This post originally appeared on the Library as Incubator Project in September 2012.

The Library as Incubator Project is pleased to welcome Bryony Pritchard and Kim Glassby to the site today. Together Bryony and Kim form Playbods, a program that engages participants in exploring different art forms, from dance and movement to storytelling and visual arts. We love their multidisciplinary approach to their work and to their emphasis on group learning and community engagement. ~ Laura

Materials for a typical Playbods program.

Give us a brief overview of Playbods – who are you, and what do you do? 

Playbods is a collaboration between two established, Leeds-based artists – Bryony Pritchard, a visual artist and performer, and Kim Glassby, a dance and movement artist.  Both artists aim to deliver playful, multi-sensory, interactive performances and projects with community groups and individuals of all ages, abilities and backgrounds.  In this collaboration they are interested in how to engage the public in sensory play and interactive learning in the library environment and how this impacts on how people feel within the library and interact with the space and one another more positively.

Kim is a community dance and movement artist and has been delivering and co-ordinating community arts projects and performances across Yorkshire and the North-West. She specialises in working in Early Years settings, and dance with families, older people and children and adults with learning difficulties with an emphasis on health and wellbeing. She uses play, physicality, creativity and person-centred practice as central aspects of her approach in working with groups and individuals.

Bryony is an interdisciplinary artist with a background in visual arts and movement working across West and North Yorkshire. Her work brings together participatory events, interactivity, play, performance, installation, sculpture, film and dance. Bryony works as a creative practitioner and project coordinator with festivals, galleries, charities, organisations and education services. In these roles she is able to explore her interests in creative learning with members of the community. Find out about her other projects here

How did your partnership with libraries develop? 

We have danced together since 2007 in various workshops, but we initially started to think about developing this project after seeing The Big Dance call for dance projects in libraries last year. We loved the idea of bringing dance and creativity to places which are unexpected yet very public and we were keen to break conventions of libraries and explore how you could make libraries more relaxing and stimulating and places to celebrate stories in active and experiential ways. We approached the library service with our ideas who were keen and after a few meetings and a successful funding application from Leeds Inspired we were allowed in to play in three different libraries in Leeds!

What is a typical Playbods program like? 

Since Playbods is a new collaboration, we are currently investigating what our typical programme will be; we are testing what works well in engaging people through our specialised art forms.  So far we have found out that our approach includes the following elements:

  • We start with a story or theme from a book and explore the ideas within this through active games, open play and recycled resources
  • We often start an idea with the families to initiate the story/theme and then give them space and time to find their own ideas and explore the things which they like most
  • We make the space as comfortable as possible for the children and families to encourage them to feel as though thy can spend more time there, reading, relaxing and playing
  • We listen and respond to stories which are naturally created by the children and parents through the activities and we collect and celebrate these through images, words and games to give these back to the participants
  • All of the stories and themes we have used so far are based around movement, dance, play, discovery and journeys as we want to emphasise the importance of these things in all aspects of life

You combine dance/movement, art, and literature in your program. Why is it important to make connections across these artistic fields? 

We both believe that no art form stands alone, that creativity and art emerge everywhere (not just in the studio) and that everyone should have frequent opportunities to be creative in spaces, which are accessible.  This is why we were excited about working within the libraries as this is such a central, public space, which is free for everyone.  We often encounter people (mostly adults!) who say ‘I am not creative’.  People usually have this opinion because they have been told that they are not very creative or artistic, or have had a negative experience of creativity in their younger days.  We want to send out the message that people of all ages should be given the opportunity to try different things and have new experiences, be given the time and space to find out what they enjoy, and that you are never too old or young to be creative!

Also, we know that literature doesn’t just live on the written page:  Stories emerge and evolve all of the time, in everyday life through spoken words, gestures and games between families and friends, and so in bringing these elements and art forms together we are inviting this to happen in an open and celebratory arena within the public library space.

As artists ourselves we are also very much interested in learning about art forms, which are outside of our specialised areas and this is why we are taking this opportunity to work together – so that we can share skills in a really experiential way and in support one another.  We feel that this will make us stronger as artists who work with different members of the community.

What has your experience been so far in working with libraries? Any advice for other artists on developing/enhancing a library partnership?  

We have found the Leeds library staff are very open-minded and innovative in encouraging people to feel welcome in the library environment and in engaging with books on many levels, and so this gave us a really good starting point.  The library staff at first seemed quite familiar with this active and creative way of working, however were not as used to the open-ended aspects of what we do and the fact that the structure is built around the children rather than created by the adults.  We offer a starting point and resources and then work with the responses of the children and parents – in this way we have encouraged new stories to emerge from the families, which we celebrate and use within our activities.

We have discovered so far that it has been really valuable to get to know the environments and staff as much as possible before our session delivery, and to communicate as much as possible about what we plan to do, and also on the technical things such as risk assessment, health and safety, marketing and logistics.  Also getting a sense of the local community beforehand is vital so that we can pitch the content and activities correctly and feel more prepared and responsive to the participants who join us.

We are enjoying reimagining the library environment and meeting the families and librarians as well as watching them enjoy the change. So we have lots of ideas buzzing around for dance and play activities inspired by specific stories in Leeds Libraries for the next wave of events in September.

For more information about the project:
Twitter @Playbods


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