This summer, South West College Omagh once again played host to the Red Balloon Guitar Workshop, organised by the Enda Dolan Foundation, set up in honour of Enda Dolan, who sadly passed away in October 2014.
As part of the foundation, Dervla Dolan explains, ‘we created the Run for Enda and the Red Baloon Guitar Workshop, both in memory of my brother Enda, to encourage people to get out there and make a better impact on their own lives and other people’s lives.’
Just like the run for Enda, this musically themed week is based on a particular passion. However, the creative energy and atmosphere throughout the week carries a much more universal message, as it encourages children to explore their creativity, and reminds us of the value of creating something, as well as simply absorbing it.
Nowadays, when so much emphasis is on a supposed work-life balance and good mental health, a lot of our free time can be focused on ‘switching off’. There’s no doubt this is important, but just as parents would encourage even the youngest of children to engage in activities such as reading and art, rather than simply watching TV, we should encourage ourselves to be active and creative in our spare time.
The fact that we often don’t is perhaps routed in the fact that creativity is sometimes seen as something of an indulgence, one which will inevitably fall away when other priorities such as professional work, a sensible family life, and physical and mental health take over.
But in many areas of work and professional life creativity is becoming more and more of a requirement. A recent Guardian article asks, ‘are there any uncreative industries? If so, how do they survive? Why aren’t they in a museum, next to the dodo? The world is changing at such a blistering pace that businesses without creativity at their core are doomed.’
The article goes on to argue that everyone is born with creativity, and that should we wish, we can continue to incorporate it in our lives. It goes further, claiming that creativity should be brought to the forefront of education and to the leadership end of business.
That we are all born with creativity is central to this. Stanford professor and psychiatrist, Manish Saggar, notes that creativity is ‘very hard to define, let alone measure’ – and to say that we are all creative is not to say that we can all write like Shakespeare or paint like Picasso – but just as not being an Olympic standard athlete shouldn’t stop you from harbouring sporting ambition, varying levels of ability shouldn’t decide how we attempt to flex our creative muscles.
Finding ways to be creative in our every days lives can be easy, perhaps as obvious as finally doing something you’ve always fancied trying; painting, or perhaps playing a musical instrument – something that can stimulate your mind in order to distract it from other things, rather than just turn it off.
As well as using reading as a form of escapism, you could join a book club, so you can actively and creatively discuss the book you’re reading as well as reading it. You could go one step further and even try your hand at writing something. If you’ve a knack and a love for cooking, why not indulge in it creatively; experiment and add to recipes rather than simply following them.
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Being creative in this way is proven to be satisfying, and will often add extra elements your life, or make mundane and practical things more enjoyable. And just as it’s an ability that we naturally have and can work on, it’s a habit that can be formed.
This was again obvious at the Red Balloon Guitar Workshop this summer. As the children attended classes and demonstrations on everything from basic chord work to songwriting, their enthusiasm was easy to see. Youngsters involved last year talked enthusiastically about how they’re practising a song they first learned twelve months ago, while those attending for the first time insist they’ll continue to play when the week is over. In this way, being creative is not something you are or something you aren’t, it’s something you do.