International Resilience Revolution Conference: Drawing on resilience
Entering Blackpool’s Winter Gardens on Wednesday, 30 March, 2022, I was determined to learn. The International Resilience Revolution Conference had already shown early resilience by going ahead at all. Cancelled several times, there was an air of nerves and excitement as all manner of academics, researchers, as well as people young and old with stories of triumph over adversity, all coming together to try and understand and appreciate what resilience means to them, you and me.
And what an event I witnessed! Stories told, skills showcased, social injustices tackled as a number of organisations, including Boingboing and HeadStart, went into co-productive overdrive in achieving, at the very least, a better understanding of what resilience looks like and means for different people. The young people, many of whom were in their respective Blackpool school colours, were the stars of the show. Their vibrant energy and resilient moves showcased in often heart-breaking stories as well as exhibitions of public speaking, a brilliant adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing and visual displays of art.
If I could take but one thing away from the conference, it would a better understanding of how resilient those wonderful young people are, and the many creative ways of resilient expression they employ on a daily basis. I was clearly in the presence of several experts! The adults in the room were now the facilitators, which leads me nicely onto a very gifted professional cartoonist.
Harry Venning, an award-winning cartoonist, illustrator and comedy writer, was a guest of the conference. A weekly contributor to The Guardian with the Clare In The Community strip, his work has also appeared in The Mail on Sunday, Sunday Telegraph, Independent, Sunday Times, The Stage, and Radio Times, as well as publications in Canada, Switzerland, South Africa and New Zealand. Setting up his drawing board, his classes proved very popular with the creative youngsters, who relished the chance to express themselves through the medium of art. As a writer, as well as a parent, I was keen to speak with Harry to find out exactly why cartoon drawing can be a great resilient move.
“Regarding cartoons, everyone can draw them”, said Harry. “Cartoons are a particularly accessible form of drawing and a great pastime as you don’t have to be Leonardo Da Vinci to draw them. It is more about ideas, being funny. And the children have loads of ideas and are all funny. That is what I try and tap into, using humour. It helps creativity and if you can be funny, you don’t necessarily have to be good at art. Reactive drawing is both fun and very relaxing and can do you a world of good. It helps tap into a form of resilience, which is the main reason why we are all here today.”
I, like many people, often viewed resilience as solely a positive response to negative trauma or events in one’s life. Getting up and making an effort when all you want to do is stay in bed. Putting on a brave face when issues are threatening to overwhelm you. After my work with Boingboing and, in particular, the Resilience Framework, I understand that we can behave resiliently if we have the resources to support us – It’s no good just telling someone to get up and put a brave face on it, we need to build an environment that helps people to grow their capacity for resilience, and also gives them opportunities to practice being resilient. Even better, I’ve seen that little things make a big difference. At the conference I could see that co-production, Open Mike sessions, having a Friend for Life, being listened to, and having a chance to make changes, all help people to get through tough times.
And, on the subject of seeing resilience in action at the conference, Harry, who has over 35 years of experience in cartoon drawing, was not only pleasantly surprised by the many examples of resilience on show at the Winter Gardens, but also the talent being created on paper.
“Today, while I have not been surprised, there have been one or two young people who have produced work that is not only really high quality, but also thoughtful and imaginative”, he said. Some of the pieces I have seen have been wonderful. It shows that art can be a brilliant vessel to express your thoughts and a way of making yourself heard through your thoughts and ideas, particularly if speaking isn’t always your strong point.”
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