between being a parent and being a member of the workforce, and it’s important to create a culture that says ‘hey, if you need it, bring your children to work. Bring them to the office, take them to meetings. We have your back, and a Ninky Nonk.’ 


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