Just before the keynote speech is our gathering ceremony. At my first conference, the gathering ceremony was a theatrical piece with large puppets. At last year’s conference, the gathering ceremony was collective dancing.
This year, I had the privilege of planning the gathering ceremony. I’ve had an idea for a few years.
With my dramatherapy roots in the ritual theatre model, I have wanted to bring two key elements into the opening. I wanted a ritual where we welcome new students and I want a ritual where we acknowledge that, although we are together again, some much loved colleagues are not with us.
Going back to that first year’s conference; I had just finished training and knew that I had passed but had not yet registered with HCPC or graduated so I was somewhere between student and practicing dramatherapist. I was the only member of my training cohort at conference that year. I knew a couple of my tutors and I knew some people from the year above me enough to have somewhere to sit at dinner, but I didn’t quite feel part of the dramatherapy community yet. I have been to other conferences where new graduates are welcomed with a special handshake. I wanted BADth to have something which welcomed people into the fold.
But as we say hello, there is also a goodbye. I’m thinking of that moment in a BAFTAs when there is a video montage in memory of those who have died in the last year. We are a community of a few hundred members. There are so many connections between us; subcommittee members, colleagues, trainer-student, supervisor-supervisee, training cohort. When we lose someone from this community, the ripples spread. As we gather for conference, we know who is not with us.
The gathering ceremony is 20 minutes. I wanted to create a structure which held these themes and also set the scene for the keynote speech which would this year be on Self Care.
Speaking to Mary, the keynote presenter, she suggested some stories which mirrored the themes in her keynote. I chose a story called the Three Feathers by the Brothers Grim which was in one of the Dramatherapy Books. It was chosen because one of the main themes is about about being centred and going into ourselves.
I carefully selected music (more on that in The Prompt dramatherapy members magazine) and mapped out the plan. With some careful tweaking with the help of Liz, here is the Gathering Ceremony for 2022.
Storyteller voice: Amy
Master of Ceremonies voice: Liz
Master of Ceremonies: We gather together. We will hear a story and interspaced within this story there will be invitations to engage with a particular theme in a way which is playful, ritualistic and creative. The story is in five phases and I will invite you to participate at each phase.
Phase 1 Storytelling: Gathering together. Ritual of Connection
Storyteller: The Three Feathers by The Brothers Grim. There was once a king who had three sons. The two elder sons were considered to be wise and handsome, but the third and youngest said very little and they called him Simple.
As the King grew older, he could not choose who would rule the kingdom after him. He decided to gather everyone together and hold a contest. The princes came and the citizens came and they assembled in the large hall.
Master of Ceremonies: We have gathered. Take a moment to connect, to mirror, to dance.
Phase 2 Storytelling: Each would find a carpet. Personal Reflection
Storyteller: The king decided to send each of the princes on an expedition to find a carpet. Whoever returned with the finest would rule after the King’s death. He told them that each would cast a feather into the air, and whichever way the feather blew, in that direction the son would follow.
The first son offered his feather to the wind and it was taken eastward, so he set out. The second son found his feather borne off in a westerly direction and followed it.
Simple was bitterly disappointed, because no wind took his feather up and it fell lightly downwards. His direction was to remain where the feather had fallen.
Simple sat on the ground by his feather. ‘How can I find a carpet from this grass that surrounds me?’ he thought. As he ran his fingers through the stalks, his hand hit on something hard, and just before him was a trap door. He moved towards it and lifted it up. A flight of steps led down into the earth and took him to a little door, behind which he could hear voices. He knocked, and an old woman frog welcomed him and asked him what he needed. He told her about the carpet, and she called out to the little frogs around her, sending for her bag and drawing from it a carpet which was exquisite in colour and in texture.
Master of Ceremonies: The last two years have invited us to go into ourselves, many have experienced burnout. Take a quiet moment to reflect on your own journey of this time. What did you weave for yourself from this experience?
Phase 3 Storytelling: the special ring. Ritual of Remembering.
Storyteller: Simple thanked the frog for the carpet and made his way back to the King. His brothers had made no effort. One had purchased an old piece of rug and the other had bought a sack cloth, but when they saw Simple’s carpet it was clear he must be king. [Music starts]
The brothers requested a further competition. So the King told them to cast their feathers and this time bring back the most beautiful ring in the land. And they did as before, one to the west, one to the east, and one fluttering downwards, to the underneath. Simple descended the steps again and knocked at the door; and told the old frog about his need for a ring so special that none could rival it’s glory. She sent for her large bag and drew out a ring which sparkled with stones and diamonds. This she gave happily to Simple.
Master of Ceremonies: As we gather here, we remember those who are not with us this conference. Those who are too sick to travel. Those who have left the profession. Those who have passed away. Please share names of those we remember at this time…. [time for names to be shared]
As we create this precious ring together, tying the ribbons and fabric to the hula-hoops, let us remember those important relationships which we will not forget. Let us remember.
Phase 4 Storytelling: bring home the companion. Ritual of Welcome
Storyteller: Simple thanked the frog and returned to his father. The elder sons were still chuckling at Simple’s second fate with the feather. They forgot his former success and had put themselves in no trouble. They merely removed plated rings from a horse’s harness and had returned with these. As soon as the king saw Simple’s ring, he said ‘The kingdom belongs to my youngest son.’
But still the elder brothers would not submit and they begged their father to set a last competition. It was agreed that whoever could bring home the most beautiful companion would be given the kingdom. The feathers led one brother to the west, the second to the east, and Simple’s feather fell effortlessly to the ground on which he stood.
A third time Simple descended the stairs to the frog and made known his request. The frog looked thoughtful and said, I have no such companion, but you will have one’. She gave him a carrot which had been scooped out and harnessed to six little mice. Simple accepted the gift but said ‘What am I to make of this?’ The frog told him to catch one of her little frogs and sit her inside the carrot. This he did, with more than a little difficulty, but as soon as it was done, the frog turned into a lovely companion, and the carrot became a golden coach, while the six little mice turned into six prancing horses.
Master of Ceremonies: New members join us in surprising ways. We welcome the graduates who completed much of their training online, we welcome those who returned to practice after a break, we welcome those who are attending their first conference. If this is a “new” year for you, for whatever reason, we invite you to congregate on the steps. Let us make a circle with an arch and welcome our new members into our circle. New members will walk around our circle, entre through the arch and receive a candle from the chair and administrator and then join our circle.
The members broke into spontaneous cheers and claps as the new members journeyed around the circle.
10:58 Phase 5 Storytelling: Ruling with wisdom
Storyteller: Simple kissed his love and they returned to his father.
The two older brothers, quite forgetting the beautiful carpet and the glorious ring, still could not believe that Simple would succeed. Taking no more trouble than before, they chose two handsome peasants. When the King saw Simple’s companion in the coach he said ‘without any doubt, my Kingdom goes to Simple, my youngest son.
There could be no deterring the King. The younger brother married his companion who loved him dearly, and, after his fathers death, they ruled the land with wisdom and equity, for many years.
We took our seats ready for the Keynote.
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