Since hearing her highly resonant talk at the 2007 Scottish Learning Festival, I’ve been a great admirer of Carol Craig and of the work at the Centre for Confidence and Well-being. I’ve never actually set foot in the centre but the forthcoming visit of Dr. Norman Doidge on Tuesday 15th September should change that. He is to give a multi-media presentation on the theme of his recent book, The Brain That Changes Itself.
This afternoon I was proud to take part in a performance with 9 guitarists and 2 singers from Knox Academy & North Berwick High School. Organised by Health Scotland, the theme was mental well-being and the idea of the performance was to allow delegates to see the benefits conferred upon young people by engagement in positive activity. This resonates with my own view (not mine alone, of course) that involvement in something, which is both meaningful and bigger than oneself, is one of the key ingredients of good mental health. Music and sport provide many and varied opportunities for the natural occurrence of this phenomenon.
Impromptu MC, I was keen to highlight the relevance of the way in which much of the music had been put together to the themes of the day. Many of the pupils had been on exam leave for several weeks and, nevertheless, were game to take on new material for public performance at very short notice. One example of positive attitude was to be seen in two pupils who agreed to join in the accompaniment of two songs only yesterday. Another was in the willingness of the whole group to perform a blues put together in a few minutes with neither notes nor overall plan written out. Four individuals volunteered improvised solos in this blues, and I was keen that the audience enjoy the quality of living in the moment, which always adds an immediacy to performance. I decided to dedicate this blues to Carol Craig of the Centre for Confidence and Well-being who was seated quite near the group. Her talk on well-being at the 2007 Scottish Learning Festival was one of those rare events where someone appears to be articulating inchoate thoughts you’ve had for years.
Our final item, an arrangement of The Average White Band‘s Pick Up The Pieces, seemed apposite. The young people playing have most of their lives before them. Things are bound to go wrong in the remaining decades but the thing is to pick up the pieces and keep on keeping on.
Thanks to everybody involved* for representing East Lothian in general, and these two schools in particular. The audience seemed both engaged and moved and the organisers were very grateful to the pupils for providing exactly the positive effects they had envisioned.
* the day had kicked off with a performance by some hip-hop dancers from Dunbar Grammar School – unfortunately this was long before we arrived for our lunchtime slot.