So I may have lied about us keeping a daily update of our two weeks of workshops at Summerhill School. Before we began, I had predicted that our time here will be relaxed and chilled. How wrong I was when I had imagined the two weeks at Summerhill to be spent running the Inverted Planet workshops for two or three hours and the rest of the time hanging out, socializing with the children, playing table tennis, doodling aimlessly and discussing amongst ourselves the next steps for Ludic.
In contrast to the laidback time I had envisioned, the past week and a half has been mental. Every day from morning to evening our schedule was filled with different workshops. And to both my delight and disappointment, kids showed interest in our proposed activities and turned up to every single one of them. On top of that a group of girls, when having discovered that Iulia could teach beginner’s ballet, requested ballet lessons which led to us adding another series of ballet sessions in the time table.
The students at Summerhill have the freedom to decide to attend class and have full control over how they spend their time. Perhaps it is for this reason that whenever they came to our workshops they were unbelievably focused and engaged. The level of commitment and concentration the students brought with them pushed us to plan more and try to offer more to those who came to us. Some of the oldest kids (Class3 and Sign-Up) of the school aged between 13-16 have been coming to ballet and movement. And the same group surprised us in their art lesson with their quick succession of grasping an abstract body of text and translating it to their unique visuals and transferring it into a model box. We had two Korean girls who came ’to watch,’ and ended up writing stories for the Inverted Planet. The youngest kids of the school from Class1 drew and painted animals and built the most exotic, elaborate and exciting habitat of the Inverted Planet in which their animals live. The Class 2 kids, Miller, Tallula, Amy and Aijona, aged between 10-12 went beyond all others and interrogated Hennie and Iulia, questioning the laws of physics conceived in this new flipped-in planet earth.
And to our utmost astonishment came up with theories of how humans in the Inverted Planet would fight wars using sound waves in the closed space of the Inverted Planet. They set for us the ways in which trains would function and designed the concept of ‘air bubbles,’ a mechanically manufactured place for escape in solution to the intense humidity and stuffy environment of the planet. A shy girl came up with the idea of a computerize glasses that will help the people see through heavy fogs. The prices in which these inventions and services will cost as to carry over the class system through monetary values were also suggested by the kids.
In less than two weeks we have received more materials than expected from the pupils of Summerhill. And it seems that we have a rough draft of our next performance project: The Inverted Planet.
Based on the enthusiastic participation of the children, I can only hope that the children received something from us during our brief residency at Summerhill. I’m more overwhelmed with how much this experience has enriched us three headed monsters more than anything. The children at Summerhill made me far more proactive and productive than I had believed myself capable. The warmth and infinite support the Summerhill staff offered us three (who were probably needier than the Summerhill kids) helped us to settle and rise above our inexperience, gain confidence in leading workshops with the children for the first time in our lives.
Personally, it was a privilege to be able to stand by the staff members of Summerhill and see them work. The Summerhill staff work all around the clock from the moment they wake up at 8am for breakfast until the kids go to bed and often even after everyone’s in bed. Their time and life there are entirely devoted to the children. The children may not realise, but as they roam around the grounds, make their own decisions to fill up their daily routines and run the community life with fellow Summerhillians in a democratic setting, they are always under the careful watch of the Summerhill staff. When I was a pupil at Summerhill years ago I was never aware of this. But being back as an adult, the devotion and the work of the staff was clearly evident. I was gratified once again by Summerhill and the staff that made possible the childhood I had. And also the dedication the staff had not only for the kids, but for the work they seemed to strongly believe in was inspirational to see.
The two weeks at Summerhill surprised me in every way. I thought we’d have some fun delivering workshops for two weeks and be off on our feet to our next destination. And I didn’t expect the experience to sweep me off my feet. I fell in love with Summerhill all over again. All three of us were deeply in love with the school by the time we left for our next adventure. We were all extremely saddened by our good bye. Getting on the train from Saxmundham station felt as though we were embarking on a distant journey away from our new found loved ones. In the entire train journey back to London we vowed that we will return to Summerhill in the near future for a longer duration of time. With this promise we assured one another. In a few days we will be on our way to our next destination: Romania. We will be running a three day movement workshops for adults in Bucharest. We are excited about the unknown next chapter to come. But still, for the moment, our heads are thinking about what to do next at Summerhill and motivated to research, further explore and hoard new insightful experiences so we could return to Summerhill with more to offer.