In my dream society….

In my dream society, all members have a voice. Everyone has a space to share their opinions, thoughts and feelings. Freedom of speech is the essence of the place I’d like to inhabit. In most ways, this is in place in the world I inhabit. However, the difference between my dream world and reality is that everyone has the ability to understand the power of their voice. Not just in the content, but in the vocal mechanism itself.

Through teaching for the last ten years, it has become apparent to me, that most people think that individuals are gifted with a beautiful speaking voice. A voice that eases into their listener’s ears and transports us with their stories, awakens us with their ideas and moves us with their view. Maybe some people are lucky to have been born with this skill. However I believe that everyone can unleash this marvellous power and use their voice to their full potential, if they are shown how.

In my dream society this is something we would teach to children as part of mainstream schooling, so as adults they contribute to society confidently and freely. In the world we inhabit, children may access this through extra curricular activities. Those who practice the creative and expressive arts are more likely to have confidence in their voice.

As adults in the society we live in, we can feel the divide between those who have accessed this and those who have not. However we perceive it as raw, unlearnable talent. This is it not the case, a clear, confident, authentic voice is available to us all, if we choose to engage with training that explores and deepens our understanding.

In learning these things, we free our voice. In freeing our voice, we share our ideas. In sharing our ideas, we evolve and grow our communities.

My dream society isn’t as unattainable as perhaps it first seems. Maybe yours isn’t either.

Once upon a time lasts forever

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I stumbled across the above quote, and it resonates incredibly powerfully. Early on this summer I completed a course called The Performer’s Playground with ClownLab. It was a 12 week exploration of playfulness. We had a lot of conversation about finding the joy or the fun in something and enjoying being beautiful even if we were playing something ugly. How do we create fun or channel playfulness?

On reflection, I think the things that inhibit me are the parameters that I  have either set myself or the the ones that I have allowed others to set for me – ‘the table of do’s and don’ts‘ as Pullman calls it. There are a list of things I can do and a list of things I can’t do. I wrote a while back about Growth Mindset, the idea that through a shift in personal attitude can alter our potential. How do we know that our personal attitude needs to shift? How do we believe that our potential is unlimited?

Neil Gaiman wrote in Coraline “Fairy tales are more then true; Not because they tell us the Dragons exist, but because they tell us that Dragons can be beaten”.

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illustrations by F. D. Bedford  J.M. Barrie’s Peter & Wendy

Stories allow us to see that we can do, or be anything. Some of our favourite characters in our most loved tales and stories have the hardest start; they are orphans. Harry Potter to Cinderella; Superman to Peter Pan; Mowgli to Sophie in the BFG. Their world has been disrupted in a way that no one would want for a child.  Yet, these characters go on amazing adventures, and overcome huge obstacles and show a resourcefulness and resilience to find their way through. Peter Pan has no ‘list of right or wrongs’ just a love of play and make believe. His game playing allows him survive and outwit his enemies.

The art of oral storytelling transcends age, ethnicity, education, borders and gender whilst also recording and reflecting our difference in those things. This kind of storytelling is a shared act between teller and listener. Jane B. Wilson tells us in her book The Story Experience, “Those who tell tales are both speakers and listeners. They have heard and remember”.

We are all storytellers and we are all listeners, if we allow ourselves the possibility to listen. We can all believe that we can do more, be more then we think we are. If we see others have defeated the bad guys, maybe we can too.

“The listener is caught and whirled into a talk, living for a single moment in the good, the great, the naughty, the lost. The tellers voice awakes dreams and spins stuff for thought; incites to contemplation.”

The Story Experience, Jane B. Wilson

 

 

 

Little Red Riding Hood – Wolf Mask

I have been working with Z-Arts and Crumpsall Lane Primary School in Manchester, creating story telling pieces for the schools reception class. Its been really wonderful and tomorrow we go into our third week of the project based on the collections of Brother’s Grimm, and this week we are looking at Little Red Riding Hood or as Bro

Little Red Riding Hood
Little Red by Felicity Goodman 

ther’s Grimm called Little Red Cap.

This story has been re told and re told and re told, and I have a strong suspicion that the children will be very familiar with it. I think that each week they have bought there own colour and magic to the stories we have looked at (Musicians of Bremen and Hansel and Gretel.) That is why working with these traditional stories is such a gift because they can be re told in so many different ways. As a story teller, I love the immediacy of the retelling. The audience being very active in shaping how the story looks and feels.  These stories are so beautifully simple but it is quite easy to overlook them.

I also provide lesson plans in arts crafts for further exploration of these stories in the class in the week that follows. I’d thought I’d pass on one of the craft exercises in this weeks lesson plan. You can never have too many resources available!

 

Wolf Mask

Wolf Mask Template
Template for Wolf Mask

First things first, copy the above template for each of the components in the mask and cut them out. I made the mistake of putting it all together before I coloured it in, which made it much harder to build, the above image is on an A4 piece of paper. You could print it directly onto card if you’d prefer. An extra task for the children , could be to draw around pre cut provided templates and see if they could get them to fit it onto a sheet of A4 card.

The decorating is worth spending time on as the masks look so much better as a result. I kept my decoration very simple and only used felt tip, but I think the mask would come alive even further with some fake fur or felt or if the teeth were very shiny….

Stick the front and the back thin pieces together. I used masking tape to stick the pieces together, that way I can adjust easily to the circumference of head that is resting on. I then
took the nose piece and folded along each of the dotted lines.

FullSizeRender

I attached part one, by folding over the top of the front piece of headband in the middle of the ears and secured with tape.

I then attached the mouth piece behind section 2 of the nose and then the tongue behind the mouth.

Nice and straight forward. Now you can howl at the moon and be big, bad and scary!

Be sure to Tweet or Instagram the results!

 

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Other yoghurts are available, but this one is SUBLIME!

Too Many Choices…..

That’s what she said.

Too many choices.

That’s the problem for us women today,

We just have too many choices.

Too many choices.

Like the idea that all the infinite possibilities that women could pursue

is  whittled down to the same principle of picking your dinner.

Too many choices.

When you go to a one of those big pub chains and you unfold the double sided 5 paged and your like I don’t know what to have there are just too many choices

That’s just the way that women feel.

Me.

I’m a woman.

That I don’t know whether to have the lasagna or the salad.

and I’ll spend ages thinking about it

and the waitress comes over

and I ask for more time.

And lasagna or salad

lasagna or salad

salad and lasagna?????

And just when I’m convinced the choice is whittled down to two and I’m just about to leap off  and commit to one

I see it.

The Mexican section.

And its there and I think what ever was i thinking going for lasagna when i could have an enchilada

or a burrito

or a fajita?

Then I think well aren’t these things all the same thing?

Just wraps in different varieties?

And they have a whole section on wraps.

And I love wraps.

They are all there.

Duck in Hoisin Sauce with iceberg lettuce and cucumber

Southern fried chicken with BBQ sauce

(less bothered about this one)

Chicken, bacon and tomato.

And Oh Mer Gerd!

They have goats cheese. With beetroot and carrot and baby spinach.

That does sound great.

Yep really good.

Like well tasty.

I mean it is a bit of a risk.

having something with that little ‘v’ next to it in a pub that could probably fund its own abatoir with the high levels of meat on this menu.

but no this is good.

great actually.

yep and I’m sure that’s what I’m going to say as the waitress comes over but when she says

what would you like?

It just happens

the words just fall out of my mouth

and I say a cheese burger in a brioche bun with onion rings and side salad and skin on fries.

That. That there.

That is just like the problem for us women today.

Too Many Choices.

A to Z Voice: M is for Mindset.

I was thinking I would be logical and deliver this series of blogs alphabetically but it actually turns out that my creative brain won’t beat to the drum of alphabetical order!

Here I am, jumping in at the letter M! In one to one coaching I am always finding that people’s opinion of their own voices is actually a bit of a barrier when it comes to working on their voice.

Your voice is a deeply personal vessel, that centres you and connects you to the world around you. Maybe someone has made comment on you voice previously or you feel you struggle to be heard? Maybe you really don’t like the sound of your own voice? Maybe some people’s voices are better then others.

This last idea is a common thought. A good speaking voice is a natural talent. Some people are just talented. It makes me think of the Iceberg analogy of only seeing what’s above the surface….

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I don’t believe that a strong speaking voice is a birth right belonging to a lucky and articulate few. Like anybody can sing, anybody can find authenticity, connectivity and confidence in their voice.

However the first step on the journey to finding your voice is most likely a case of changing how you view your voice. Dr Carol Dweck, psychologist, coined the terms ‘growth’ mindset and ‘fixed’ mindset. It looks like this:

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This principle is obviously applicable to more then just your relationship to your voice, it’s to do with your outlook on yourself and the world. Growth Mindset is simple, accessible and possible for all. We just have to put it in to practice.

A to Z Voice: B is for Breath

Breath is the driving force four body. We take 17,000-30,000 breaths in a day. That’s 7,363,289 breaths per year. However, how often does our breath end up taking for granted?

flowerduet-babysbreath-closeup
Babies take 30 or more breaths per minute.

Your breath is a magical force. It gets your heart going, provides a platform for speech, it can work you up or it can calm you down.

I would like to invite you to take some time to get to know your breath.

Sit down comfortably somewhere where you feel warm and safe and close your eyes. Now breath in through your nose and as you breath in take the time to follow the journey of that breath, where you feel it is traveling to in the body. Keeping you jaw soft, let the breath out again. Repeat this for a few cycles.

On the next in breath imagine that the breath is travelling all the way through your body as you breath in. It comes in through the nose and travels all the way down to your feet. It travels through the head and the face. The arms and the shoulders. The chest, the spine, the stomach. In and across the hips and down through the thighs, the knees, the lower legs until it reaches the feet. Repeat this a few times.

Now on the next out breath imagine that the breath is travelling up from the feet and out of the body. Take your time to enjoy the feeling of air passing all the way through each and every part of the body. Repeat this a few times.

Now take the  time to observe what happens between the in breath and the out breath. Does it stop and start or does it flow continuously. Try not to force yourself to do anything, just allow your breath cycle to come to your natural rhythm.

Now bring the awareness back to the way your body feels, any sound you can here in and out of the room. and write down three words that describe how you feel.

Try this exercise for 5 days and let me know what your words were? Did they change. How did you feel?

 

 

AtoZ -Voice: A is for Articulation

This is the first of a series of short blogs that will introduce folk to new ideas/ exercises about their voice. places-of-articulation-2-638

Good articulation needs strength, flexibility and calm! The fluffing of words or tripping over our sentences when we nervous are a good sign to your articulation needing improvement.

The Soft palette is like the unseen articulator as it is right at the back of your mouth. The palette is the roof of your mouth. Its in divided into two areas. The hard palette which has almost no give and the soft palette which is a fleshy bit of tissue. Improving flexibility in the soft palette will not only improve articulations but it will also help with colour and cadence in the voice. Opera Singers have incredibly flexible soft palettes and Beat boxers can achieve amazing sounds through clicks and tongue placement using their soft palette

If you make a ‘k’ sound you can feel the back of your tongue raising to meet the roof of you mouth, but what you may not feel is that your soft palette is also coming down to form this closure the ‘k’ sound is made when this join comes apart like a tiny explosion. In fact ‘k’ is a sound belonging to a group on consonants called plosives.

So if you repeat a ‘k’ sound your are working the two articulators -your tongue and your soft palette.  ‘g’ is made in exactly the same way but this time in stead of the sound being carried out solely on air. The vocal folds come engaged and their is now sound with it.

Try this repeating the following:

k-k

k-k-k

k-k-k-k-k

velar
Velar: A sound produced with the back of the tongue near the soft palette

k-k-k-k-k-k

g-g-g-g-g-g

g-g-g-g-g

g-g-g

g-g

 

Play around with strength of closure

tempo, volume and rhythm.

k-k-g-g-k-k-g-g-k-k-g-g-k-k-g-g

k-g-k-g-k-g-k-g-k-g-k

k-g-g  g-k-k  k-g-g  g-k-k

g-k-k   g-k-k  g-k-k  g-k-k

So there you have it A is for Articulation!

 

One of the ways we are all story tellers

AN exciting article from TED on how we tell our personal narrative…

We’ve all created our own personal histories, marked by highs and lows, that we share with the world — and we can shape them to live with more meaning and purpose. We are all storytellers — all engaged, as the anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson puts it, in an “act of creation” of the “composition of our…

via The two kinds of stories we tell about ourselves — ideas.ted.com

Book List for Really Little Kids 0-2

We consume books at a fast rate in our house and the titles below are well and truly tested on our two children. The eldest is an avid reader and has always liked sitting with book or youngest happy if there is nothing else to do, but would rather explore turning pages as suppose to looking at pictures. The books that made the list, had both of them gripped and are the ones that often get requested to be read that don’t make us Adults feel bored.

Me – Emma Dodd

This is a beautiful book and I love the simple designs and the simple words. Emma Dodd has an amazing ability to create  depth and feelings that communicate the love between parent and child. It’s the perfect gift for new parents who are feeling overwhelmed by the never ending demands of a small person

 Rosie’s Walk – Pat Hutchins

Words are few and tell a simple story, the pictures however tell something quite different. first published in 1968 and filled with yellow, oranges and browns, this book tells us that good illustration can make a book timeless

Each Peach Pear Plum – Janet & Alan Ahlberg

A simple story in verse that has lots go things to hunt for in the pictures. With all the different characters from famous fairy tales and nurses rhymes featured, this is a great book for triggering other stories and songs.

Oi Frog! -Kes Gray & Jim Field

This book is a great one for silly voices and having fun with language. As a voice teacher,it appeals in the same way that Fox in Socks does for older children.

The Lion Inside -Rachel Bright & Jim Field

My parents gave this book to out youngest for Christmas, I love the message behind bandits great for talking about being brave and scared.

Grrrrrr – Rob Biddulph

Really nice for expelling competition and playing fair. Also for underlining that success isn’t everything.

Oh No, George – Chris Haughton

George is a dog who keeps getting into trouble. A great read for consequences of action and perfect for you little one who loves throwing their food on the floor!

What the Ladybird Heard – Julia Donaldson & Lydia Monks

This book has glitter, farm yard animals and a brilliant story! That ticks about every small child box, right?

So those are our favourites. What are yours?