Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

How do YOU fit into your education?

February 18th, 2010 · 1 Comment

“Education is the transmission of civilization,” (Will Durant) therefore, factors such as what we teach, how we teach, and who we teach in our education system should send a message about your society. Afterall, Durant states it is indeed a direct representation of our civilization. As I have been volunteering with an organization, BUILD, for the past three months I have been observing how the English education system, as well as the society, regards individuals with learning disabilities. Furthermore, without the ability to control it, I have been analyzing the American education system as well. Does our society and the English society have full acceptance of individuals with learning disabilities, or are they still viewed as burdens? What kind of support is provided to individuals with learning disabilities? Is that support enough?

Rarely do we think of what teenagers and adults with learning disabilities have to deal with when they enter educational and social settings. BUILD, which is a Norwich based organization, uses a range of services to reach out to individuals with learning disabilities in the Norfolk area. These services include socials where individuals get to interact with mentors/volunteers and other participants of the program, one-on-one mentoring, educational programs and etc. Through this organization, individuals get to expand not only their social skills, but also gain comfort and confidence. Organizations like BUILD provide individuals with learning disabilities services and needed advice that the education and the government system does not. From the success of the organization, it is safe to say that the volunteers and the participants are doing something right. But it is also unfortunate to say that organizations such as BUILD is non-profit and relies on the donations of individuals. It is important to further question what kind of support the government and the education system in U.K. provide to individuals who might need further help, and whether that further reflects our society’s view on individuals with learning disabilities. Some of these questions I hope to further answer in my research paper.

One workshop that BUILD is hoping to hold within next few weeks with which I’ve been helping to organize is regarding educating participants of BUILD in government, policies, and voting system. When I heard the plan that the director of the organization is organizing, I was impressed and excited, because even I still need help with learning about UK political system. However, the demographics of voting are not positive. Although 80% of people with learning disabilities are registered to vote, only 1 in 6 participated in their local election and 1 in 8 in the last general election. Upon further research and discussion, it seems that the complexity of the system, and a shortage of accessible information keeps individuals from actually voting. Therefore, BUILD’s workshop would encourage individuals to get involved and educate in areas where the society and the education system fails to do so. The first goal is to have more accessible information about candidates and the actual voting system. I wonder for why the running candidates do not reach out to individuals who have learning disabilities. The possibility is that our society still does not view all individuals as equals, equals in learning, achieving the same level of success, or picking their next leader.

As I  continue to volunteer with BUILD, I learn that such organizations pick up the slack of where the actual system fails. We should all further question what does our education system represent, is it a mirror image of our society?

I plan on exploring this further.

Tags: Jeyla

Hometown Glory Part 2: the Interview & the Show

February 18th, 2010 · 1 Comment

Interview with John Osborne, member of Aisle 16**

On Monday night, at the Norwich Arts Centre, I got to play member of the press. Showing up for my interview with Aisle 16, I bought my ticket for the show and asked at the front desk where I could find the poetry group for their interview. They sent my name back, and I got escorted into the performance area not only for my interview, but o see a little tech setup behind the scenes action (pretty cool). There, I spent some time talking with John Osborne, of Aisle 16.

Since my arrival in Norwich I have noticed that there is a very accessible and large poetry scene here. Osborne gave several reasons he thought that Norwich was unique. The first is UEA, which brings a lot of good caliber writers to Norwich. The second is the Bird Cadge which opened in 2006 when Osborne was a student at UEA. While Osborne admitted, “I can’t really say how it’s different since I don’t know a lot of other areas,” he was willing to say, “it’s better than other areas and when people come to t he area they are impressed with it.”

In the history of Norwich and East Anglian poetry there is a long line of rural and agricultural poetry. But Aisle 16’s poetry, and the contemporary poetry in Norwich has moved significantly away from that. Osborne suggested that this is because poets write about what they know, what touches and influences them on a daily basis. For those poets, farming was central to their lives, but today that average person in East Anglia may never visit a farm.

I asked Osborne how Norwich and UEA influenced his experience with poetry. He admitted, “I really didn’t have any knowledge of poetry. I liked song lyrics but I had never heard of performance poetry until my time at UEA. I learned about performance poetry from my friends and people I met at UEA.” This is just another way that the contemporary Norwich poetry has changed from the time of Bloomfield and other historic East Anglian Poets. With the university there begins a learning process and collective exploration that was not there before.

In my studies of East Anglian poetry, and poetry in general, I have always been more familiar with the published and printed poetry rather than the spoken word poetry. When asked to comment on this Osborne suggested that performance poetry is a cross between stand-up comedy and poetry. There are some live poems he would never publish because they just don’t look good on paper. But when you hear them, they are brilliant. Others don’t sound as good, they might be really depressing and people just don’t want to hear that. You always have to keep in mind your audience. But hopefully a poet’s persona as a published poet and a performance poet is not too different. He offered an analogy to a vendiagram to explain this. One circle is you when you perform, the other is you when you write. The center overlap is your identity as poet. The bigger the center the better more successful poet you will be.

Osborne's vendiagram of poetry

When asked the classic chicken-egg question: what came first, the poetry or the theme of the show? Osborne explained that in this case the theme of ‘going home’ came first, and the poetry was written around that, but that that is not always the case. With the publication of Aisle 16 book, Live from the Hellfire Club, Osborne noted that they would still consider themselves a performance poetry over a written poetry group.

Finally, for all you aspiring poets out there, Osborne’s big piece of advice is to write everything down. Keep a notebook by your bed and write down all your ideas, even if they are just words or sentences. Because, as Osborne explains, the blank page can be hard to conquer and it is much easier to start with some old ideas.

**Please note that despite the use of quotations this post is a paraphrase of what was said during the interview with John Osborne

The Show: Local Boys Done Good

The show itself was fantastic. It combined both the spoken word of the poets and various videos and music which flashed and played on a large projector screen behind them. It opened with a piece on the awkward teenage years, by Tim Clare, which he performed at the UEA Grad Bar the week before. Then, Aisle 16 members Ross Sutherland, Joe Dunthorne, and Chris Hicks performed an interactive poem called, “Raise Your Status,” which, as the title suggests, offered various comical ways to raise your status. But both these acts served simply as an introduction to the real show.

After the break, Sutherland introduced the theme of the show by defining ‘home.’ He touched on Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle, and used a circular diagram to describe the progression of the hero after he’staken away from home as he seeks to return home. However, Sutherland asked what would happen if suddenly the diagram was flipped, and home was on the dark uncertain side of the circle, and we were trying to escape home rather than return to it? I found this very moving, especially when he said, “Home is the place that knows us better than anywhere.”

The cycle of leaving and returning home

After this introduction each member of the group discussed their experiences performing in their hometowns, while a video clip played behind them. Each member also performed the piece they wrote for their hometown.

John Osborne, first performed his piece “Local Boys Done Good” in the town hall of his hometown in Brigg. Ross Sutherland wrote “When Paper Boys Roam The Earth” about his hometown Coggeshall Essex and performed it in the Chapel Pub there. Joe Dunthorne read his poem about the rough nature of the city Swansea in Wales where he grew up entitled, “Wild Wild West.” Chris Hicks grew up in Quarley, Hampshire. Unlike the performers before him, Hicks had a terrible time doing the show for his hometown and called it one of the “worst experiences of his life.” He performed two poems, “Monkstone Demands 20” about the neighboring town, and “Yesterday Reenactment Society.” And last but not least, the show closed with Tim Clare who explained his experience going home where he realized, “My hometown had done better than I had.” Because the town had done so well, the only venue he could book for him hometown show was the playhouse. And to close the show, Clare performed a touching song (which unfortunately I cannot find a video of) on a ukulele called, “Think of England.”

The show offered something for everyone: comedy, drinking, frustration, and a poignancy that forced us all to consider how our hometowns have shaped us, how as children we dreamt of getting far away, and how as adults we must eventually return and confront a place central to who we are.

Hours: 3

Total Hours: 3

Tags: Megan