“Only connect”: the London launch of Engaging Imagination

Today’s post gives you both a bit of literary vandalism and a sing-song…what more could you want?

London launch photoWe launched Engaging Imagination in London last Monday, April 28th, at the London College of Fashion, with a warm, welcoming and noisy reception enjoyed by colleagues, contributors, family and friends. However, there is nothing more tedious than someone droning on about the wonderful party you missed, so I will do no such thing, and instead misquote a famous writer and share a song as a creative reflection on identity as testament to the evening. If you fancy a bit of music to brighten your day, skip the next few paragraphs, but if you are a fan of E M Forster (and my apologies if you are, for what I am about to do) read on here.

In Howard’s End Forster wrote

“Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its highest. Live in fragments no longer”

I am taking his words massively out of context, but since Monday last they have been milling round my head, somehow summing up why getting together with everyone to celebrate had felt so good. In the light of this misappropriation of meaning I should probably at least justify my actions and why his words felt so relevant. ‘Only connect’ is probably obvious – Monday being a reminder of the power of the collective when you join up with and share the work of others, absorbing it into your own while also subtly reshaping your own thinking and practices. And the sheer human joy of being in a room full of people you admire – bar one.  Alas, it was a case of  ‘If only connect…’ as we struggled and failed to join up with Stephen via Skype thanks to a massive power outage in the States – the only disappointment of the evening.

As for connecting ‘the prose and the passion’, I found these two things symbolising what we argue for in our book – the prose being not just written texts but the medium through which we ask students to reflect – and the passion being a combination of the strength of feeling, fascination and absorption in the practice or subject or about the endpoint they are endeavouring to reach. So often their reflection writing does not have that passion, and we want, through creative means, to help them bring it right back to the heart of their learning. Now, I can sense I am getting a little evangelical here, so will move on and admit that I can’t find a correlation for the next bit on seeing human love at its highest, although if I could make that claim for my powers as an educator I would be one happy woman. The final phrase, however, symbolises perfectly what I do believe our reflective practices can help us achieve – and that is some sense of coherence, or point, or synergy between many of our seemingly disparate desires, intents and interests and our activities. (E M, my heartfelt apologies for all of that.)

During my career I had sometimes wondered if I lived in fragments in terms of the different values and practices underpinning my teaching and reflective practices and was surprised to see, as we wrote together,  how all the things that I had hitherto viewed as potentially unconnected slowly revealed their linkages and common ethos.  In planning Monday evening, I was wondering what simple creative means could be used to harness medium and message to reflect on identity, as that is fundamentally what I believe reflection boils down to in the long run – we may be focussing on something small, discrete, purposeful and operational at any one time, but all of these individual reflections are united by our sense of who we are and what we are becoming.

Driving in my car one evening in March I had put on a CD recorded by my daughter a couple of years ago, and as I listened it suddenly occurred to me that one of her songs This is Me – had exactly the message I wanted to express.  I explain why in the one minute snippet from the speeches here explaining why her song seemed to fit so well (acronym alert – PPD is personal and professional development, for any non UK/US listeners) and if you’d like to, you can play the song too.

Listen to This Is Me here…https://soundcloud.com/rachelrose-2/this-is-me-by-rachel-rose, taken from her 2012 EP Introducing Rachel-Rose

 Introducing Rachel Rose