Rewriting the plaques on Birmingham’s past: What to expect from Overhear’s first Workshop
There’s been a lot going on behind the scenes at Overhear recently, with an expanding team and an updated of vision of what we want to do with the tools we have at our disposal. One of the most exciting outcomes has been the decision to run our first online writing workshop, facilitated by Adrian B Earle (aka Think/Write/Fly) and Kibriya Mehrban (hello!). We knew we wanted to do something that encouraged community and empowered people to write the story of their city – and so Overhear Presents: Statues was born.
Since announcing our plans to run this workshop, we’ve had a few inquiries from people who weren’t sure what to expect, so we’re publishing this blog post as a comprehensive guide to all things Overhear Online Workshop, complete with a rundown of the activities we’ll be doing and what is (and isn’t) required of you.
Before the Workshop
Workshops are not tests. You’re not expected to arrive with any particular knowledge or expertise. When you buy a ticket for the workshop we’ll send you one email with your tickets attached and another that gives you access to two resources:
1. Participant Pack
this is a document that includes an introduction, a schedule for the day with timings and details about how we’re going about recording and pinning participants’ work using the Overhear mobile app
2. Research Pack (view a taster here)
this is a pdf put together by workshop facilitator Adrian, featuring photos and information related to statues in Birmingham. It’s intended to help inspire your work, so we recommend having a flick (or a scroll) through to see what catches your eye. The pack includes a link to an interactive map of Birmingham statues and sculptures too, so you can get a better idea of where everything is.
You don’t need to read these cover to cover before the workshop! They’ve been sent to you beforehand in case you want to get a head start on the kind of writing we’ll be doing but whether or not you do, we’ll make sure everyone is comfortable and knows what they’re doing during the workshop.
This workshop is being hosted on Zoom, meaning you’ll need to have the software downloaded to join us. It’s completely free and a relatively quick installation but we recommend getting it set up beforehand if you can. Click here to go to the Zoom website. The link to the Zoom meeting will be in the email that included a confirmation of your order and a pdf of your tickets. It would also be really useful if you could make your Zoom name the same as the name on your ticket.
Tips for using Zoom:
Allow Zoom Meetings access to your microphone and camera when prompted. You can turn either of these off at any time during the call anyway
Make sure that you’re not muted when you’re trying to talk to other people on the call – Zoom automatically mutes everybody’s microphones on entering the call so you’ll have to unmute manually to be heard.
Feel free to turn your camera or microphone off at any time for whatever reason. If you want to, you’ll have the ability to send a private message to the facilitators to explain why but it’s not required
You can send a private message to the facilitators (host) of the meeting at any time if there’s anything you’d rather not say to the whole group.
We’ll begin the workshop by spending some time getting comfortable with who is in on the call and what we’re all doing there. There’ll be an opportunity for everyone to tell the group who they are and what they like to write as well as some ice-breaker activities. This is a light and relaxed way to help us connect and start with a smile.
Tips: If you struggle with the social side of workshops and meeting new people, we recommend using non-violent communication as a safe and secure way of talking to people you don’t know. Find out more about that here.
Good to know: We have a zero-tolerance policy towards any racism, sexism, homophobia, bullying or harassment. We will eject anyone displaying any such behaviour.
It can be hard to begin writing straight away, so these are exercises to get us in the right frame of mind to get creative and start engaging with the material. We’ll give you a couple of options to try in the hopes that it will spark something interesting. We’re not expecting beautiful polished pieces here – we’ll probably end up with some rough beginnings and talk about how we might build on the ideas in the future.
Open writing sessions
Open writing sessions are set aside for you to be able to make some progress on writing your piece. You’ll have the freedom to choose whether you want to leave the call to get some quiet or drop in to chat as you type – both options are equally valid. There’ll always be someone on the call to answer questions or bounce ideas off of.
We’ve scheduled check-ins at various times during the day to share our progress and get some feedback on the work we’ve been doing. These are times when you’re encouraged to log into the Zoom call and talk a little bit about what you’ve been writing as well as listening to how others have been getting on.
Everyone should get a chance to speak, with the opportunity to share what they’re excited about or frustrated with, what has inspired them and what they’re struggling with. As facilitators, we’ll share advice but we’ll also be asking if you have any tips you think could be useful.
We’ve set an hour and half aside for lunch. That should leave plenty of time for you to eat as well as anything else you might want/need to do in the normal course of your day. Feel free to leave the Zoom call for the whole of this time.
We’ve set aside some time in the afternoon for a group discussion on the subject of statues and their purpose. Similar to the warm-up exercises in the morning, this is to get everybody (back) in the mood to do some creative writing. Again, we’re not expecting perfectly formed responses, just some honest discussion about what we’re thinking. Hopefully this will help to refocus our thoughts ahead of another open writing session.
At the end of the day, we’ve set aside some time for everybody to be able to share what they’ve written with the rest of the group. There’s no pressure to do so if you don’t want to but as facilitators, we might remind you that this is a safe space and that everybody on the call understands that these pieces are works in progress so there won’t be any judgement towards the work or towards you.
Ending the session
After the voluntary sharing, the facilitators will wrap-up the meeting with some thank yous. Others might join in to say what they enjoyed about the day. People will then begin to leave the meeting. To leave the meeting, press the ‘Leave Meeting’ button and then confirm you’re sure when the pop-up appears.
Sometimes, the number of people on the call drops down to just a few and they might continue to talk. Depending on how you’re feeling, you can decide to leave sooner or later but just be aware that not everyone will leave at once.
On the occasion that the Host (this will be one of the facilitators) ends the call, this stops the call for everyone at the same time so if the call stops without your having clicked leave it will be because the Host has ended the call.
After the workshop: Pin Your Poem
Our ultimate goal with this workshop is to produce work that will be recorded and digitally pinned to the physical locations of the statues they’re inspired by, using the Overhear app. We’ll set up a new map that users can select to explore, where they’ll be able to see the places your work is pinned, travel to the location and collect a recording of it. They’ll be able to listen to the work while on location and, if signed in, be able to save it to their library to listen to whenever they like.
To make sure you’re happy with what you’re putting out, we’re giving everybody a week, post-workshop, to edit and perfect their work. When you’re ready, you’ll be able to email us a recording of you reading - along with the location you’d like it to be pinned - and we’ll do the rest.
…and that’s about everything! We’re so excited to be able to share this workshop with you and we can’t wait to see the work that your produce. We hope that this post has been helpful in explaining what to expect from an Overhear workshop, especially if you haven’t been to an online workshop before but if you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch either through social media (scroll down to the bottom of the page!) or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.