SHIFT: Art, Yoga and Mindfulness

We visited SHIFT Festival and spoke with Robin about how the project got started, what it involves and the plans for the future. Barnwood Trust funded a number of workshops around extra-curricular arts and wellbeing.

Take a look at this film about the project:

Robin Watkins-David: SHIFT started at Stroud College. I was there as a student doing my art foundation. And I’ve been doing meditation and yoga since I was 12. And so that, with my on-going art practice, really inspired this project. And then I thought it would be really special for other people to have the opportunity. So I created SHIFT Festival and I connected with lots of different people in the community to put on this really exciting programme where we’ve got live music, martial arts, yoga classes, drawing workshops, And a second part of the project, which is kindly supported by the Barnwood Trust, is our outreach project, where we’ve got schoolchildren coming in and they’re doing a whole day of extra-curricular arts and wellbeing. Lots of them have never done anything like this before and my main take away point that I want them to walk away with is the fact that they can use their own breath to help them stay calm and present throughout life.

Robin Jacks: At Whiddon School we have lots and lots of different communities, religions, faiths, so for example today we have 46 children here, I know between us I think we only have about 10 native English speakers. Doing things like art and mindfulness here, where the children are able to communicate either through drawing pictures or lines or emotions,  or just be it through breathing exercises and being able to look with eye contact with each other, and maybe squeezing each other’s hands or thumbs and things like that, it’s been a brilliant way of trying to get children to work with each other without necessarily having to know each other’s language.

Robin Watkins-Davis: I came up with the word ‘shift’ because I was thinking about what do I like about both practices, and it came to that one word of ‘shift’. They both transform me, they make me feel better, and it’s something that every day I always feel so grateful to have those tools because sometimes life can be really challenging and I’ve struggled with my mental health in the past and they’ve really helped me. Doing the yoga and the mindfulness, it brings you in to the sensation of what it’s lke to be in the present moment. People use their senses. Whether that be if you’re stretching and you’re feeling that stretch, it just puts you in to that present moment, instead of in your mind.

Robin Jacks: We tried to introduce the idea of mindfulness at school and they have experienced very small bits of it within our school community but nothing as fantastic as today, being able to be in a really calm space, with wonderful adults that are here to guide them and lead them, it’s totally different, it’s a really calming experience here, and we’ve been trying to teach the children that actually it’s not just physical pain, so to speak, you can have emotional pain and it’s really important to be able to forget about everything that’s around you and being able to have some time to yourself. It’s been great doing things here to show the children that, all together, we can be calm not just for 5 minutes, but we can be calm for 30 minutes, 40 minutes, in one go, which is brilliant.

Robin Watkins-Davis: I think you’d be so surprised that actually the younger they are, the more natural mindfulness is for young people. The school that we have in today, Whiddon, they’ve invited me to do a whole term of yoga. So there’s things that have come out of this experience. But also my dream is to tour this project.

Robin Jacks: It’s fantastic of Robin to show the children that school isn’t just about the teachers and the teaching assistants in front of you every day, it’s about learning from so many different people and it’s wonderful to have such a great chance to do that.