Skein of Humans, by Magdalena Schamberger

As we are, mindfully, moving to the next stage of opening up our lives again, I have increasingly been thinking of our first two cohorts of BOLD leaders, over the past few weeks. Whilst the BOLD team continues to develop meaningful ways forward for the BOLD programme to continue and build, during and after these surreal times, we have been missing each other’s physical presence. As part of the programme we have had the chance to spend two equally playful and intense residency days in Inverness and North Berwick together with our leaders. During those respective residencies, my contribution as creative facilitator has focused on physical and voice work and has included theatre exercises to physically explore ‘embodied leadership’ models and positions, such as:

· Leading and following – sensing and observing how the body responds to either

· Leading from the front, where the leader sets the pace, destination and direction

· Leading from the side, where the leaders guide each other side-by-side

· Leading from behind where the leader steers forward and maintains momentum

One particular Greek Chorus exercise exploring leading from the front has always reminded me of flocks of birds, taking turns to travel to warmer climates in winter and then returning again in Spring. My memory of this exercise (and I have enclosed a photo of one of our Inverness BOLD cohort, leading the way) has inspired me to make a short photo stream film a few weeks back, which I have entitled, Skein of Humans. This was initially just meant to provide a brief moment of contemplation and connection for our Skein of BOLD Leaders. We now would also like to share with you.

To give you a little context – as you may know, the BOLD project brings together people living with dementia, family members, professional carers, NHS staff, artists and people from all walks of life. Some of our BOLD leaders with dementia have been shielding at home, some are carers looking after their families and neighbours, some are artists still supplying activities to those who need them desperately, and some are NHS staff living in caravans outside of the care homes they work in. I wanted to find a way to connect with everyone during these difficult times. Many people are isolated while others may be yearning for solitude, but most all of us are missing something or somebody. It is challenging for us all to focus on anything beyond the absolute necessary during these socially distant and worrying times. I started to experiment by making a photo stream, using images of landscapes taken during our BOLD residency weeks in Inverness and East Lothian and also from a recent tour of my Curious Shoes performances in South Uist , Lewis and Harris.

I have used a song that I love and that resonates perfectly with some of the physical leadership exercises. It is called Labouring and Resting and is a track by two very talented artists, Karine Polwart & Pippa Murphy from A Pocket of Wind Resistance (Hudson Records, 2017). I have had the pleasure of singing with Karine, as part of our Love Music Community Choir concert at the Usher Hall last year and she and her collaborator, Pippa, have given me their kind permission to use this song for the Skein of Humans photo stream.

Although the track talks about the flight path and formation of migrating geese rather than people, it is an example of the kind of teamwork and leadership, I truly believe in. It is based on building relationships rather than a more traditional command and control style of leadership and the success of the team is dependent on every team member taking responsibility for leadership and changing their position within the team according to what they believe is needed in each moment. It has really struck me that the ‘leading’ of a chorus functions in a very similar manner to a skein of geese flying, changing leadership and rearranging the flock when following – a Skein of Humans, or in our case a Skein of BOLD Leaders. Skein of Humans is only just over 3 minutes long. It showcases glorious Scottish landscapes and I hope you will take the time to watch it here!