Seven questions for creativity nurturers (Thank you to Ben Sandbrook for the inspirational material)

Following links and areas of interest I came across this on a very interesting website by one of the Youth Music Network members – Ben Sandbrook ( I think Ben’s chart highlights some great questions to help focus on creativity

I think Ben’s chart highlights some great questions to help focus on creativity when working with young people, and this inspired me to think again about creativity and how we nurture this in the range of workshops run as part of the inclusion programme at NMPAT. I have gone through each point and tried to see how this is (or could be) covered in workshop situations, its by no means comprehensive but it was an interesting exercise.

1. Do we really provide a creative environment – where people are empowered and allowed to experiment, create, explore and play?

  • For me this is about the space we work in, the atmosphere we create and the ethos of the work
  • This was particularly important in the work with deaf and hearing-impaired children, we created ‘zones’ which were both sonically and visually interesting. We allowed time for individual instruments to be explored, and some group music making also.
  • We ensured that all taking part felt comfortable to try things and find out if they did or didn’t enjoy that instrument or activity.
  • Providing some guided activities and supporting the participants own creative ideas and input through a mix of small and larger group work.
  • In general – we aim to provide a supportive, creative and non-judgemental atmosphere – creating ground rules together has been helpful in some circumstances, allowing participants to contribute to the ‘ethos’ of the work.
  • Having a range of instruments and activities available to try – For example using postcards or puppets to create ‘story music’ in a hospital setting or including music video’s or music technology to engage with different interests of varied age groups

2.  Do we really behave creatively ourselves – understanding and valuing how we ourselves are creative?

  • I feel fairly confident in this area, even when I am not actively ‘creating’ music of my own, I enjoy working creatively in many contexts and have commented in previous blogs about how some of the most enjoyable and creative moments happen in workshops when collaborating with or supporting young people and young artists
  • As a team we have recently (when appropriate and possible) demonstrated creative music making as part of the workshop plan. Playing together and improvising.
  • Sometimes it is useful to have examples of creative work to demonstrate
  • Being reactive and working with the ideas of the young people, sometimes taking small elements and helping to build on these
  • Sometimes working ‘cross art-form’ to enhance the creative atmosphere, participation and products

3. Do we really motivate creativity – through focus,  challenge, purpose, encouragement and being interested?

  • This was the question that inspired me to think about all this and write this blog really. It reminds me of some useful teaching and learning practice and theory, and I find it helpful to think about these aims when planning.
  • Planning together to try and meet needs and provide a structure that allows flexibility, enjoyment and activities that progress participant’s creative development.
  • Enjoying the work, the people and the music, developing good relationships with the young people and engaging with them in the enjoyment of music, having a broad knowledge of different music styles and being able to enthuse is helpful. For example several teenage girls were finding it difficult to engage until we started watching music videos of interest together during the break, this then allowed us to really get to know each other and generated further interesting discussions and activities.

4. Do we really recognize creativity – through observation, patience, empathetic judgement and an open mind?

  • I think this question relates strongly to ‘what is musical inclusion’ and also to questions and discussions around ‘quality’.
  • Within SEN education it is often important to prioritize personal objectives (E.g. improve ability to work with others, tolerate sound, be able to choose between objects etc.) as well as musical objectives (E.g. play with some accuracy, identify a sound or play in time with the pulse). But... enjoyment and providing opportunities to experience a range of quality musical experiences such as Indian or Western classical music, songs, chants, composition etc are still key.
  • I found working with graphic scores one method that was a great way to help develop really creative, quality and meaningful music with SLD students
  • In general - Considering and aiming to understand the various and complex backgrounds and needs of students in challenging circumstances, being reactive to their idea’s and developing musical ideas in collaboration with the young people and the team

5. Do we really feed creativity – through inspiration, exposure to diversity, developing skills, knowledge and understanding?

  • Some of this has been covered already in point 3, I think, such as our own enthusiasm as practitioners and educators
  • Providing opportunity for ‘divergent’ and ‘convergent’ thinking and practice within workshops, such as using props to help tell a musical story or time to work on an idea, instrument, sound or composition and make improvements.
  • Diversity is really important to me and through the year working in the SEN school in Leicester I found that we all (pupils, teachers, TA’s and myself) really enjoyed experiencing a really diverse range of musical styles and cultures. I also noticed (and class teachers also commented on this) that on several occasions in lessons where we had explored rock and pop music the girls engaged far more when we had examples from female fronted bands such as Paramore. 
  • As a team we have worked with a diverse range of musical styles and genres and are sometimes surprised by the engagement of young people. For example a young man whose behaviour had previously been challenging engaged incredibly well with playing the harp, and this drew the rest of the group into a very beautiful improvisation. It was a reminder to me that assumptions about what type of activity young people will engage with are not always correct and it is important to provide opportunities and let them make their own minds up
  • Working with the arts award for some of the projects has allowed us to try a range of activities and given students a focus for the work. This worked particularly well in an EBD school with male students.

6. Do we really develop creativity – through feedback and support that are considered, open minded, reflective and constructive?

  • I think that continuous development of our own skills and reflective practice helps to ensure we are able to support in a considered and constructive way
  • I enjoy working with young people and during my time teaching at Derby College I found the discussions with students around their idea’s aims and musical ambitions one of the most rewarding parts of the work.
  • I think interacting with the participants is key, having a broad range of experiences helps in relating to a wide range of circumstances, challenges and needs, but....
  • I am also aware that some young people have very complex needs and that I am not an expert in everything, so for example when working in a secure mental health unit I need to be aware that our work cant ‘fix’ everything

7. Do we take creativity seriously - making it central, giving it time, collaborating with others, learning from them and sharing our experiences?

  • Yes, absolutely! Working with young people and witnessing moments of joy, creativity, progression, achievement and shared enjoyment is one of the most amazing things about working in music and arts education.
  • There are many occasions as a professional musician that taking part in collaborative and creative music making has inspired, uplifted and even transformed my own life.
  • Our work aims to provide opportunities for young people to explore, experiment, learn, enjoy and create music - supported by our team at NMPAT which includes younger and older professional artists from a range of disciplines and backgrounds.



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anita holford's picture

Really interesting reading and great reflective practice Kate, thanks for sharing this. A really useful set of questions, and it links in with the musical quality debate that happened at the Gathering and that we're continuing online here:

KateR-zoladay's picture

Thank you Anita, has given me plenty to think about and keep me focussed. Best wishes, Kate

Kate_MB's picture

Is there any chance you could link to this poster, or make this downloadable as I can't read it, and it seems central to this piece.


KateR-zoladay's picture

Hi there, here is the link to Ben's page with the poster, best wishes, Kate