Sunday, 12 December 2010

Tabla rasa

Saturday lunchtime we attended Rhiannon's end of term show in Coventry with the performing arts Saturday school for youngsters, named 'Highly Sprung'. She finds this more enjoyable than traditional ballet classes she previously attended. The school's fifty children, aged from five and fifteen performed their own version of 'Mary Poppins' in dance and movement routines which required a great deal of discipline and concentration to work well. It was most impressive, and evidently a lot of fun for the kids and dance professionals working with them.

Rhiannon's love of performing arts has been caught from her parents. It isn't imposed on her. Any activity that makes use of her creative imagination is a winner with her, thank goodness. Last year there was a playground fashion for the Nintendo DS, so Santa brought her one. She also acquired a simple A- framed blackboard / whiteboard, and an array of writing tools. After a few months, the 'DS' ended up with other discarded toys. Hardly a day passes that she doesn't spend an hour or so writing and drawing on her boards, making up her own games with it. Clare bought one to keep here for her when she visits. She kept us entertained for ages by involving us in  board games generated by her imagination, when they were down last weekend.

Modern electronic toys and computer games are marketed with the promise of working wonders in the imagination. In practice they are much more limited in what they can achieve than  a device as simple as a tabla rasa, couple with a family that will play with you, rather than give you things to play with.

In the evening we all drove over to Northampton where Kath works, managing the County's dance programme, to watch the publicity launch performance of a project which has involved over seventy children in five schools. There were two local MPs several local Councillors and the local Mayor in attendance. Kath had her give her first Official Public welcome speech to the dignitaries present. I was most proud of her, naturally. 

The performance itself was exceptional, showing what can be achieved with kids that have little or no background in any kind of physical theatre, all dancing with great energy and enthusiasm, working under leadership, accepting team discipline to produce an event everyone loved. It fired them with the desire to repeat the experience - which they all will, because components of the show will tour around schools in the County. Great value for money for educational bureaucrats, wanting to get kids  (well just girls actually - for policy reasons) physically active, socially engaged and artisitically creative, all under the same budget headline. It's a pity arts projects of this kind are being targeted so early in the current round of government cuts.

If only local authorities knew how to spend less money on computer systems from big monopoly companies like Microsoft and Apple, and invested in developing free Open Source resources capable of performing on standard hardware equally as well, if not better. If they did, a lot more funding could be released to enhance the rest of the curriculum - artistic and scientific.

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