Today’s question is “Do creativity and confidence always go hand in hand? ” and I’m in conversation with Lucy Sicks.
Lucy, is CEO and Founder of LIFEbeat an organisation which builds creative programme communities to nurture the wellbeing of young people.
Please note, the transcript is auto generated.
Lucy Sicks: welcome to Pooky ponders the podcast where I explore big questions with brilliant people. I’m Pooky. Nice
Pooky Knightsmith: meth. And I’m your host today’s question is do creativity and confidence. Always go hand in hand and I’m in conversation with Lucy sick.
Lucy Sicks: My name is Lucy sick. And, um, I am a co-founder, I’m the director of an organization called life feet. And we use, um, we worked with creativity and the power of the group and community to hopefully make very transformative interventions in young people’s lives. And, um, you know, I’m passionate about children and young people and their development and potential and voices and, um, and also really committed to working alongside people who work with children.
And I have a background in the arts, which maybe we’ll talk that.
Pooky Knightsmith: Yes. So when you say, um, transformative interventions, what does that mean? What kind of transformation are you hoping to achieve?
Lucy Sicks: Um, I think the overall goal is that when a young person or a group of young people come on our programs, our only intention is that they.
Um, are able to express themselves and become a little bit more of who they are. They kind of find their unique spark and side, and that, that results in them feeling able to be safely more visible, more able to express themselves and at the same time, more grounded. And, um, so, and also that they have more hope in themselves life, um, their own potential and also their own agency in making that happen for themselves.
So that’s what we’re looking to achieve. So
Pooky Knightsmith: what kind of people do you generally work with who would get referred into your programs
Lucy Sicks: also? It’s we collaborate with youth organizations, schools, individual referrals, children’s social care, um, and. So, and actually the objective is to bring together as diverse, a group of young people as possible.
And ideally not too many people, we know each other and we build community, um, straight off the bus, so to speak. And then we all go through a very, uh, high and intense program together. And, um, hopefully everybody will have discovered a little bit more of themselves and those partnerships. So the youth organizations and school partners are really important in terms of the kind of before and after.
And, um, yeah.
Pooky Knightsmith: So in what sense that, because they have to hold these young people, either side of the program that you’re doing, or do you mean in a different
Lucy Sicks: way? Um, Well, we often find that actually would life be that a lot of youth organizations send some youth workers with their young people because they discover themselves and the young people in a new way.
And, um, so it also works to kind of up-skill the adults, as well as at the same time kind of making this serious intervention of pay and positivity for the young people. And that’s probably the best model because, you know, we work in a very heart-centered way actually. And so that’s often quite a lot more, that’s sometimes a bit more intensively as partner organizations.
That’s a great compliment. And then, you know, in terms of embedding that back in their lives, we offer an extended community all year round with reunions and meetups and youth counseling. And, um, and so it means that life B way can be cascaded right through. On the ground. So
Pooky Knightsmith: tell me about the life beat way.
I mean, what does this actually look like in practice? What happens if I turn up to your intervention? What will I be doing?
Lucy Sicks: Okay. So I’ll, I’ll sort of signature summer camp program is, um, you would arrive on a bus, say the London ones, uh, coming from London. And so it really starts before you get there. Um, straight off the bus, we, um, organize everyone’s, you know, where they’re going to sleep.
And so it’s, I suppose, as a priority, um, we prioritize that. Cat, we make it feel like that they’re coming to someone’s home prep we do with our staff is very much about that warm, loving, welcome. And that first day we do intensive community build. So after a few hours, really everyone will have connected learn each other’s names.
Um, we’ll have laughed. We’ll have actually created something together within just three hours. Wow. Yeah. How do you do that? How do we do that? Well, we do, um, lots of creative part. It’s very structured work. All our programs are very structured with practice after practice for a reason. Um, and how do we do that?
We do that with just very skilled facilitators. Okay. Um, and, and we separate everybody. So we might have 50 teenagers who haven’t met before, and they’re all then placed in smaller groups called family groups. They’re like home groups. So that’s like your sort of anchor group for the week. And so we’re just within just a few hours.
Every family group will have named themselves and also come up with a creative performance. Okay. Wow. Okay. Yeah. And it’s just amazing. It’s so quick, but we do it. We turn the temperature up in terms of risk, creative risk. Very, very slowly, very, very carefully. Um, we don’t kind of pull, pull out volunteer.
We ask the volunteers, so we would never kind of elect someone to speak or do something. We just, it was all by invitation. Um,
Pooky Knightsmith: and why, why tell me about creative risk and why that matters and why you
Lucy Sicks: want to introduce that
Pooky Knightsmith: or bit nice and slowly.
Lucy Sicks: Because there’s something about, well, just broadly just stripping it, but more conceptually, um, you know, there’s something about the arts and creativity that link something about the head and the heart and what really, really matters to us.
What is essentially our own value and the value and things we value and that we’re able to express ourselves something deep in ourselves, you know, find a language for something, just deepen the fabric of who we are through creative expression. Um, in terms of creative risk, stepping into newness, whether that’s through play or games, every time we do that and we have, uh, we’re seen and had accepted and valued.
And we find our place with them that, and we actually have become a little challenge in a way that makes us feel good. Um, we become a little bit more visible and to ourselves and other people actually. Um, and we do it slowly so that there’s not that awful feeling of feeling overexposed, associate creativity with come on and perform, or, and they’re evaluated on that on the sort of condition of that performance.
So we’re not about that at all.
Pooky Knightsmith: I guess you have to facilitate quite carefully so that people don’t feel that they’re failing. Cause I guess you could have the opposite effect couldn’t you on the confidence? Yeah.
Lucy Sicks: Yeah. Completely in, in a room full of 50 people, we usually work with a community of about 80, 90 people.
So there are 52 managers, so we’re very high ratio and yes, the smallest gesture. The smallest mistakes from the front in terms of that facilitation can have a huge impact. So, you know, we put a lot into stump training to kind of be very vigilant of those, the new ones, you know, just as it happens on an interpersonal level and a therapeutic relationship, it’s, it’s, it’s things have to be facilitated with the same, same level of awareness, really, and consciousness of what’s happening in the room.
Pooky Knightsmith: And how has this kind of developed, because you’ve been working on this program for some time now, haven’t you, and is it, you know, tell me a little
Lucy Sicks: bit about how it kind of came
Pooky Knightsmith: about and why this felt important and yeah, the evolution of it.
Lucy Sicks: So, um, well, to me, um, to me, you mean? Yeah. Okay. Um, well, how I came upon it, I had a background in the arts and, um, I ended up being director of the London, contemporary art first.
So that was a kind of previous career where I suppose I, I became passionate about the value of culture and the arts. Then I retrained. I decided, well, actually that in itself, didn’t much of enough to me passing as a real folk in the road, um, where I decided am I going to ramp up my own kind of knowledge and, um, sort of vision for what that could look like?
And I decided no, because I decided what really mattered to me were where people, and I’d had my own journey, um, you know, in a journey and my. I mean exploration before that, quite some time from quite young know, I was probably 20 when I had a kind of awakening around that. And then, and then I retrained as therapists and, um, but there was something, so I had these two sides of me and the therapeutic stuff, you know, what, with families and, and adults mostly.
Um, and then I had some experience with American treatment, residential treatment centers that were very experientially of the power of the group, and often used creativity in that endeavor. And, um, and then, so something had to bring these things together just as life happens, you know, it was, uh, it was a kind of convergence for me of, of a meeting that propelled this.
I was sort of looking for it. Um, I was doing a bit of group supervision, um, at a therapy training called an agenda. One of my colleagues, I, I said, I was chance conversation. I said, you know, what I’d really like to be doing is working with young people. And there’s this, um, friend and Coleen is extremely intuitive, said she just written a paper therapeutic campaign about, uh, creating safe spaces for teenagers and yeah, and she had a Quaker background.
And anyway, she said, Oh, I’ve heard about this guy. And he’s working with this model in the States. And it was called power of hope. And, um, and anyway, things rolled out and I had a chance meeting with this man. And it was just, so the model that they’d been working with the States was so familiar to me in terms of all the things I’d done that I just, I just knew it was, it was extraordinary.
I just knew that in my deep instinct, And so we set up like beat and, and it’s, you know, why have I seen, it’s just the extraordinary results. Why haven’t I been able to turn away from it? It’s just the most impactful thing I’ve ever been involved with. So it’s truly inspirational what happens. And, you know, I had a lot of questions as the therapist, you know, programs or interventions, you know what, but, and I thought, well, okay, can you take it?
And you’re taking a person out of their family system and their social system and make an intervention. How is that when they go back? Yeah. And then I thought also, you know, really over time and loads of questions, but, you know, consistently after seeing the impact and really they, they hold on, they get something that just no one can ever take away from them ever again.
Pooky Knightsmith: And do you give an example? Like, is there anyone that’s really stuck with you that where you feel it’s really impacted?
Lucy Sicks: Yeah, I could think of thousands of, yeah. Um, okay. Well, uh, very, you know, we’ve, we’ve, we’ve welcomed all kinds of people. Um, young people from, you know, high achievers to, through to say a high achiever who might have be extensively on a very successful path, but through that level of being high achievers, also huge pressure and then experiencing kind of divorce separation in our family.
And the sort of hardship, um, um, the rupture and the trauma that at a particular time, and then, you know, life becoming like an extended community or family for them and just seeing that person really on their way. So I’ve known some of these young people now 10 years. So I see them blossoming into their lives, you know, successful, happy lives and not in the world’s terms, but in T in their terms.
And I think so it can be that, or it can be, you know, at the moment we’re looking very intensively at anti racism and our role in that as an organization, we have a high, um, black, we, we have a lot of young people from the black community and just, you know, hearing a lot of the challenges they face daily in terms of racism and, you know, that sense of being.
Displaced and dislocated, and also all the family traumas and the traumas that exclusion or, you know, and just seeing them find their place, you know, in our community. And, and also the behavior changing way where you might see behaviors as a communication, um, that sort of acting out that, that real fear of contact relationship.
And often we see the behaviors go up, you know, because the trust levels are more on the table. The trust question. And, um, and then there’s a mid point in the program where you just see that behavior change and the trust come in, um, and releasing them into a place where they can just relax and be themselves and trust that they’re going to be mad in that.
I mean, it’s so I can think of so many. Examples of, you know, someone, we don’t have many young people with high levels of need in terms of whatever, you know, how, whatever label spectrum, but, you know, talking to family too, you might say that the son has been a couple of times and it’s the only place where he’s fine, found his place.
You know, you know, I mean, I can think of someone at the moment I don’t want to in any way indicate, so they might see themselves, you know, it’s just so moving when, when a family says, and then they turn up to everything, everything, and, um, you know, find that place in a leadership program where, you know, they’re exploring dance as a, as a way of dealing with mental health or.
Something just doing things they wouldn’t otherwise do. It’s all broad, it’s broad. So that learning from different. So, you know, we like, that’s the whole point. I think it’s one of the few places where young people can come and everyone is on a level playing field.
Pooky Knightsmith: So what kinds of, so you mentioned dance.
I mean, what are the actual kind of activities that, that young people might get involved in as part of your programs?
Lucy Sicks: Okay. So every day I’ll tell you how we do the community, build with games, name, games, and games, and all sorts. So every day we start with a community meeting, we create a community and the young people share in the making of that community around agreements.
So it’s very democratic and there’s a sense of young people’s voices as being important from the beginning. Okay. Um, so that’s the backbone of the community and the program. And we re revisit that every day and we say, how are we doing as a community? We’re very clear about our program goals and, and, and a central one is expanding our creativity, learning from others, different to ourselves, um, connecting with nature.
It’s still, we’re not in a lives and that’s beyond all different all denominations and taking action on things we care about. So the whole program is geared around that. And every day we do a community meeting, then we do a plenary. Which is a whole group session in ITP worries. We had store thing and that might be looking at our lives as the river and the trajectory of that story.
We do it in our family groups in the big space. It might be looking at, um, prejudice and discrimination and stereotypes, but we do it experientially and creatively through art and performance. Um, it might be, um, kind of how we connect on natural world. These big countries that are designed with a creative component, which it also involves self-reflection and personal storytelling and the group.
Um, then every day there’s a choice of two lot, two lots of workshops and they are the staff and volunteers is big volunteering program, um, deliver creative workshops. So that might be. You know, drumming, dancing, poetry, writing lyrics on themes or not on themes. And we, again, we deepen that it might be a discussion program.
Youth led. If there were times you might have a series of discussions, um, sort of, you know, bushcraft land-based stuff. Um, and so they can choose those and try new things. You know, there’s a whole art barn for the week space that’s just held and people can. Do you love the workshops there in all kinds of medium and media.
And, and then that space is often held at free time for just hanging out in and finishing off things, listen to music. It’s lovely. I mean, it’s so lovely. Well, people readily
Pooky Knightsmith: engage or are they ever kind of scared by these kinds of activities? Because as an adult, like the idea, I mean, it sounds amazing on the one hand and on the other, and he can, I wouldn’t know how to do any of those things.
I’d feel deeply uncom. Do you know what I mean?
Lucy Sicks: Yeah. It’s conflict there. It’s a really good question. And, um, I think because we, the way we do things I would say, and everything can sound a little bit arrogant or complacent, but after 12 years, I can honestly say this is consistently because we take things up the temperature up very slowly.
I would say we get buy-in within the first evening. From Bo at least 80% of the young people are in well and truly in, and, and also the workshops break down to smaller groups and that very, you know, the facilitates are trained in being mostly focused on the relationships and the empathy and the interpersonal violence.
So it’s, it’s invitational rather than kind of it’s framed as, as a choice. And, and so no, and then the other 20%, or some cancers, 10%, some cancers, 5%, as I said, you will get a group of young people that will stand on the fringe and happens every time. But really what they’re concerned about is the risk posed to them on a psychological and emotional level in terms of.
Stepping into the fray and trusting and connecting with others. They’re the ones that are likely to either be at risk of exclusion or have been excluded. Yeah. And then, yeah, this real fast, the intimacy of that. So it’s not the art activities, it’s more the relational stuff that they’re afraid off because they’ve been let
Pooky Knightsmith: down.
Lucy Sicks: what, what do you think is the barrier there? They’ve been let down a million times they’ve been let down would the primary caregivers, the families that, you know, rupture in relationship, um, that dumbass system excluded from school. Um, their behavior has become a challenge, but their behaviors has become less safe where I’ve been the world, because it creates
Pooky Knightsmith: a good job that when you got these young people, who’ve been kind of let down repeatedly and they’re kind of standing on the fringes and you’ve got this amazing program.
What, what role do you play? What changes.
Lucy Sicks: Well, we have a team on the staff who will have a skillset and an experience of interpersonal, um, work, you know, um, with young people who, and the brief to all the staff is that the relationships are the most important thing. Okay. So whether people are, you know, we know the program works, so we encourage as much participation as possible and the more we can fold people in individually.
So we have a strategy that says, you know, if there’s a group staff, get alongside that group, kind of youth work form relationships, and then invite them to come and join a workshop over time. And as the group gets smaller, because it becomes, it’s like a group of belonging outside of the group, which is how society is, how life is, how schools are.
And, um, You know, we see that right from dark right through. Don’t make sense. And so slowly, slowly through the relationships with the staff and then the bonds that they start creating outside of that home safety. Great. They generally fall down. I mean, I I’ve in 12 years and then we do something right in the middle.
We do personal storytelling, you know, we aren’t invite the, in people to tell their stories. So as they start to become more authentic, then the barriers break down because they, the, you know, really the fear comes from looking at people’s outsides, doesn’t it? Yeah. We don’t know each other in terms of that, those veils and, and, and every, everybody is a potential threat if you’ve been knocked down a million times.
So, um, I think the trust starts to build, as people start to. Tell a little bit of the story and start to be, become more and more authentic.
Pooky Knightsmith: And what does that storytelling take? Is that a literal kind of verbal thing? Or is that done through art or how, how do you, how do you access people?
Lucy Sicks: Well, we invite them and again at that, at their own pace.
So we might do an exercise called the river of life and, um, and, um, that’s an art practice where they might draw, draw, draw river if they want, you know, otherwise it can be a Mark on a page or they can do it verbally. Isn’t that nothing’s go us. And then the invitation is, you know, our life we have alive and this is a unique, we are unique and valuable and precious and our life is.
And so, um, we might share that, you know, some, should we take them, we take the temperature up a challenge we’ve overcome or, um, Some things that people that have mattered to us in our journey. And, um, and so people draw their pictures and then they share whatever they want or feel able to. And some, some, some people won’t want to do that, but then the request is that we just, we try and stay as present as we can, but we’ve always got the backup, you know, of teams of people that, and kind of be there and sweep in and, and get alongside at different points.
So that’s how really, it, it, the trust builds over time. And, and that’s how we ask them, tell us stories and that’s it. So, but we also do it, your question about creativity, you know, every night and, and even when they’re doing their art project. So if you’re doing a sort of lyric writing, there’s a little ask that too, for people that have come to that workshop to express something and, um, So the confidence just starts building really, really quickly that finding a voice.
Pooky Knightsmith: is it important? Cause you said before that you try specifically to bring people together who don’t already know each other, is that because that creates a safer environment for exploring the stories or what was the motivation between
Lucy Sicks: bringing strangers together? Assumption something. So it’s when we think ourselves about how we are in different relationship.
We’re often, um, you know, we have different stories attached to every relationship we have and we know ourselves in certain ways, depending on who we are with in terms of shared experience or expectations of roles and dynamics, and particularly with teenagers. So, so socially cued don’t they to fit in and behave to, to certain norms.
Um, when you get groups of friends coming also that they want to have a really good time account together in their roles. So this idea of exploring and becoming, exploring new sides of, of self and, and trying new things that can sometimes help them back because they, they want to, they’ve already got a set of norms.
Yeah, I can
Pooky Knightsmith: sounds so it’s quite freeing if they’re not amongst their peers or they’re amongst new peers, essentially, they can kind of find themselves a little bit and be free to do new things. How does the transition work then when they leave you, um, how do you help them to hold onto the things that they’ve
Lucy Sicks: learned about themselves and the skills that they’ve
Pooky Knightsmith: developed?
Lucy Sicks: Yeah. Well, on the, at the end, we do quite a lot around ending. I mean, I’m sure, you know, we’ve, you’ve been involved in sharing programs. These intensive programs every day feels like a month, doesn’t it? So we do quite a lot around the ending before the ending of cam and they, for instance, they’ll, they’ll do a, uh, sort of home plan for themselves around enhancing their wellbeing and, um, self care strategies for self.
And also what new things they’ve tried that they really want to take home. Okay. And intentions to the steps they want to take. And, um, and then they write a letter to themselves that we then post to them in six months time. Oh, wow. What a lovely idea, you know, their vision for how they, how they see themselves at that point.
What they want to give to themselves is a lot about self natural and self-love, and then we have a reunion shortly afterwards, and, um, we bring everyone together and we revisit those intentions that they left. They left the programs with, and then obviously we have the relationships of the partner organizations, which, and then there’s a kind of handover into what.
What might next steps might look nice and, yeah,
Pooky Knightsmith: that’s fine. And with the, kind of the, the, the sharing of stories, which seems like such a kind of crucial part of this, um, journey and experience, do you think that it is about the sharing of their own story? That’s the important bit, or is it about hearing about other people’s stories or both?
Lucy Sicks: That’s super interesting and pertinent question. It’s both, it’s absolutely both because I think the liberating, um, thing for young people, you know, is it’s very, very rare in their school lives for them to experience a level of. Authenticity, amongst peers of people really speaking from the heart. You know, it doesn’t generally happen in schools.
I mean, I’ll tell you about that. We’ve been doing some training schools around that, but, um, and so I think just that experience of that becoming a norm amongst their own peer group. So empowering, because it means that socializing that, that teenage, um, peer kind of, um, attunement is dropped an authentic level where people can be themselves and talk about their vulnerabilities and their hopes and fears and dreams in a way that isn’t usually acceptable.
No, actually. So that is really empowering in the braiding and just. And then also, you know, it’s extraordinary, the natural empathy that is, is drawn out in intelligence for each shelter, which usually we assume that there isn’t, but it’s just, it’s it’s tightly, innate and through and through in that situation.
And then the, the feeling of being heard, seen valued, not humiliated, judged, excluded marginalized when you are authentic and say, well, I haven’t got it all sorted. Um, it’s just celebrating. No,
Pooky Knightsmith: it sounds like you create an environment where teenagers are able to kind of be the very best version of themselves.
And I don’t mean like a perfect version, but just a real version, I guess. Um, so tell me about the training you’re doing with schools, then what’s the motivation there and what you, what are you doing and what are you hoping to achieve?
Lucy Sicks: Well, we, um, we do our own Chinese anyway, and that’s how people come to volunteer on the programs that same creative facilitation, creative practices that anyone can use.
It’s easy to upskill people that are not artists to use our space practices to achieve certain things, but we’ve been doing that 12 years, right. Alongside the programs. And that’s how people come to volunteer on our programs. They come on those trainings. It’s only maybe, you know, half the people that come on, those trainings have actually come on our programs.
So that’s been a strand. So the school’s work is, was started off as kind of, um, um, PSA. We actually worked with, someone said County council and public health thing who, I know you, um, you’ve also had lenses and we were working on their PSHE. All right, say cheese and more recently, um, training programs, but very much been creativity at the Hartford, trying to upskill teachers to take this creative approach.
And then also they develop this wellbeing framework around the three pillars, you know, the knowing relationships, healthy lifestyles, and we’ve done trainings to creative group process trainings to Enlive in those killers so that the teachers can take away with lots of can take away art space, creative practices to explore different things and to take the conversations deeper in safe ways that, that aren’t all about this really, um, you know, the depth of storytelling that we do in our own programs, but can at least take the conversations a bit deeper and in turn more authentic place because teachers feel so.
You know, it felt so anxious about that. What happened?
Pooky Knightsmith: Yeah, I was going to say, I mean, that’s a really hard thing that you’re trying to do. I mean, I try and do some work in that area and it’s really difficult to build that confidence actually, um, in, in people to have those conversations. And I think it’s much easier coming in from the outside often to, to create that sort of space.
But for someone who’s working with young people every day, uh, who knows them, um, I think that’s harder. How do you, so how do you, how do you do that? How do you ever come that? How do you build
Lucy Sicks: that confidence? Well, I think, I think the practices very structured. Okay. You know, they include every voice, so, and they take the temperature up slowly.
So they’re not designed to drop people into a, there could be all kinds of disclosure. And also, I suppose the truth is, as you say that a lot of teachers will have different levels of confidence in that. Yeah. Yeah, I think more recently, um, you know, vision has been also the power of creativity, particularly this time in COVID-19 to create, to put the emphasis on schools as communities create that sense of belonging and value where people are seen, heard, and, and can express themselves.
Um, and that, that is so to facilitate that through creativity, creativity is also a buffer, you know, you create as kind of third party therapy, really where you behold someone’s expression that is not necessarily directly looking at them. So there is a buffer that, which brings about a kind of shared experience, um, which is intimate and, um, authentic and safe.
Um, um, but doesn’t kind of drop the whole class and to. A very risky situation where a teacher might not have the skills or confidence to deal with that. So they’re quite structured processes. We’re giving people,
Pooky Knightsmith: so teaching them kind of specific activities that they would facilitate and that kind of thing, or
Lucy Sicks: is it a little bit, yeah.
Yeah. Specific activities all the time. So if you’re doing emotional literacy as part of PSHE, how do you play games to build up that, that language, which works not only in terms of building up verbal language, locating these in the body and that sort of emotion, perching and team and self-regulation, but you’re also doing it in a group.
So that experiential process. So you’re also already building in that, um, that building that confidence in terms of self-expression working with listening and expressing. So you also, uh, You’re building that interpersonal skills as well. So I think rather than sitting in a class with a page of emotions and images and looking at them, you bring that alive through a game that’s very structured.
So that’s the kind of thing. And also looking at how at the moment schools can build that community through a creative story. Okay. Tell me more. So that might be a multi arts kind of story, where, um, you might use drama to explore a theme of this time. You might then use, um, you have an art space, um, practice that actually means that everyone can express their, their experience through a display.
You might do a group poem that could be performed. And so, you know, some of the presses we work with can take a group from, you know, within an hour and to performing a poem that they’ve created. Wow. Yeah. I mean, I’d love to do, I need to, it sounds really, but we did all the time, so that’s um, so w we’ve trying to give people the skills to do these things, um, and, and we do them.
You know, we ask people, the teachers and the people you’re working with to experience that themselves and to, to see themselves go from here and within an hour to be performing a Pam integrate,
Pooky Knightsmith: you were expecting the teachers and the facilitators to kind of learn alongside the liners though. Um, and be part of that experience.
Lucy Sicks: Yeah. The way we train is experiential. So everything went advocating as, as a practice, we ask people to experience themselves. Wow. Does that
Pooky Knightsmith: mean then the, for the people who support and help to, to kind of lead and facilitate your programs? I mean, they must be giving a lot of themselves a lot of the time.
Uh, if that’s the kind of practice you’re encouraged, I mean, how do you, you know, how do they look after themselves? And, you know, there’s so many questions there, but
Lucy Sicks: yeah, it’s really good question as it is for teachers in schools, isn’t it. And, um, youth workers and everyone at the coalface. I think we, we try, you know, we do rotors, we do a lot of training around boundaries and into personal relationships.
And, um, you know, we have the teams that have more experience than others who are the go-to teams that maybe have a therapy background where the boundary, and then we try, we do rest as best slots where stuff sign up to those, you know, because we’re in family grades, you have different righted, um, tasks.
And, and, and also just as I say to teachers, when we’re doing this, you know, if we build in wellbeing or sort of self-care practices for the young people, the self gets to do them themselves. So in the program, if you have say half an hour, get towards just even relaxation or mindfulness or. Stretching or yoga practice, everyone
Pooky Knightsmith: gets to do that.
Lucy Sicks: So we try to encourage the staff to introduce well self-care wellbeing, practice into their workshops as a way of also being able to sort of take those five minutes might be a mindfulness breathing session. You know, you get to do it yourself. So
Pooky Knightsmith: the, the, the staff, uh, stick with the whole thing and they don’t kind of dip out during those quieter moments to, to get on without men or whatever.
They, they, they stick with the program and yeah, yeah,
Lucy Sicks: yeah, yeah. That they’re very intensive programs, but we just put a lot down. We did a residential, we can just a weekend and it was with, um, a group to try and. And it was all creative workshops and from one school. So they did all know each other. And the aim was to build wealth, wellbeing champions for the school.
And by day two, they led the workshops. Oh, wow.
Pooky Knightsmith: That’s incredible. So how long are you, how long are your programs usually then? So this was a weekend and that, that was unusual. How long are they? Typically?
Lucy Sicks: They usually eight days. Eight days. Wow. I like, yeah. Yeah. That’s a long time
Pooky Knightsmith: now. And what, um, how has your work changed during lockdown?
Presumably you’re not holding these kinds of events because people can’t come together. And what, what, yeah. What, what, what form is your work taking at the moment?
Lucy Sicks: Um, well, at the moment, I would say we don’t, we did a lot of online creative workshops for young people for the first month. We also held our own staff teamwork, community, really extended facilitators all over the country.
So. We have three sessions a week for them halt sharing circles and, um, and we’ve had reunions and diaper mikes and, um, for our community, and they’ve been really wonderful online. And then we’ve done quite a lot of training, uh, for schools, just little bite-size trainings and more recently the most important then that we’re looking at as a community is, um, anti-racism okay.
Yeah, because we have, you know, learning from others, different tasks. Cells is very much at the heart of our programs and we have a strong black community in life beat. And when the death of George Floyd occurred, obviously it was the arising of a global trauma really in towns of that. Systemic racism, you know, oppression.
And so that arose in our own TNT. So we’ve been doing an intensive program with, uh, with the adults to look at that, to look at systemic racism and what that means and what it’s going to mean for our programs going
Pooky Knightsmith: forward. And what does it mean for your programs going forward?
Lucy Sicks: I think where we intend to go, um, is to become an actively anti-racist organization, very different to non racist, where we will even more explicitly embed, um, racism as a, as a exploring racism, telling us stories about racism and doing healing work around that across lines of difference as a very fundamental, explicit strand, well programs and trainings because, um, yeah.
It’s it’s just, it, it just feels like that’s kind of true to our, uh, community why we wouldn’t do anything else. Now, I think with this kind of unfolding of awareness, it’s woken everyone up to much deeper levels and as white, and I’m going to just name as well as a white leader. I’ve had to really, really be rigorous at looking at my part in where more subtle, systemic, um, issues around the taboo of racism might have come in, you know, where we’ve been going for unity and understanding, and this kind of point you token ideas, really.
Um, and the experiences that could at times, because I am white, perhaps the more subtle stuff is as may have gone under the radar. Not, not overt racism. We were doing a thorough review on that. That’s not, it it’s more that. As a white person, if I don’t make racism and anti-racism explicit in our programs, we are complex it in systemic racism in the mouth.
That’s what we’re doing right now. And how can we do that in loving healing and creative, structured ways that are meaningful for the young people. We work with the staff networks, they volunteer Matt Watson organizations. And so we’re looking at one of them. And
Pooky Knightsmith: is racial trauma something that you’ve specifically looked at or will look at in future?
Lucy Sicks: Definitely. Yeah. That’s coming up in a way that I think. Um, is going to be central in our work, actually. So, and in fact, one of the people I was going to suggest maybe you have chat with, I wanted to suggest someone that you could talk to. Um, yes, definitely because you know, some of the young black people we work with are experiencing overt racism daily in their lives.
And, um, whether that’s at school, um, in our experience of, um, relationships and community with the police, it’s their daily reality. And then some of our staff, you know, their children and the young people they’ve worked with that side and different places, they know that to be their dating experience. And that in itself has just creates a level of trauma.
You know, that feeling of fear, really what could happen at any time I found this whole,
Pooky Knightsmith: whole thing really distressing, um, kind of picking it apart, um, a little bit, because
Lucy Sicks: I think I’ve carried a massive level of naivety
Pooky Knightsmith: about it. Um, I was speaking yesterday with a friend and colleague of mine, Kudrow who works for the charity,
Lucy Sicks: uh, so white.
Pooky Knightsmith: when she was talking about, um, kind of racial trauma and her experience of just kind of everyday
Lucy Sicks: racism, I
Pooky Knightsmith: just, I don’t know. I think there’s something about, you know, hearing about the big stuff, but then it was for me, it’s, it’s almost that all my like, less tangible, everyday bit that I think I yeah.
Were just completely blind to. And, um, I, yeah, and I don’t know, I don’t know where one goes with that, but I think at least beginning to understand that
Lucy Sicks: it’s a big problem and we need to do something about it is,
Pooky Knightsmith: is a starting point, but it’s really hard, isn’t it?
Lucy Sicks: Yeah, it’s a massive problem. And it’s centuries of problem and oppression and brutality, um, uh, kind of displaced people against their will and then this terrible, um, brutality and silencing and to be collected, to do it.
It’s monumental and now is the time, but I think every one of us can make a huge difference in, in exploring exactly what you said, which is, you know, I have the luxury of someone who has light skin. Not that race is not on the table every day, all day. And it’s only because my skin is white, that that’s the, that’s the case.
And that is just. A terrifying reality that, you know, a white population in a multi-racial disaster that has all the kind of, um, the ways that we’ve told stories about ourselves and what we’ve created in the world that are fundamentally flawed actually. Um, you know, that’s, that’s, um, I think it actually is a, is, and the inequality of that, I think it creates a collective trauma actually almost like keeping the lead on it or ultimately.
Is, um, is doing harm to all, all, all of us. I really do believe that. And so it’s, now’s the time.
Pooky Knightsmith: Yeah. And, and how do you, you know, as a white leader, he works regularly with, uh, really kind of diverse community who wants to lead, um, on sort of beginning sort of tackle some of those sort of
Lucy Sicks: roots of racism and, and begin to work with
Pooky Knightsmith: that trauma.
How do you do that in a way that sort of sits comfortably? Because I don’t know about you, but I feel it, I find it hard to talk about these things because I’m very conscious of the fact that I’m white and is it my place to, you know? Yeah. How do you, how do you do that? What’s your kind of take on that?
Lucy Sicks: Well, I think my experience lately, um, as I have had my own unfolding awareness. Has been, it’s like a sledgehammer, you know, around my own sort of denial. And it’s been an, I, I just have tried to put myself in the fire and, and really be accountable. And, uh, and, and say, this is my own racism and I, and co and be that and not, and say, this is my commitment now that is unwavering.
And it’s not a sort of faddish thing to be humbled and to be shown, um, where I’ve been blind and, um, created any kind of organization that mirrors, that oppressive system, that we’re part of. It’s very difficult as white leader, actually, that balance. So what I’m trying to do is. Step back that the community of staff very, very active in their exploration.
There’s such a deep bond, you know, staff volunteer networks because of the programs we share and experience that, you know, the commitment has been incredible from them to, um, to engage in this process. You know, we meet once a week and do a session. We’re all reading and dialoguing. We have a WhatsApp that is just huge confronting, really confronting.
So, um, so I’ve I, and then I’ve also committed to an, um, a month long review historically for the last 12 years where people can anonymously. Register that observations and that’s more subtle things, subtle systemic racism. So where we’re looking at things like cultural appropriation in terms of the songs we sing looking at, um, stuff that might tell the stories of travel, you know, in appropriately.
So we’re looking at all kinds of things, but I’m just trying to empower the voices of many, as many people as possible and to step back and just to be right in the fire with that as an accountable myself, as someone who, and to, to name my blindness, you know, and to feel some grief and certainly, um, you know, and to, and to listen, listen, and, you know, I’m way bringing being accountable and, and my own commitment to.
So this being now centrally my knife, that’s it. And I, I know this when I make a commitment to something as deeply as this feels, that’s it really? Because the taboo is so strong, we’ll all go back into denial. So, so you got to
Pooky Knightsmith: hold it right there, front and center, which is a bigger kind of issue for you in terms of the way that you’re taking your work right now, the sort of the, the race issue or the kind of trying to repair the rupture of COVID 19.
Lucy Sicks: That’s such a good question again, it’s so important. And, and, and it’s the kind of, yes. Um, we always say yes and, and like feet rather than, but, um, I think, I think we’re in a process. Uh, exploring anti-racism that is actually about to come to a pause and then we will be re redesigning and replanning our programs we’ll be coming out of a deep process into moving in the world or that.
So I think, I think very quickly, certainly into the automatic, uh, focus is going to be on yeah. Post COVID-19, whatever that looks like. We know that it’s going to be very challenging for schools. Um, they’re in really extremely difficult, stressful leadership challenges. She used directives coming in, you know, this a little bit in the, in the guidance around wellbeing and mental health.
So if we can support you with the creative part of that, we want to put a lot of focus on that and feel Tim, in terms of young, we want to get the focus back on trying to serve young people. Hopefully we can do face-to-face programs. I think we’re going to roll out the wellbeing residential, because it’s a very, I think that can then cascade through to the schools are the young people with these creative practices that they can lead.
Um, and then I think the anti racism that will become embedded in, in everything we do. So I’m just telling you, I’m just describing because we’re in the process. Yeah.
Pooky Knightsmith: Yeah. It sounds like a very kind of rich tapestry and that you’re learning as you, as you go, which I think is really important. And with the, um, you know, as a, school’s kind of returned to a wider reopening and you, you kind of mentioned there about the role of creativity.
And I think there is this tension I’m feeling at the moment where that is this understanding that creativity and play and nurture are surely going to be really important ingredients in terms of helping young people to bounce back. But then on the other hand, they’ve missed six months of school and there’s so much catch up to do.
And what’s your kind of take on that. What do you think, you know, people listening who are maybe working in schools, working with young people, how should they be prioritizing what they’re doing?
Lucy Sicks: I love that. I love your question. Um, cause so they’re so current it’s like everything you’re asking is exactly what I’m thinking about.
Um, and, um, can you, you know, dialoguing about. Um, the discussions coming up with schools, we’re working with every day and has done all six the last half time today. Um, you know, I’m being quite bold and, and in terms of what life is stands for, which is that children, young people, particularly teenagers, but actually right through, I think primary schools are ready, readier and more able to commit to the first time being about community, building emotional.
The processing of what’s happened, the reconnecting, the kind of in sort of linking that curriculum. That actually, that, that, that tension is not, is not so problematic. I think the secondary schools are really feeling the stress of this and then even bringing in how do we manage behavior. Yeah. And that really is that question is how do we meet the social needs and the sort of really that.
The repairative needs around a level of trauma for all, for everyone that’s been through this and is going through this, but at the same time, get everyone to behave in a way that we need them to behave in order to sit and learn and catch up. And so, and so my take on that word would be that particularly teenagers who will have an acute need to, for that social, those social needs to be met, I would be prioritizing that certainly for the first few weeks, um, making that the priority, um, the rebuilding of the community, the processing, the experience, the kind of reorientating in the spaces, connecting different groups, whether that’s classes to, to groups in order that then the children young people are ready to learn.
Otherwise, I think they’ll be trying to shoe horn that a group of young people into a process that kind of denies life. Experience. Yeah, it’s huge what we’ve all been through. And so to actually deny that is, and then silo the odd new person into a counseling room to talk about. I don’t know, a bereavement or their anxiety just seems to me to be, um, sound reasonable and, um, and actually I’m not sure it will work.
I think there would be lots more behavior issues, even young people that may seem to be compliantly getting on with things could internalize a lot of, um, questions for themselves about might, could get very disorientated. Although what we’ve also seen is that children, young people are here. She was in.
Yeah. And actually it’s made it a store that actually, um, through that processing with the young people, um, I’ve seen actually sometimes in some of the workshops we’ve been doing that their staff. Have needed the space to process and connect because they have all the letters that they’ve been dealing with around their own families, their own challenges.
Like we’ve all been doing work, looking after relatives, all the additional challenges that, um, you know, school staff have. So in a way, if I were a school leader, I’d combine those two things and say, we’re going to commit to the first, um, bit of that time being about processing and rebuilding as a community.
And I would certainly prioritize that for the staff.
Pooky Knightsmith: And what would that look like? Practically? What kind of activities do you, would you be putting in place?
Lucy Sicks: Um, I would be sort of something we’ve been doing for staff in one County, as I said, since that, as we’ve been holding. A regular, um, just a group for, for staff to check in and to focus on their own wellbeing and their own self nurture.
I would implement that if I were a school leader in my, in every school, I would say, right, we’re going to have a staff session that is reflective practice, where the self can actually talk about themselves to the level that they feel comfortable. But the focus on themselves, what they’ve been through, I’ve been doing sort of introducing some process to actually talk about what everyone’s been through.
Just reflective practice. I might create an art process, a creative process, something like, you know, that’s then work towards creating a poem together. When we did this on some of our online sessions with teachers, you know, five minutes. And there’s something about the beauty that happens. That is so healing.
Yeah. When a group of people come together, create something beautiful that has a soul soul in it. It’s hard out loud. Appreciate it out loud. It might drop people into a level of grief, but it, so it would need to be structured in that holding, but there’s something about it once it’s done, it’s done. Cause it’s there and then okay.
Now we move on. Yeah.
Pooky Knightsmith: And does this something that people create together need to be beautiful to serve that?
Lucy Sicks: Well, my idea of beauty, isn’t pretty, um, I think there’s very different things. I w by BTI means something that it can, it can compare, can tain, um, pain and anger and things that one wouldn’t associate, or even whatever, you know, um, Sort of darkness of different kinds that doesn’t make me not beautiful.
Somehow. I I’m really talking about the kind of beauty of the soul really that, um, that recognizes life in it for life itself. Yeah. It’s more
Pooky Knightsmith: about what’s gone into it than the product, I guess.
Lucy Sicks: It’s, it’s not, uh, we’re not aiming for a perfectly constructed. Um, piece of art. That’s not, that’s, that’s never what we’re aiming for. Um, and, and that’s what we stated at the beginning of anything. And sometimes, you know, teachers can find that a challenge, but mostly when we do these things, teachers say, Oh, this would be really good in our classes because it liberates the children into doing a way with that.
Self-critic ticky, dyslexic students or anyone. It kind of enables that creative voice and imagining in the imagination, um, too. And I think they find that for themselves. Sometimes they start to self-censor themselves into the perfectly formed thing, but I’ve found that most teachers really, really dive into it.
I love that.
Pooky Knightsmith: So they can kind of create a sort of slightly bolder braver way of learning maybe through that
Lucy Sicks: process. It sounds. Yeah. So where they do away with the judge and the critic and the sort of evaluating principle of how perfect or beautiful is this, it’s not, um, it’s not, and we don’t have a dissect the actual byproduct.
And I see it as a by-product and the performance, the poem, that piece of art, we don’t, but we will reflect on it, but more from the I place, if I feel this, or I see this not, we don’t analyze, analyze things in that way. It’s more of a holding of it’s held very lightly. Um, yeah, I mean, it sounds probably a bit, um, I mean, I think the way to eliminate these things is to experience them rainy because I very structured, they’re quite simple.
Yeah. And they’re very accessible. Yeah. What
Pooky Knightsmith: thought would you like to leave people with what’s your
Lucy Sicks: end note? Yeah. What would I like to meet the schools? The teachers, the leaders, I would say trust yourselves and your many of you have that primary motivation of being, um, a belief in and commitment to, to the development and the potential of all the pupils that in and the young people you’re around and the children.
And so trust that, revisit that, um, come from that place collectively and individually, and, um, be bold around that. Be bold because. Um, we know that learning happens out of that place, actually. Um, and then I would say to everybody else, you know, creativity, just giving ourselves time to nourish ourselves through kind of uncensored play or experiencing something creative in, in, in its basic form might be making them undone or outsider of believes, or it might be, um, you know, writing a few words on a page just from your imagination.
It can really be self-soothing and it can really give, give us a sense of hope, joy conductivity, the kind of wonder of life. Which is a great scaffold. It scaffolds the challenge, the challenging, the challenges we need that enabled us to scaffold and also hold grief, pain challenge worry. Um, can build more trust, I think, in ourselves and live the lives we’re living and each other. .