June 19th 2012
It was indeed a critical incident
With over 150 people attending this year, I hope the I was fully explored! My own reflections as follows. It seems people are, as ever, taking differing paths to realise or understand their more fundamental identity. Some take to the yoga mat and try to embody themselves more strongly, or find a more conscious or harmonious balance between inner and outer, physical and metal, or spiritual. Others root their self in holding to a take on life - a philosophy or even a standpoint. Atheist, spiritual, agnostic. They become an “I am X”. Others seem to be at ease with bewilderment; yet others, not at ease at all with it. We had others exploring the I through “I” statements - through giving talks, through debate, conceptualising and discussion. For them, the I is explored through dialogue and through thinking. Others root in the arts and the creative paths of sock puppet making, clowning, laughter and creative writing. Others immerse themselves in all of these and surfed the day. My own path was cafe based when I wasn’t strutting like a peacock or fussing like a mother hen over session times and data projectors.
Critical Incident was as diverse as ever and raising as many questions as it answered. But the swirl was.. Yes, awesome.
June 15th 2012
Experimenting with the I?
With two more days to go before this year’s Incident, I’m wondering how our theme will evolve during the day. I’ve been interested in the notion of the “little I” and “big I” (lower and higher ego) often mentioned in western esoteric philosophy. I meet a lot of people trapped in an identity that is actually making them unhappy and the paradox is it is the strategising of this “mini me” that keeps the person trapped. The same strategies that got me into the shit and the ones I employ to get me out of it, and all that results is deeper shit.
The higher “self”, or “bigger I” tends to be less judgemental, less, dramatic, and less in a conversation with itself. It doesn’t believe its own publicity, and it is a lot calmer. It can be a sword of truth, a tongue of fire, but mostly I think it wears the garb of our muse, our higher voice, our inspiration (we often call it deeper intuition ironically) and it can see through mist very easily. All it asks is we listen to it and learn to distinguish it from all kinds of dodgy and dark influences that come from places like the media and the corporation.
Critical Incident 2012 could be a day to meet or remeet your higher you. Your bigger I. It might be a shock. It might just be like meeting a lovely old friend.
June 5th 2012
Camped on the Borders of our own Greatness?
It’s been a regular paradox for me that the very people who would most benefit from a critical incident, and also from coming to THE Critical Incident, are the very people who not only don’t come, but are also among the first to say they are coming on our Facebook event page.
A lot of people come right up to the door of needed change, they even lean against it and call “I’ll be right in!”, their hand even closes on the door know and turns, but they do not push and step through. We even get people paying and confirming they are coming the day before, asking for directions, and still they don’t quite make it into the space of opportunity.
I even know people who have done this all their lives, making it a kind of ongoing ritual. I once characterised them as people “camped on the borders of their own greatness.”.
You can’t force them. And you shouldn’t. But it is a pity that they will, once again, probably miss out on a day that is just what they probably need most.
April 27th 2012
I am delighted that the Applied Improvisation Network have grabbed hold of a chunk of this year’s Critical Incident and launched themselves into one of our “I” words - Improvisation. Paul Z Jackson and Belina Raffy are largely responsible (along with their community) for putting applied improvisation onto the organisational map around the world. We’ll have a whole stream of activities devoted to “improvisation” at Critical Incident, so get involved, either as a participant or a contributor!
Oh, and Tom Bourner is organising the screening of a film on happiness!
March 24th 2012
We now have a theme for 2012 and it’s as broad as it is scary!” “Exploring the I”. How do we hold our own in a world of digital workplaces and play spaces, gadget addiction and mass culture? Who am I? Now that’s a big question I’ ve been asking all of my life. I’ve also been interested in the loss of feeling of I-ness that some of my friends and colleagues are experiencing. Does it matter not to have a sense of purpose in life - a narrative thread running through our story? Are we born to drift on tides not set by us? Are we, as Sherry Turkle puts it, increasingly destined to be “alone together” - ever more technologically connected yet somehow even more isolated in our “I”s?
This year’s Critical Incident, I hope, will be a vibrant exploration of identity, of self, of who we are in the world, alone and together. The call to participate is out. I hope you might consider offering a session, or coming along and immersing yourself in this unique retreat in the heart of a creative and somewhat wonderfully lost city.
January 24th 2012
The date is set for 2012. Sunday 17th June. We are experimenting with a Sunday for no good reason other than it being another weekend day, but perhaps a bit clearer of Saturday travel and cafe rushes. Parking my be easier and the mood may be different. Now, what theme for this year? Your suggestions are welcome. I’m toying with Tom Bourner’s idea to explore “happiness”, but also interested in exploring the theme of Sherry Turkle’s “Alone together”, or perhaps “originality”. Who knows. Not I. Yet. But one thing’s for sure. We want it to give birth to plenty of critical incidents!
June 19th 2011
It was the biggest, but was it the best? I think so. The 150 or so people who attended seemed more immersed than ever in the events and happenings throughout the day and the evening, though we packed the programme a bit too tightly and I think a lunch break would have been a good idea!
It definitely paid off moving the event to the month of June, where the event wasn’t buried amongst 600 Fringe shows and events. Saturday also received a thumbs up, though not for people with childcare issues and we’ll have to look at that next year.
Connection: authentic conversations, meeting without superficial networking, and going live to California via projected Skype video - these were a few highlights. I loved the debate at the end of the evening that pitted philanthropy and caring capitalism against state funding for the arts. It was a wholly unsatisfying yet energising debate.
There were sessions exploring vocal connection, physical and embodied connection, there was an exploration of the connection between power and control through clowning, a look at fingertip and virtual connection, connection to our purpose, our mojo and our deeper self. There was a look at shocking connections, how we address each other, as well as how we connect to character, script and role. Art met personal and professional development, creativity met science and technology. Poetry met Skype, and we heard of banana telephones and the family connections in an encounter with the perimeter walk of life.
My conclusion? Connection is under attack, for a number of reasons Yet human ingenuity and our ability to seek connection at different levels and in different ways gives me optimism for the future. Critical Incident 2012, bring it on! Any ideas for a theme?
June 8th 2011
Our programme is now well and truly full which is a bit of a worry as who knows what delights might be offered on the day. Time for a bit of programme juggling and tweaking to make space for more. Have you booked yet? Why not? It’s the best urban retreat in the UK! Book here.
May 8th 2011
I’m in the heart of the Brighton Fringe and it would be easy to forget about Critical Incident. But we’re trying an experiment this year - in the true spirit of the event itself: we are going to advertise mostly much later. I’ve got frustrated advertising well in advance and watching people file the event away into vaults of partial commitment that descend into imagined hopefulness which means... They either forget about it, or they don’t show up.
So we’re putting most effort into singing Critical to the world in June. I hope you like the song. Connection is what we are about this year and I was inspired by the work of Sherry Turkle who, based on a lot of research, claims that we are now mostly Alone Together. The benefits of the new “connected” and largelt mobile technologies is they alienate even as they connect. The child at the school gates, met by a parent who greets them with a cursory wave of the hand as they are lost in their Iphone or Android Facebook udpate or Twitter feed. And the baby, born to a mother who delays taking it to her breast as she tweets “it’s a girl! Told you so”. I’m looking forward to the exploration of connection and, if all goes well on the day, it ought to be some scary conversation too. We’re going to experiment with the performance of “Text” - a play about mobile relationships. You’ll be able to watch live with your eyes, or via a camera phone or laptop. Eeek!
April 9th 2011
The programme is filling up fast and I’m worried our open space sessions will be eroded. That’s so easy to do - to favour the pre-planned. Emergence and spontaneity often doesn’t have the same status in our minds and hearts as the pre-fixed stuff that makes us feel safe. But I’m most looking forward to what shows up Unplanned, Unimagined by us before the event. Come on our demons! Fly out of your cupboards on the day!
March 8th 2011
Our first sessions are coming in and it seems the theme of connection is both inspiring and a bit overwhelming. I’m hoping the “loss of connection” that many people feel nowadays will be explored as well as the notion that virtual connection offers both something new but also seems to steal us away from our tactile lives.
We’ve taken the whole space at Phoenix this year and there is scope for something bigger in the main gallery space.
I’m wondering where dialogue and reconciliation are in the current meltdowns in the Middle East and North Africa. What happened to the healing atmosphere of South Africa? Where are the Scandinavian dialoguers from Norway and the like? There’s a lot of leaping to armed struggle and the notion that diplomacy is about avoiding war. But what about the root of tolerance in the religions of Islam, Judaism and Christianity? There seems such a profound loss of connection. Can’t the simplicity of dialogue really offer something here?
February 15th 2011
Our Call for Participation is now live on the site so I’m excited to see what is going to roll in. We already have a few suggestions, one for a biodanza session exploring connection, and we’re imagining a live poetry international cafe link up across three continents via the joys of Skype video. Not to mention a look at the relationship between intimacy and social media. I love this part of the process. From out of seemingly nowhere, all kinds of creative ideas and proposals start to roll in and a programme emerges, never fully formed until the day itself.
I’m also starting to think about what we can use the main gallery space at Phoenix for. We’ve taken that on this year too. It’s a big, brighter, more open space, so ideal for some bigger experiments and activities.
Today, Caffe Moksha is slowly filling up with the breakfast rush, a mix of lone macchiato imbibers and huddles of three talking “shop”. Cafes are places of connection and people seem to love them more and more for that these days. Small tables, eye to eye across cups of steaming tea and coffee. Connection can be easy, simple, and very telling indeed...
February 5th 2011
This year’s Critical Incident will have the theme “Connection”. Connectedness and Disconnectedness is, for me, a theme of our times. Even as we connect more and more via social media, it seems to me that these new developments alienate ourselves from each other even as we poke and hug each other virtually. There’s much to be celebrated in the technological times in which we live, though our tactile connections and perhaps ability to commune with other more deeply are being challenged. Fingertip communication was explored in a new theatre piece I developed called “Text” which was premiered in early form at Critical Incident 2010. We’ll be showing it in a more completed form in 2011. How do we connect with other - how can we collaborate when we become more coldly locked inside our intellectual landscape and where deeper emotion is portrayed often as “cheesy”? Plenty to explore this year. Announcements will be going out soon!
May 20th 2010
So,onwards to 2011! I wonder what our theme will be next year. So many perspectives on freedom were shared. Here’s my favourite:
Freedom is time travel, being able to travel on the time line of your past, present and future!
April 20th 2010
So, there are less than two weeks to go and the programme is bulging full of exciting and somewhat scary freedom-exploring sessions. We now know the event is on the same day as election day and we hope people will build voting (if they want to vote) into their day plan - there’s so much to choose from, there’s time for both voting and a few critical incidents!
I’ve been musing on “Freedom” over the past month and these thoughts popped out, which I am hop”ing to explore further at The Critical Incident:
“Watch your will, it usually isn't yours; look behind it and then behind again for a whiff of a motive”
“When you learn to will your motive in real time, then, and only then, are you free”
“I believe freedom isn't about having choice. Freedom is being able to make choices that are socially and self-aware in real time.”
“Freedom sometimes involves realising that the apparently rational is a heavy curtain obscuring the light from the intuitive Real.”
“You don't need to let go of the past; but you might need to take hold of it.”
“Sometimes when we chain ourselves to some railings, we give ourselves the freedom to be chained.”
“Freedom isn't what you can do. Freedom is what you choose to will by willing your choosing.”
“The notion of freedom is irritating to a lot of people, who fear the concept so much that they experience a discussion of it as an attack on what little freedom they actually possess.”
"Originality is what's left over at the beginning"
"The original palette now is a thing of fear for many people, whose own palette is made from the broken pictures of cliche and repetition. Originality in today's creative realm can still be beauitful and awesome, but tends to be defined as the original re-combination of already existing pictures, rather than the creation of something out of raw, pure, primary colour"
Looking forward to meeting you all on May 6th!
March 20th 2010
Is everything unoriginal? Can we experience freedom if every breath we take is now simply a rehash of breaths already taken? Is freedom now about making new pictures out of the broken or whole remains of already made pictures or can our original palette of primary colours still produce something not only truly new, but also something that creates an involuntary laugh of freedom? Yes, an involuntary laugh of freedom. Do our rare moments of freedom now surprise us, a thrill of something new found inside or outside of us?
Critical Incident, I hope, will consider freedom from many different perspectives. But is the whole enterprise doomed from the start? Is there really nothing new under the sun - a quote that predates us by a few millennia or more anyway?! I’ve recently sensed an irritation in some that one should even consider the question of freedom at all. Will there be a healthy kind of irritation at Critical Incident 2010? Will there be any Eureka! Moments? If we break through, what will we break through to? A reflection, projection, or something utterly new?
February 9th 2010
The programme is already beginning to full up and we haven’t even formally announced the event yet! So much for Facebook being a damp squib (I still think it is, despite over a hundred people saying they are already coming.) I think social media commitment, such as creating events pages on Facebook or Ning, are flakey at best. However, a Facebook page is a good informing tool so we use it, as it can be quite dynamic.
We’ll continue to be paper-minimal and I think the flyers, if we have any, will be little business cards again!
Anyway, about freedom. I’m excited about what other experimental activities will come in. We’ve just had a proposal for an event on “Embodied Freedom”, whatever that is. I wonder if it will also cover “dis-embodied freedom”, in which case we’ll have to ensure no strange substances are brought into the venue, nor clairvoyants.
January 19th 2010
A critical incident is an event in the biography of an individual, group or organisation that is viewed by that individual, group or organisation to have a significant impact – be it psychological, emotional or behavioural.
The psychological or cognitive impact of a critical incident has the potential to:
- change or reinforce the way people think about something;
- change or reinforce a mindset or attitude towards something;
- fundamentally affect what is deemed by individuals or be correct or logical in a certain situation;
- raise deep questions in individuals, groups, and organisations;
- induce breakdown in currently held thoughts and theories.
The emotional or affective impact of a critical incident has the potential to:
- change or reinforce feelings of sympathy or antipathy (like or dislike, love or hate) for something;
- induce an emotional high or low in a person, group or organisation (possibly creating a state of bliss or deep depression);
- surface emotions and feelings that have remained hidden or suppressed;
- induce breakdown in currently held emotions, engendering either self-praise or self-criticism;
The behavioural or “active” impact of a critical incident has the potential to:
- ignite or depress the will to act in individuals, groups and organisations;
- induce experimentation in new behaviours, reinforce current behaviours or set in motion destruction of current behaviours;
- demotivate or enhance motivation.
Critical incidents can happen to us in a way we cannot control. For example, we are told by a doctor we have a serious illness, which forces us to fundamentally reassess our lives, our beliefs, and our priorities. Or we suddenly discover we have a distant relative who has just died and who has left us a large fortune in their will. There may be critical incidents over which we have some control. For example, we deliberately put ourselves in a position of risk in order to achieve a goal, such as climbing a high mountain or we may find ourselves struggling to keep a relationship together, involving hard choices and addressing feelings and behaviours.
Sometimes critical incidents are not realised as such until after they have occurred, sometimes many years after: “I realise now, all of these years later that what she said to me marked a turning point in my life”.
January 12th 2010
With a theme as broad and compelling as "Freedom", this year's event promises to challenge and stimulate!
A few questions to ponder...
Is freedom compromised by tiredness? A lot of people report a kind of gnawing tiredness these days associated with having "too much choice", of being buried under piles of wires, upgrades, social networks, texts and mobile ringtones? Are we more or less free when we are weighed own with information or technology overload. On the other hand, is generation Y (the emerging tech-savvy new generation) leading with way with new strategies and approaches to the info-age that unlock and release freedom in those who know how to truly inhabit and move in the virtual world?
Are we now just artists using a palette made from the part-pictures of other people, of the media, of advertising, and of repetitive exposure to the same images, sounds and even thoughts and feelings? Do we have any authentic access to an original palette of primary colours any more and, even if we do, do we know how to use it?
Is unfreedom actually a healthful state - isn't it ok, relaxing and stress-free even, to be at lease semi-programmed by the "system"? Or is the stress or perhaps excitement of unknowing, of emergence of spontaneity, more desirable and healthful in the long run?
What are your Critical Questions on the theme of freedom that you might bring to the event?
January 8th 2010
The web site is updated! Critical Incident Brighton 2010 is up and running, with the contributors’ page and online reservation already in place, way before the Brighton Festival Fringe’s own booking has even closed for events! This year’s theme is a simple yet demanding one: “Freedom”. We hope to explore the notion of freedom, not just in the “face to face” world but also the world of cyberspace - the online (un?)reality. Are we free ? What is freedom? Is freedom denied us by mass production and mass society? Are we now all cliche? “I believe freedom isn't about having choice. Freedom is being able to make choices that are socially and self-aware in real time. “ So say I on my Facebook profile page. I struggle with my own freedom and seek to be original. Is an original palette even possible these days? I’m looking forward to seeing what sessions will be offered this year to address this theme.
August 25th 2009
Mark Trezona and Martyn Duffy had us all, literally, captivated by White Man’s Burden. Described by Chris Hislop of FringeReview as “theatre at its absolute best”, we were part of a critical incident. It was stirring to see a piece of theatre that truly engaged and The Melting Pot, Edinburgh, was a perfect venue for the many activities what were Critical Incident Edinburgh 2009. Particular highlights for me were Trevor Scales’ very zen-like improvisation session as well as Chris Hislop’s session about creating soundscapes in presentation and performance. Over 50 people came to this smaller scale event (than Brighton) and I look forward to our return in 2010. One insight: being in the now sometimes requires, ironically, being prepared to prepare our playfulness.
May 21st 2009
Over twenty events,and 110 plus people made this year’s Brighton event a genuine critical incident in its own right. Feedback so far has been non-collusive and very positive.
I wish a few more session leaders had stayed the whole day and been more influenced by the whole experience. Too many people still just “show up” and deliver. But it did all feel mostly new, zesty and experimental. What a group of people! Now, on to Edinburgh!
April 18th 2009
The programme is now full to overflowing; we’ve had to book extra space at the Phoenix Community Centre around the corner from the Phoenix Gallery. And a couple of last minute sessions are being squeezed in, one on finding your inner evil laugh! I’m hoping that Charles Davies will also be fitted in with something special from his engaging mind and approach.
We’ve also put up an interactive programme on a Wordpress-based site here.
Feeling optimistic, as bookings are already coming in!
March 5th 2009
The line-up is now nearly full! Yippee! Have been musing on improvisation today, which forms a part of Critical Incident 2009. Really glad to see Paul Z Jackson and Belina Raffy of the Applied Improvisation Network bringing a session using masks.
When we become too “haunted” or influenced by our past - our habits and learned attitudes and behaviours can become standardised responses to present situations, and also the way we imagine the future. These standardised responses often have, at their basis, a motive to keep us physically, emotionally and/or spiritually “safe”. The past can therefore keep us safe. However, it can also stifle innovation, original,, “new” responses. Improvisation is essentially a process that involves pro-acting in the present. When we are past-influenced, we cannot pro-act as easily, as we find ourselves reacting to present situations by taking TIME (which can be moments) to find a past response that will serve us well in the present situation. This can often be sub-conscious.
Improvisation attempts to create a blank canvas; the paint brushes are clean, the water clear, the inspirational imaginations are new, and come from the now, not from pre-formed historical images.
Improv games can often act as a kind of “switch” that tries to turn off the past-based reactions, to not give them time, but putting us in the “Moment” through activities that require reactions that are so immediate to us that they become “proactions”. Proactions do not reach behind very far, they reach forward, using present based action to “pro”-act into the future.
One reflection on my use of the word “Haunt”. The idea that, when we attempt to be improvisational, we have to overcome the “ghosts” of past habits and attitudes that “haunt” our attempts at clear, present-mindedness, leads me to see improvisation as a method of exorcism.
March 5th 2009
The line-up is looking very diverse and exciting with new sessions coming in thick and fast. I think 30 events over 4 parallel spaces looks about right with a mix of workshops, discussions, performance and small group conversation. Chris Tero is back with Amy and a new Creative Buffet and I hope that people looking to use this year’s “downturn” as a genuine creative opportunity to think some new thoughts, feel some new feelings, and do some new things.
Recessions can be a time of innovation and invention, not just survival. I hate the word “turnaround” as it seems all about going backwards, looking behind, rather than really looking ahead. Though, paradoxically, the word “before” has a strange double meaning. Before can mean behind and ahead! I put my problems “before” (in front of) me. And I also reflect on the things that happened “before” the present situation came about (I look behind me). Perhaps Critical Incident is an opportunity to do both.
February 15th 2009
There has been a change since we conceived the themes for this year’s Critical Incident, and the themes seem to me to be more relevant than ever.
Science - is the dominate paradigm of materialistic, reductionist science really delivering sustainability in our world, and is spirituality really just a mind-created metaphor as we all head inexorably (have always wanted to use that word) towards atheism? Is spontaneity now only alcohol fuelled or can we be “In the moment” and awake? Are our senses slowly falling into wretched contentment and are we really becoming “comfortably numb?”. What doom-mongering this sounds. I hope the Critical Incident really explores this from lots of different points of view and experience.
January 30th 2009
Finishing the web site for Critical Incident 4; at the Phoenix again and Caffe Moksha, as well as Jew Street. Sessions are already coming in and I want this year to get to grips with the wretched contentment and shift into partial wretchedness that the recession is bringing. Is there good in suffering. Do we have to suffer in order to grow, or can’t we just innovate? Isn’t that the challenge of the age? To find innovations as alternatives to suffering?
January 1st 2009
Remembering back to Critical Incidents at Edinburgh 2008; the Cheese Films, in particular and the debate on critiquing. The Cheese films were all about the dangers of honest responses. Is the price of honesty really too high when it causes a pained reaction? And must critiquing always either be harsh or collusive. Where are the skills in honesty that cuts to the core, yet also supports like a good community?
Sunday 27th May 2008
Another terrific incident
Where to begin? Over 70 people on the day. Caffe Moksha and Phoenix worked very well as new homes for The Critical Incident. There was a buzz of thoughtfulness throughout the day. Glen Poole bounced around (literally) and the drop-in action learning was a small-group hit. We challenged a lot. Open Space does NOT need to fix itself in time and action learning does NOT require more than one meeting to be viable. And, of course, NO MA SHEEEEEEEE!
Sunday 27th April 2008
Is suffering necessary to creativity?
Earlier last year I went to the Cambridge Music conference which sounds stuffier than it actually is.
In fact, it was a conference on the theme of "suffering". Many of the sessions focused on the Parzifal story, cast perfhapsmost famously into words by Wolfram von Eschenbach. So much of the arising discussion explored whether suffering is always necessary to human growth. In many story traditions, the "hero" is taken through a journey of suffering, a fall only to rise again (though sometimes to die in the process of striving). The dark night of the soul isa theme explored in so many art forms and stories.
In order to climb the "twelve steps" out of alcoholism (according to Alcoholics Anonymous) must we always fall to the very bottom. Must it always been the 12 steps or can we half fall and then just climb the top six? Many accounts of the 12-step program claim you have to reach rock bottom, to fundamentally admit to the reality of "I am an alcoholic" in order to successfully climb out of the pit into which you have fallen?
A speaker at the conference, one time Beirut hostage, Brian Keenan, described how, in the pit of despair and the daily emotional torture from his captors, he stumbled upon his "true self", his inner light, his physically untouchable "free spirit", which then extinguished much of the power his captors held over him. In his view, "suffering" was once framed differently. In earlier days, the suffering artist rarely truly starved - the storyteller's value was recognised by the community and the bowl was always filled with some food. The "hermit" in India is often visited by the villages and given food and fuel. Community becomes a kind of legitimisation of suffering, as suffering of the artist or inner traveler is seen by the community as somehow fundamental to its own survival and growth. Superstition? Or something more tangible?
Is suffering necessary to the creative process? Do we need shadow to enjoy our light all the more? To come out of the wretched contentment- the numb mediocrity of the current age - must we make ourselves wretched? Or can we short cut out of wretched contentment, through some creative steps, directly into a state of real, deeper happiness or satisfaction? Must we always go downhill in order to then go uphill