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Barnstorm Production of 'Alice in Wonderland'


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Meeting our Creative Associates: Anna Galligan

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3 min read

Meeting our Creative Associates: Anna Galligan

3 min read

Meeting our Creative Associates: Anna Galligan

An integral element of the Scoileanna Ildánacha/Creative Schools pilot initiative, currently being rolled out across 300 schools nationwide, are the teams of Creative Associates at the heart of each school environment, tasked with helping to develop a bespoke creative plan for each school.

Each Creative Associate has an experienced background either in arts practice or teaching young people and work closely with each school to build creativity across as many aspects as possible of the day to day school life of the students.

One such Creative Associate in the South-East region is Anna Galligan, who has worked as a professional theatre maker for over thirty years. Now bringing her expertise and passion to Creative Schools across Kilkenny and Carlow, she has a strongly instinctive approach to inspiring young people; “Creativity is a way of thinking. It is dealing with unknowns not with fear but with determination and imagination. It is believing that something that hasn’t existed can exist. It is questioning the status quo not just when there needs to be change but because you can. It is playing with thoughts, with the world around you, with others, to see what happens. It can be light and it can be serious. Its application to life is unbounded.”

Above: Barnstorm Production of 'Alice in Wonderland'

Anna’s work focuses on the artistic development of young people using drama as a methodology, work which she continues day to day at her role of Outreach Officer with Barnstorm Theatre Company in Kilkenny. We ask her to describe her role as a Creative Associate? My role is to inspire, to challenge, to question and to help the school realise its vision in terms of arts and creativity. It starts with getting to know my schools. Initially I do this with research and by visiting and meeting with the Creative Schools Co-ordinator. We talk through why the school wanted to become part of the Creative Schools programme, what my role is in relation to them, and answer any questions or clear up any misconceptions.”

"I think that Creative Ireland has brought creativity onto the agenda, beyond the area of the arts, and that is a good thing"

This “methodical and pragmatic approach” to shaping a long-term vision means each school is given a solid framework to work from even after the Creative Associate has left, and also allows Anna to share ways in which the school can have “meaningful consultation with the children” along with connecting schools with artists and organisations for collaborative purposes.

Asked about the benefits of her new Creative Associate role, it’s clear the positives run both ways; “What has excited me most is the enthusiasm and willingness of all the schools that I have engaged with to look at their current practices and their openness to trying new things. I have also had such wonderful experiences in the workshops where we are exploring the pupil’s views on creativity, their schools’ use of creativity and what kind of new creative activities they would like to try. Teachers have said it has been an eye-opener to hear their views and have been appreciative of the methods used and look forward to using themselves.”

Above: Barnstorm Theatre's production of The House of Oedipus

Considering Anna’s experience working as part of Barnstorm Theatre Company for several years, it might not come as a surprise how much she rates theatre as a creative expression for young people! “It is complex, it demands creativity in all areas; the teaching, the facilitation, the directing, the design. You get the opportunity to create whole worlds with others. It challenges me and inspires me. It makes me determined. It allows my imagination to play. It calls on my knowledge and skills. It trains me to trust my instincts. It allows me to constantly learn. It is like a series of problems to be solved. The development of a vision to its realisation in a production, has to be one of the most exciting things to be involved with.”

Asked how she feels creative practitioners can be supported more in Ireland, Anna says she is worried about how “creativity is seen as something that is outside ‘serious’ work.” She argues that she would like to see it “being viewed as a normal way of thinking and approaching things. I would like to see creative practitioners who work with people supported more in terms of training and job opportunities.

Facilitation is a particular skill and sometimes it is not acknowledged as such. I want to facilitate others to explore, articulate, question and celebrate their world and the worlds around them.”

Above: Barnstorm Theatre's production of Alice in Wonderland

The passion and joy Anna exudes in assisting young people find their creativity is infectious and she leaves us with the defining joy that the role brings to her, “the added value of seeing a young person’s journey through the process; their ownership, their artistic, social and personal development, seeing their skills develop, friendships being made. Also seeing their resilience grow, their ability to cope and to recover from mistakes, to see them recognise and celebrate their strengths and accept their weaknesses, their support of others. I could go on and on…..”

Find out more about Creative Associate Opportunities here.

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