Winter Workshops (formerly known as the Autumn Week Workshops)

Hip-hop and raku ceramics, songwriting and Japanese cooking. What is the link? Every year for one week Brockwood’s normal routine grinds to a halt and in its place we have one week’s exposure and excitement with a host of skills. These Winter Workshops provided a learning opportunity for everybody involved and showcased that power Brockwood has of bringing together fascinating people from all corners of the world. Each workshop showcased a unique skill by talented individuals who taught precision techniques to first-time novices in the form of students, mature students and staff at Brockwood Park School. The most obvious example of this is Alan Baxter’s ceramics workshop, dealing with raku firing techniques. This had participants cooking pottery pieces, often in six foot flames raging into the thousands of degrees, with a sure and deft touch. “The beauty of the work is in the unexpected imperfections that the fire gives it,” say Jorge (Spain) and Max (Belgium), two participants in Alan’s workshop.

What is not so unexpected is the fact that Brockwood always has a few celebrities coming and going. However even we were surprised when world renowned artist Nicola Durvasula offered to give a workshop where students learned new sketching techniques as well as roaming our picturesque grounds to sketch life in harmony. The workshop’s beautiful drawings are likely to adorn our walls for many months to come. Nicola was not the only celebrity to arrive at Brockwood for the Winter Workshops. Valentin Gerlier, London-based musician and producer as well as part-time staff member conducted a songwriting workshop where our ever lively musicians stepped up to produce some soul-full jam sessions as well as putting their distinctive touch on a few country-western classics. They were supported in this endeavour by the gentle giant alumnus Chris Gorski (Poland) and his Music Production Workshop. “We learned all the basics of music production as well as having a good insight into the professional aspect of the skill,” says Philip (Germany), a student who participated in the workshop.

This year at Brockwood we have seen the flourishing of another genre of music brought over the Atlantic by mature student Tyler Mayo (USA). As a hip-hop artist and enthusiast Tyler offered students the chance to study the cultures behind Hip-Hop as well as participate in some free styling and verse writing thus exploring the creative side of hip-hop that is usually obscured. Tyler wasn’t the only mature student to offer a workshop, with Roland Bal (Switzerland) giving an introduction to Fascia. This uses various massage techniques on the outer tissue to release the body’s tensions. But for Roland the real joy was in, “sharing another way of communicating with one’s body, listening with your hands.”

While the beats and rhymes were flowing, some students were breaking a sweat in the most physical workshops; Dance with alumnus Seke Chimutengwende (England), Aesthesie by Sarah Hultsch (France) and communication and improvisation with Brahim Issaad (France). These three workshops pushed not only the body, but the mind as well. Communication and improvisation is all about expressing oneself effectively with the whole body and stage as well as involving the audience in impulsive improvisation. This involved lots of exercises of expression and often, “forgetting your manners at the door.” Equally embarrassing was Aesthesie with Sara, who has been visiting Brockwood for three years and says she’s yet to see somebody accomplish the deceptively simple coordination exercises that dancers use to warm up. If Aesthesie was about perfect control and coordination, Dance with Seke was about forgetting those very concepts. Choreography was thrown out the window and the balance between improvisation and structure was explored, involving exercises that explored movements and words. “It was like a meditative improvisation, where you go with the flow of the body within certain limits,” as described by student Fiamma (Italy).

Lastly the workshop that kept us all bright-eyed and bushy tailed throughout the week. Cooking with alumnus Anu (India), and parent Sachiko (Japan) and the ever-energetic staff Sarai (Holland) and Petter (USA). While all of us were relaxing after our workshops, the kitchen workshop worked tirelessly to provide over a hundred people with sumptuous meals on the dot. Over the week we had a taste of Indian, Japanese and of course Continental cuisine.

For each one of us the week was an immense learning experience, often more so for the facilitators than the participants, where we interacted a setting that was somewhere between classroom education, apprenticeships and a social event. Although dubbed “Winter Workshops”, it had the feeling of a summer carnival with the glorious weather that graced the week. Along with this, the school was alive with a buzz as everybody joined hands to collaborate with the whirlwind of talent that descended on us, exemplified by the impressive presentations at the end of the week.

Written by Vasudev Devadasan (Student)

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