UCL Grand Challenges


Creative Lives episode 6: Lifelong Learning

In episode 6, Lorna Collins speaks to Emily Bradfield and Deborah Padfield about lifelong learning.

SoundCloud Widget Placeholderhttps://soundcloud.com/uclsound/creative-lives-lifelong-learning?in=ucls...



Lorna Collins  00:01
Welcome to Creative Lives, a podcast which opens provocative conversations, experimenting with big ideas and local practices. My name is Lorna Collins, and this is the last podcast in this series, but we've got an absolute corker for you. Our topic today is "Lifelong learning" with guests, Emily Bradfield and Deborah Padfield. The fields unite! I was going to say, Bradfield and Padfield... this is certainly a coincidence.  Emily is an independent arts consultant who supports people to reimagine evaluation, and manage projects creatively. She's also charity director of Arts and Minds, which is an arts and mental health charity working across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Emily holds a PhD in creative ageing from the University of Darby. She is passionate about bridging the gap between research and practice, advocating arts for social change and weaving creativity throughout research, evaluation and practice. And she actually has a trademark of her, her little sort of pièce de resistance, which is called #CreativeCapture. And we'll hear more about that, I hope.  Deborah Padfield is a visual artist and senior lecturer in Arts and Health Humanities at St. George's, University of London, and a teaching lecturer at the Slade School of Fine Art here at UCL. She collaborates with both clinicians and academics and her research explores the potential of photographic images, co-created with people who have pain, to facilitate a patient-clinician communication, so new ways of communicating about pain. And her latest book is about "Perceptions of Pain"[i], which is edited with Joanna Zakrzewska.  So today we have a freelance creative and an artist researcher. I'm fascinated to hear both of your thoughts, the two fields in the room! What does creativity mean to you? That's the first question: how do you express yourself creatively, in your life and in your work? So first of all, we have Deborah, what would you like to say about creativity?

Deborah Padfield  02:17
I see creativity really as making connections, which are maybe not obvious but a lateral between things, between ideas between objects so that those connections add up to more than the sum of their parts, there's a sort of meaning beyond what's the obvious literal reading in front of you. And that object, or that colour, or that idea, takes on other associations or other layers, because of its connection, or its place, amongst other ideas. And I think, for me, the same is true with people, I think a lot of my practice as an artist is co-creative, and that I co create photographic images with people in pain in order to give a visual form to their really intense experience of pain, and hope that that can be a springboard for conversation around the pain. But I've also thought that a lot of my creative practice is also bringing people together. And it's the same thing of creating these sort of lateral connections between people where surprises come up that you don't expect, like materials might flow in a way you don't expect people flowing away, you don't expect and the different synergies, the different exchanges, which you can't predict by the items you put in the pot, I suppose, continue to surprise and continue to mean more than one of those individual components. And I think that's what's exciting for me.

Lorna Collins  03:36
Thank you, Deborah, that was really interesting, and very creative, funnily enough. Emily, what about you? Can you tell me more about your #CreativeCapture icon, your iconic sort of pièce de resistance, as I said, What would you call it?

Emily Bradfield  03:53
I was really interested by the fact that Deborah mentioned connection. And I think connections within creativity are crucial, whether that's connections between yourself and your creative practice your connection between yourself and your research, but also ways of expressing yourself in different ways. And I think that that's a very unique thing to each individual. As I get older, I realise that actually, I bring creativity into everything I do, or at least I try to, whether that be through visual elements, or making something look beautiful, or using a different approach to learning to understanding. So I think it traditionally people think that creativity is necessarily associated with the arts, but actually, I think creativity comes into all sorts of elements of our lives. So I certainly adopt a very broad definition of the arts, particularly within the context of creative ageing and lifelong learning, where I think that actually When you can really be engaged in an activity, whether it be painting, gardening, walking, you get that sense of flow. And I think there's a real connection between the flow element and creativity.

Lorna Collins  05:17
Thank you, Emily. I think it'd be really interesting now if we could contextualise the issues of creativity and learning in the current moment. As this podcast is recorded, we're supposedly at the end of COVID-19, so it's all about immersing ourselves in what everyone's calling "Freedom Day". That's literally approaching... So, listeners, I don't know what time or day it is that you're listening. But we have just been promised a Freedom Day, when all the restrictions from the pandemic and the restrictions of lockdown are going to be released. So what is creativity and learning right now? What do we need? And what is happening? Deborah, would you like to go first?

Deborah Padfield  06:03
I think when you were saying about Freedom Day, and how do we respond to it, because my initial response is, for me, it doesn't feel like Freedom Day, it feels like imprisonment day because I'm on a shielding list, so is my partner. And the thought of going out with everyone not wearing masks and assuming the pandemics gone is frankly terrifying. And I think a lot of people in that situation, I understand the need for people to continue their lives. But I don't understand why you can't mitigate the risks for other people at the same time. And so I suppose another part of creativity could be seen as imagining what it is like for another person, imagining what it is like to be in another mind, which might take your ideas to another place that you wouldn't have gone yourself. And if I relate that to my co-creative practice, I bring a sort of experience of working with photography or with film or through the lens. But people I work with bring the most amazing metaphors and ideas and materials they think of putting together because they're living with that intense sensation, and they have their metaphors for it. So you put those together, and you end up with an image you could not have envisaged before. And I think that also is sort of part of an empathic process. And which again, I think is how that's useful in the consulting room is for people to be able to see outside their own sort of tunnel of logic or ideas or normal behaviour, habitual behaviour. And creativity allows you to imagine the value of what someone else is bringing, or imagine what it is like to be in that person's shoes.  For me, it's visual images, but it could be dance or music. If you work with another form, I think what a visual image does as well, is allow other people to see your experience of your experience. So it puts the person either making the image or co-creating the image in control of how their experience and their selves are seen by others. And that again, makes the creative object a very good mediating negotiating device for understanding other people.

Lorna Collins  07:58
Thank you, Deborah, I really, really appreciate your idea that you experience, your experience of your experience. So, creating a device for understanding other people. So one's creativity helps you experience yourself and your attitude and your process in the world. And it also provides a method of understanding other people connecting with people. Emily, what do you think?

Emily Bradfield  08:25
I think in the current context, there's some real positive learning to take from the last 18 months or so. I think there was a fear or hesitancy about moving arts projects online, both from perspectives of facilitators, but also from people who might be engaging in programmes. And what would be missed from that in person contact that's so crucial, particularly within Arts and Health. But what we've seen arts and minds is that actually, people have really embraced the virtual world. And it's created a different sort of space, a very creative, safe space. And there's something very different about being in a room with people, particularly I'm thinking hearts and minds, we run an arts on prescription programme for people with anxiety and depression. And being in your own space, albeit with a camera in front of you enables you to walk out of the room, turn your camera off, you're in your own environment in your own space. And that's very different from being in a community centre or in a museum setting. So we've really taken some positive learning about actually how people do react and engage with one another in the virtual world. And one other crucial element and positive learning that we'll be taking forwards and I think other organisations will have experienced the same is is the reach that, although obviously we have to be conscious of the digital divide and people's access to engaging online.  But actually, geographically, you are able to reach people who might not be able to come to something in person. Whether you're shielding or in a geographical area where the transport links are terrible. in Cambridgeshire, for example, in the some of the parts of the county, it's really difficult to get into a city and to travel. So actually, we've had a lot of people engaging with our work, who've said, I've wanted to come to a programme for years, but I haven't been able to because I haven't been able to get to the physical space. So the virtual world has opened up new opportunities and new ways of being creative and working together creating together. And I think the fears that we felt back in March 2020. Of how's this going to work online? I think they've been significantly reduced. And I think it's, it's opened up a different world.

Lorna Collins  11:05
Your own space? That's really interesting, because space is absolutely crucial, isn't it? Creativity makes space creative, a safe space. I think that's absolutely really interesting right now, because of course, we're working in virtually, what is space? What is virtual space? What is space, in a virtual world? Interesting... In a way, you've already began to answer my next question, because you're saying how we can learn from what we've experienced in the past 18 months, moving projects online. But what I'm asking you now is: what can be done to creatively improve the situation which we are managing right now? What is your particular approach to using creativity post pandemic?

Deborah Padfield  11:48
Well I was thinking actually, while Emily was talking, that actually in the present at St. George's, I run a direct programme called open spaces, which is bringing arts and humanities into dialogue with healthcare and science and medicine. And we've had to move the entire programme online, which because the idea was to get people together and to share experience and exchange, we didn't know how that was going to work. And actually, what we did find is that students who are on placement or alumni or clinicians who are working and who would not normally be able to attend, absolutely, they were able to attend. So I think that something of that will continue in our programme will continue in a blended version. So some events will be definitely online. So you get a bigger reach, and others will be in person. So you can have that face to face exchange, which happens in a more ad hoc and a more organic process, and the materials can be more focused on.  But there was something else I was thinking about, also, I think is really talking about sort of the future also of working internationally. And the fact that you know, we can't travel at the moment, but the international conferences or international exchanges of ideas have happened. And I think they will continue and we're trying to expand the "Pain and Photography" project to working trans-culturally, we've got colleagues in India and Japan we're working with at the moment. And that's really exciting because you have a real exchange that you couldn't do without getting a massive amount of grant funding. So you can do a lot of the sort of legwork before you consider actually trying to physically go there. So hopefully, you can make more use of it. There is the thing of access, as you say, because of the internet, providing the devices and the rest of it. So it doesn't really reduce those inequalities, you have to have a device that you can work on.  But I think in other ways there is a democratising effect because there's a sort of protocol that people adhere to. And as you say, you're in your own space and people in their own spaces and can make themselves feel comfortable. And I think sometimes, there are quite subtle exchanges that happen that could possibly get missed. Last thought is there's another project I'm doing at St George's where I co-create images of the people's experience of the lockdown actually, with students and with academics who are often clinicians. And it's taking the co-creative process I normally do in a room physically, but we're doing it through the screen and almost creating it on Zoom. But what that means is you're very conscious of the lens, you're conscious of who's looking at who who's controlling that gaze. You know, how is that gaze being constructed? How's the image being constructed? And so I think you have to negotiate quite a lot and I think maybe a really fluid flexible negotiation is part of creativity, whether it's in language or body language, or visual or performing arts, there has to be a fluidity and exchange and I can't believe I'm saying this because at the beginning of a lockdown, I naturally thought to be on screen all the time was horrendous. But actually, there are benefits of it. But we need to not think it's a magic bullet as well because I think that what COVID has done is really shone a light on the inequalities and those need to be sort of addressed and brought into a new creative process going forward.

Lorna Collins  14:57
Really interesting that your idea to make hybrid working, so move programmes online, to make a blended and a bigger reach and working internationally. When you can't travel, interesting, we can do that now -- the world is our oyster. I'm really interested by Deborah in your talk about the gaze, constructing the gaze from a psychoanalytic viewpoint. That's really interesting. I think creativity is all about creating a new method of seeing the world and ourselves, so it's sort of constructing a new gaze. Emily, what's your what's your thoughts about addressing the situation which we are facing right now?

Emily Bradfield  15:34
Yes, I think it's interesting. And it goes back to that idea of connection actually. And it's interesting what Deborah was just saying about the screen time, because I think if it's managed well, or managed creatively, actually, that virtual space and environment can be really freeing. It can be creative, engaging, but it has to be well managed. And there has to be time for breaks, there has to be creative interjections, a session that I facilitated online in the break, I put some music on. And people commented that actually, they've gone off and made a cup of tea, but to have that visual or musical interlude, to break up, you're staring at the screen, which is really unnatural. We don't normally stare at ourselves all the time whilst we're speaking, which can be quite distracting. But I think it's about really thinking outside the box about how you deliver conferences or arts programmes in a creative manner. An example of this friend and colleague of mine, Emily-Rose Cluderay, we ran a series of "Dance Break" sessions, starting in November, when we went back into lockdown. And it was basically from me, having attended a 9am-5pm online panel session, where we had a 15 minute break in the whole of that time. Now, obviously, I stepped up and went away from my screen, but there were no scheduled breaks. And so we developed a 15 minute lunchtime dance break. Emily Rose is a dancer, she facilitated just to get up and move and get out of your chair. And even though it was still online, you were moving and getting some energy and felt energised afterwards and felt refreshed and ready to go on with the rest of your day.  So I think that's an example of how you need to really be considerate and think about people. It's not the same being in a meeting in a room where you can move around, it's you feel kind of that you need to constantly stare at the screen, and it's finding ways of breaking that cycle. But just going back to sort of moving forwards as well, in terms of delivery of arts programmes. One of the things that we're piloting at arts and minds at the moment is a virtual Arts on prescription programme. But in the evenings, we received a lot of feedback that the majority of our programmes are run during the day. And so people are unable to attend potentially because they are at work, or they have childcare commitments. And so we are running the programme at the moment, which is in the evenings to allow different access for people that might fit into their day. And I think Deborah mentioned and it's been used a lot is moving forward to use a much more blended approach. Or I've also heard the term hybrid approach to how we work and how we deliver activities. And I think going forward, people talk a lot at the moment of particularly on Freedom Day of going back to normal, I don't think we will go back to how things were before. And I think actually, that's a really good thing. And we have to take the positive learning and the creative ways of working as we move forwards.

Deborah Padfield  19:02
We did a similar thing at St. George's actually, when you were saying that we did almost a parallel thing because we teach one class which was in collaboration with Birkbeck as well on a Monday evening. And it's a three hour session after students have been there all day with what they have been on the screen all day. And there's a wonderful dancer Anusha Subramanyam, who I have worked with quite a lot. She's an Indian dancer. And she actually came in and did a 15-minute session after the break because we always had a break. And then she would start off the second half with movement and we weren't sure how the students were going to take it. And they all had the cameras off and we had ours on so we felt super embarrassed. However, we were sort of released in a way we thought we got to keep them on if we're asking them to do a similar thing. But all the feedback was that they really enjoyed it and then they had the recording that they could carry on in their own time afterwards. So I think, as you say, managing it well so you can move away from the screen so you're not actually latched on to it with a splitting headache and backache is really important. So I was just, it made me think...

Lorna Collins  20:03
...once again, a blended, hybrid approach. So having evening virtual arts on prescription programme, that sounds like it'd be really much more accessible than previously. And Dance Break! I remember Dance Back, I joined some of your Dance Break sessions, actually two, maybe two or three. And I stood up and I had a little jig in my room. And that was very enlivening. So thanks for that, Emily. And I hope you bring that back.  So now, I would like you to bring something to the room, the virtual room, our own space, wherever we are. And we'd like you to present something that reflects your creative self or your creative work as a kind of case study to finish this off with.

Emily Bradfield  20:47
Yeah, no, no pressure at all. I think I mean, you touched on it at the start, Lorna. So those of whom know me, I have developed a technique called #CreativeCapture. And this is something that developed out of me attending lots of conferences during my PhD, and coming home with endless pages of notes in scruffy handwriting that I never looked at, I didn't really pay much attention in the conference sessions and workshops, and then didn't really remember much and never looked back at my notes. So I started to develop a visual form of notetaking, which has evolved over the last five years into creative capture. And I think that really reflects my creative self, at the moment, in that I use creative capture. When I'm attending a conference or a seminar. I've used it in my independent consultancy work to capture sessions with participants and focus groups. I've used it to summarise a year of COVID, all sorts of things. And I think it really is a way of bringing colour, and creativity, and not lots and lots of words into my daily life. And fortunately, other people enjoy looking at them, too.

Deborah Padfield  22:13
I'd love to see some of them. I wish she could show them. But I was thinking when you were talking as well, I think everyone has a creativity. And it's how that how that's released, or how confident people are in allowing that to be explored. And I think a way of actually maintaining your health and your sanity. So your physical and your mental health, is owning your creativity and allowing your mind to wander and connect things which may not be logical or rational, but give you other ideas allow you to explore what you're feeling, what you're thinking, how you're connecting with others. And I think that there's also the fact that creativity isn't just the sort of remit of artists and performers, creativity comes into our engagement with the rest of the world, how we do find imaginative ways of coming out of COVID, how we find imaginative ways of reducing the inequalities, how we find you know, how the vaccine was rolled out the new vaccines as the imagination and creativity within those processes. I think as human beings, we have to keep those creative elements alive. They're part of our fundamental part of being human. And they really need to be valued by governments and appreciated that you don't have arts and creativity on one side and science and facts and healthcare on the other. They are absolutely in dialogue and absolutely interlinked. And if you if you allow people's creativity to flourish, whatever direction that's going in, you can have as rigorous research as you like, but you will probably get further if there's an element of creativity in there, to my mind.

Lorna Collins  23:45
Deborah, that's really profound. Everyone has a creativity, it's about owning your creativity. I think what can we do when we own our creativity? Can we buy creativity? No, we can't buy creativity, but we can embody it, and we can expand it, and proliferate it, because it is a form of proliferation. Lots to think about. Thank you very, so much, Emily and Deborah.

Deborah Padfield  24:10
Thank you, Lorna. It's completely different way expected, but very enjoyable, and lovely to meet you, Emily.

Emily Bradfield  24:15
Yeah, you too.

Lorna Collins  24:17
That was really interesting. And unfortunately, that was our last podcast. But watch this space, there will be more on the horizon. I look forward to applying these ideas in our creative practice and our creative life. Thank you so much to Grand Challenges for producing the podcast, UCL minds for publishing it, and for the input of our numerous collaborators behind the scenes. The editing is by Nina Quach, the lovely Nina Quach, who is behind the scenes. Thank you so much, Nina, and the music from the start and the end which we love is by Tim Moore. So thank you so much all the listeners and watch this space. We will be back...