Beginners Improv Weekend - Peterborough May 2014

Posted on April 24th, 2014

Would you like to be able to improvise scenes and stories? Develop your confidence in speaking in front of a group? Be more creative and spontaneous?
Our experienced tutors Stuart Reid and Antony Quinn will guide you step-by-step through a weekend workshop that will take you from complete beginner to improviser. You’ll learn the core skills and practices of improvisation, and by the end of the weekend you’ll be creating characters, telling stories and playing scenes - all entirely made up on the spot!
Saturday 17 & Sunday 18 May 2014 10:30 - 17:30 at Peterborough Cathedral.
Eventbrite - Beginners Improv Weekend

Dark Ages

Posted on February 28th, 2014

Language fear: are we scared of making mistakes in foreign languages?

Posted on February 28th, 2014

Does a fear of making mistakes hold you back when speaking a foreign language? This is the question I asked at the No Island is an Island conference organised by the European Commission in October 2013.

Adam Marshall from the British Chamber of Commerce pointed to cultural differences between the UK and USA: he thinks the emphasis on public speaking and performance in US schools lays the foundation for language confidence:

Time vs Unhurried

Posted on February 26th, 2014

We have an obsession with time. It wasn't always like this.
What if time were not short, if time were not of the essence, if time were not money?

Sunrise February 2014

Posted on February 26th, 2014

From STEM to STEMCELL: A new metaphor for education

Posted on January 26th, 2014

We need a more rounded system of education in the UK, one that values the arts and humanities as much as science and technology.
The metaphor I have chosen is that of the stem cell. Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent, meaning they can be become any type of cell. Children are the same: they can become any type of adult, given the right environment and opportunities.
STEMCELL is also an acronym for the broad range of skills, knowledge and abilities our children will need to meet the social, economic and ecological challenges of the 21st century:

Food Waste Hero

Posted on January 23rd, 2014

Food Waste Hero is an early-stage prototype project for schools to raise awareness of food waste through behavioural economics, storytelling, design and technology. It features a Raspberry Pi connected device to weigh kitchen food waste bins and shows how households are doing compared to the UK average.

UK households waste 6.7 million tonnes of food every year, around one third of the 21.7 million tonnes we purchase.

The core of the project is a device to "nudge" families to waste less. Many local authorities in the UK require domestic waste to be separated, so many households have a separate bin for food waste in their kitchen. By weighing this bin automatically, and giving real-time feedback on the device itself and on a web application about how the family is doing compared to the UK average, students learn about where food comes from and where waste ends up.

Food Waste Hero also includes a cartoon to portray the journey of a single banana from a plantation in Ecuador to a home in the UK. Connecting facts and figures to people and places encourages systems thinking, while stories engage our empathy and imagination.

In addition to showcasing interaction design, the Internet of Things (IoT) and behavioural economics, the prototype gives students the opportunity to build, test and modify a product that serves a real social and environmental need.

The following presentation was given to NIAB (National Institute of Agricultural Botany) in June 2013 in Cambridge UK - the presentation is also available with speaker notes:

Difficult Conversations - Cambridge February 2014

Posted on January 16th, 2014

This is a workshop for people who want to get better at life's difficult conversations.
The ones where there’s something at stake for us, something that we want. But where another human being is, ahem, in our way. We often devote a lot of energy to avoiding having them. We spend a lot of time in our head, or complaining out loud to our friends, about the difficult character of the person we would like to engage with but can’t.
Lots of courses are run on “dealing with difficult people" for this reason. These tend to be quite long on analysis and full of very intelligent sounding principles and frameworks. The trouble is that these courses idealise how we should hold our conversations. We think this can be disempowering… few of us can really live up to these ideals and the effort to do so can either leave us feeling we have failed, or leave us in a space of restrained politeness where we’re just repressing our more animal selves, albeit more skilfully than before.
The Clue is in the Title
We think the clue is in the title. Difficult conversations are difficult. We don’t help ourselves by attempting to make them easy by mental effort… in fact that often just makes the psychological rut deeper.
And since difficult conversations have high stakes, we don’t normally get many shots at having them.
In this workshop, we'll use a very specific type of role play where participants can experiment with different ways to have the conversation. With a big emphasis on playfully trying stuff out, and without putting too much effort into analysing or idealising. We think of it as the rapid prototyping of behaviour. It brings some of the wisdom of the maker and agile movements to the training sphere.
A Process of Discovery
We see difficult conversations as an opportunity to experiment and uncover bits of ourselves that we don’t always deploy. It’s a process of discovery and it can be so much more energising and exciting than attempting to follow a set of rules.
We are limiting the group to six particpants (plus ourselves) which we feel will make for a deeper personal experience. We think you'll gain a better understanding of a more productive way to experiment with your difficult conversations.
Thursday 6 February 2014 10:00 - 13:00 at Cambridge Union Society.
Eventbrite - Difficult Conversations

The Benefits of Improv for UK Language Learners

Posted on January 10th, 2014

Many people in the UK already have a basic knowledge of one or more foreign languages, yet lack the confidence to use this knowledge effectively.

In fact, many people feel anxious precisely in the languages they have learned - because school teaches us to fear “getting it wrong". The same people, at large in a country where they have no language training at all, will tend to improvise with no such fear of failure.

But what would it be like if you didn’t feel that fear, to speak your chosen language fearlessly? By allowing people to speak language in that state of confidence, we aim to greatly accelerate their learning and multiply their enjoyment.

Using techniques from improvised theatre, we help to grow people’s self-confidence abroad or in meetings with people from other cultures.

To be precise: we’re not teaching languages. We’re helping you make better use of what you already know.

Benefits of improvisational theatre games:
  • Improvisation is not scripted - and nor is everyday life. Playing improv games provides a safe space to try things for daily use
  • In improv, as in life, the only way to understand is to “get out of your own head" and pay careful attention to what is happening around you.
  • Improv games can be used to reduce fear and anxiety in performers on stage - they teach that it’s OK to make mistakes
  • Using gibberish, improvisers learn to communicate with body language and mime and facial expressions - even managing to create complex storylines. To experience this is to realise how much we can communicate with even meagre language skills
  • Improv games can be given context like role-play, such as “at the cafe" or “at the airport"
Our next course is Thursday 16 January 2014 13:00 - 16:30 at Cambridge Business Lounge.

Eventbrite - Be Yourself in Any Language

Unhurried Chinwag - Cambridge 11 January 2014

Posted on January 8th, 2014

I'm co-hosting an Unhurried Chinwag with Hugh Chapman at The Junction in Cambridge where we'll be talking about the art of slowness in improv, clowning and physical theatre, with a view to running a series of workshops over the coming months.
It would be great to hear your thoughts and ideas. We'll be upstairs in the mezzanine from 2.30pm.

Antony Quinn

Communication for humans and machines