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A unique learning experience

Sue Spencer explains how attending a writing summer school has proved to be one of the most intense but enjoyable weeks of learning she has ever had ... 

Spending four hours a day talking about writing and undertaking writing exercises with a wide range of talented writers was very absorbing. It was like going on a holiday but with the benefit of going home every night and sleeping in your own bed.

Quite what I expected from the week I am not sure, but I was hoping it would fan the embers of my writing ambitions and allow me to meet like-minded people. Both of these things happened, but it has also helped me explore where writing and other creative activities might fit in with teaching and learning within higher education.

I have become more confident in the activities I undertake with patients, carers and professionals and now have new ideas and also a forum to explore the pros and cons of what I'd like to be doing. I am sure you can get most people to rediscover their creative self and as a consequence enable people to find new ways of expressing themselves and find new skills and insights.

I also recently attended a Get into Reading workshop. This was delivered in Newcastle and I attended as a direct result of meeting the Founder and Director of The Reader Organisation (see Resources), Jane Davies, at the Nursing in Practice Event in Birmingham last year. Jane delivered the kickstart talk at the event and I was struck by her enthusiasm and common sense in relation to enabling people to read and share that reading experience with others.

The workshop was really well run and we were able to discuss the issues around running reading groups and the potential places where these groups could be set up. There is clearly a reading revival happening in small pockets across the country and groups of people reading together are having a transformational experience that may change their lives forever.

Listening to someone read a story out loud and then having the opportunity to respond to it, without having to be clever and just saying what you think might be going on within the text, was a marvellous and quite unique experience.

These two courses have helped me to appreciate that poetry and creative arts can sit alongside traditional healthcare and support. For example, during Carers Week (see Resources) I provided books of poetry for people to read at the local hospice and also gave them the opportunity to write lines of poetry using magnetic words. Those taking part began to talk about a whole range of issues as a result of their working together and as a result they were able to access advice and support from the agencies present.

I felt that the poetry facilitated discussions and that it freed people up to express the needs and uncertainties that often remain well hidden as they continue their caring role. It was a very humbling experience and I am hoping I can have the opportunity to work with more people in the near future.

The Reader Organisation

Carers Week