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The Playful Space of Workshops: on imagination, improvisation and ignoring instrumentalism

McMillan, Andrew and McNicol, Sarah (2019) The Playful Space of Workshops: on imagination, improvisation and ignoring instrumentalism. Writing in Practice, 5. ISSN 2058-5535

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Abstract

In this article we present a new way of thinking about the creative space of workshops and advocate for a move away from the instrumentalist approach that often results from different stakeholders requiring certain outcomes. Using our experience on various projects, we consider the vital role of improvisation and play within a workshop, and demonstrate how work produced in both an instrumental and improvised space can differ. In particular, we describe the process of “de-centring” the “expert” facilitator in favour of a playful and co-produced approach that puts the needs of participants at the heart of the process. We introduce the idea of the workshop as a “magic circle” in which the role of the facilitator is to constantly adjust and check the balance and integrity of the workshop space, rather than worrying about being in the centre of it.

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