Workshop in spontaneous creativity with South Africa’s HA!Man and Dover’s Zen Collective

Spontaneous Creativity

A Workshop in spontaneous creativity with South Africa’s HA!Man and Dover’s Zen Collective took place on Sunday May 5th 2013, 10am – 4pm, at 67 Astley Avenue, Dover, Kent CT16 2PL

The workshop was free and open to all ages with some or no previous experience. Participants brought an instrument if they had one and a total of 18 people took part.

As part of their War & Peace programme, Dover Arts Development was delighted at the opportunity to bring Francois Le Roux The Ha!Man– together with Paul Cheneour, Clive Fletcher and Dave Robinson of the Zen Collective for this workshop in Dover. The artists’ respective experiences in the field of open improvisation facilitated a collective process, a communicative experience that wove all the levels of skill and particular gifts of the participants into a growing body of music and performance.

  • “It was a pleasure to be together with everyone in the space of “Now” that the workshop enabled. For me, in Ghandi’s words, we became the change I would like to see.
  • ‘The Power of Now’, to quote Eckhart Tolle, is so powerful that being given the opportunity to spend a day in and out of that zone, together with a group of likeminded souls, is such a treat that the aftermath of this day will be felt for a long time 🙂 Words fall short to try to express something that goes soul-deep, but i can try: what springs to mind are: inspiring, nourishing, joyful and peaceful :-)!!”
    What i realise is that when we are able to connect with our soul and dare to share our soul joys with others, we find peace in ourselves and create peace around us. To facilitate opportunities for this to happen is vital in ‘creating’ peace in this world and shouldn’t be underestimated!
    So, THANK YOU very much for facilitating this, for bringing Francois, Clive, David and Paul together, for bringing this to our doorstep and offering this for free. A big ‘THANK YOU’ as well to these 4, who really did a wonderful ‘job’!”
  • “Great day, well led with just the right balance of freedom and structure, not easy to do! I think we were all able to be creative in new ways without embarrassment, which seemed amazing. I felt truly ALIVE!”
  • “Love to do it again!”
  • “What an incredible experience we had at the workshop. The organisers created an environment of openness and space with no boundaries . I watched as people broke through personal barriers to express themselves freely. The other participants were brilliant, with no judgement, they moved and played, danced and sang. What a thing to be part of. Also, not to forget the level of musicianship which had to be present for that to occur. I was, at one point, moved to tears as I watched my son move around and be mirrored by a beautiful dancer with haunting piano being played in the background; truly special. We were encouraged to create any scenario from the artists present, so i had the joy of singing with a full varied band . It was a fantastic day, we would love to be part of anything like this in the future. A huge Thank you to everyone involved.”
  • The day began in a purposefully casual way in a neutral and unimposing empty studio space. We began, all together, there, in the room, each person making sounds by themselves identifying their own individuality, then gradually coming together moving from one to another or in small groups, forming musical relationships . It reminded of the time when we were really very young looking at the world, interacting with one another, playing in the sandpit. Perhaps this was the time when we were being truly creative? What is Creativity? What is it to be creative? These questions are almost impossible to quantify or answer. We can only see the result of the creative process. All we can really do is to make a space, outside our personal chatter, that allows creativity to flow, effortlessly. In order to find this space, we need to be still, clear ourselves of our inhibitions and enter that Child-like quality of wonder, which, as far as I could tell, happened for everyone! As the day progressed all sorts of themes, discussions, ideas and music emerged and were shared with the whole group. This was essentially the act of doing; participation. The consideration, or observing comes in two parts, the first happens when in discussion and the second is when we see and hear the recordings to better evaluate the dynamic effect. We all gave ourselves permission to enter the ‘Sandpit of Creativity’ and to be full of wonder. As a facilitator, it was a huge privilege to work with such an open , honest and talented group of participants and fellow facilitators. In summing up my own personal workshop day experience, I would like to quote ~Don Jose Ruiz, Mexican author of New Age Spiritualist and neo-shamanistic texts.“You can be authentic. You are perfect just as you are. You don’t need to pretend to be what you are not. You can create your own ideas, create your own happiness, and be your own truth. You don’t need to copy or imitate another person’s dream, another person’s ideas. Remember you are an artist, you create your own life. Use your own ideas to make your life authentic. After a day of intense, sometimes riotous, sometimes delicate, but always sensitive and unusually profound activity, we left completely full and the neutral and unimposing studio space …. empty.”
  • “I was delighted with the venue and the facilities. Both were absolutely perfect for what we all wanted to achieve. A very ample and good quality lunch was provided and everybody was happy with that.
    When the workshop participants started to arrive is was obvious that differing ages, abilities and experience in expression and self-awareness would present a challenge. With Francois and the Zen Collective being cogniscent of the needs of groups and individual participants a successful and stress-free ambiance was quickly created. There was space for everyone to move freely, whether dancing, playing an instrument or singing. The day moved forward at its own pace, with moments for reflection, relaxation and discussion. The atmosphere engendered was of creativity, co-operation, bonding and fulfillment. Everybody achieved and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I feel it was of immense value to all concerned and this was confirmed by the many positive and happy comments made by the participants at the end of the day. I hope this was the first of many such ventures!”
  • “I’ve been reflecting on your excellent creative workshop and how it’s changed my attitude to my musical ability. I took up the bass guitar at an advanced age, having had piano lessons as a child and hating every minute of it. Progress was slow, because I was working in a vacuum. Play-along CD’s are fine and dandy but as I found out at the workshop, are sadly lacking in emotional experience. This was the first time I had attended such an event, and I think that if it had not been for knowing ZBB, I would have given it a miss. The site itself was perfect, a tremendous ambience and utterly undaunting – I felt comfortable very quickly. I already knew Clive, Paul and Dave, but the attitudes of yourself and Matthew were welcoming, empathetic and supportive from the off. I was surprised at the width of experience of my fellow students, and unclear how such disparate skills and talents could gel into a coherent and memorable event. I shouldn’t have worried. The first free session of improvised music and dance was totally absorbing. My Service experience had me used to the idea of quickly forming a team from disparate sources to enact a specific task. This time, it was individuals agreeing by action to come together and compose from scratch an undefined event. Being part of that process was enormously liberating, so much so that in the subsequent events I felt enabled to contribute to the composition without fear or embarrassment. I particularly valued working with the dancers, laying down a groove that they sparked with and followed, which fed back and enhanced my contribution. I gained so much from the workshop and my playing has freed up so much that ZBB have invited me to sit in on their next monthly session at the Louis Armstrong. When you run another similar event, count me in.”
  • “This was an immensely enriching and inspiring workshop for me. It was liberating, fun, and yet at the same time, quite demanding. Letting go years of constraints, being very focused in the moment, listening to the fusion of sound while playing within it, I strongly recommend this workshop for all ages, and especially for young people. I do hope there will be another opportunity to explore the wonderfully unpredictable world of improvisation.
  • Yes, I would like to add my thanks and congratulations to Paul, Clive, Dave and Francois for creating such a warm, inventive and special afternoon. They were so supportive and encouraging and took especial care of the very young – so important! I also enjoyed being with everyone who joined with such zest and enthusiasm each making such a valuable contribution. And everyone offered such individual and interesting ideas about music and spontaneous creativity! Well done and thank you all for welcoming me into your warm friendship – I look forward to seeing you all sometime again.”
  • I really enjoyed the improvisation day and learnt a lot about making things up on the spot. I think this is an important skill and I am very proud to have had the opportunity to try it.
  • “Everyone was friendly and helpful, and I felt safe even though I was on my own. Next, I would like to try and use the skills I have learnt at home, helping my friends so that we can do things together. The only thing that may improve it would be to make it longer, e.g. a 2 day course. However, I understand how this may be difficult. Thank you! I felt quite emotional at times. In a good not a negative way.It was great to see people starting to gel with each other. From my perspective, this was interesting, particularly since I had never met any of the participants, with the exception of yourself and Chris, and realised that many of the other participants were similarly placed. I think, as l said yesterday that it would have been better if you had brought the lunch with you and consequently stayed for the duration. This is a minor criticism. I think the whole day was very successful.”
  • “Dance is something I find very liberating. Music, depending what form it takes “can do likewise. It certainly worked for me. Thanks to all concerned and l look forward to doing something similar again.”
  • “When an experience reaches a certain fullness, it is hard to capture its meaning in words. Such was Sunday. The fullness lays in the fact that the whole day was basically dedicated by all present, it lays in the participation from all age groups and levels of competence, it lays in the act of spontaneous expression that naturally draws together one’s whole being – mind and heart and gut. What was particular about this workshop is that everyone present brought along a real presence of mind, and those who at first felt somewhat lost, were soon brought into the flow of things, simply by the openness displayed by others. To work along with the Zen Bicycle Band gave me the opportunity to relax my own role as facilitator and leading musician at times and truly become part of the group. I especially appreciated the circle conversations we had, which took us to a deep level of reflection, acknowledging that whatever our ambitions for this world is, we have actively contributed and manifested change and wholeness by doing what we did. The fact that nature played along bringing out the shy English sun was a sheer bonus!”
  • “I was an observer and participant of the workshop. I very carefully studied the shapes and energies generated in the space. People started out just finding their own voices and coming out of their shells in their own spaces and then gradually at first and very comfortably and securely got into a communal shared space. Everyone felt what everyone needed and gave and took, depending. I felt something special happened. I think some people will have left that space with a new found solid confidence and safety that they needed to develop their not only their musical lives but their existence as a whole.”
  • “As a visual artist, I confess to feeling very daunted at first – being neither ‘musician’ or ‘performer’ – but intrigued that the workshop described ‘creativity’, not music specifically. It was a truly exhilarating day, by the end of it, my awareness of sound had been opened up, and I had an entirely newfound confidence to participate in the awesome spontaneous release of the music which enveloped the room. The workshop has given me a way to think differently about my art practice, and shown me how I could ‘listen’ to it more closely. I feel as if I have been shown a different window to look through.” 
  • “Thank you for yesterday’s wonderful workshop with Ha!Man and the Zen Bicycle Band. I love free-improvising, but rarely find or create opportunities to do it; even though we have such outstanding exponents as the Zen Bicycle band on our doorstep. It takes someone like you to create a space and time, and to invite people like me to join in. Often my experience of free-jamming in the past has been with jazz-rockers on drumkits and guitars and saxophones, and with myself usually being the only woman present. Yesterday’s event was much more balanced and gentle, so much so that our beautiful toddler-muse, Story, felt comfortable to join in throughout. For me, the day was a perfect end to a week spent celebrating the sacred union of masculine and feminine creative energy for the pagan festival of Beltane. Again many thanks to you for making it happen!”
  • “The day brought together a group of people, some with experience and others not, but all prepared to take a step from comfort zone into a creative environment. A supportive environment that embraced expression, whilst allowing everyone to move at their own pace. And that pace heightened as the day continued. New ideas released musicians to move around with freedom, dances to create their own sounds and large ensembles to split into eager collaborations. Balancing the practical was the opportunity to discuss the creative process. Every participant had something to bring and all of us, including the facilitators learnt much from the experience. Joanna Jones and Clare Smith (DAD) organised an event that will stay in the memory of everyone there.”
  • “Immensely enjoyable. Free, like a kindergarten, to take part if you felt like it. Great mix of ages – from seventy-something to one-year-olds. Considerable scope for further sessions with these talented musicians – embracing a wider public.”

photos by Chris Burke and Martin Bradley

Watch the video made by Korinna McRobert in response to the workshop.