8 Reasons for youthworkers to watch La La Land

This blog will inevitably contain spoilers! You have been warned, so if you are heading to go and see La La Land, look away now. However, if you want to know why you should go and see it, and dont mind hearing a little about what its about then read on.

This week, as a bit of a celebration for getting a part of my dissertation completed I went out on a 2 for 1 deal at the local cinema to watch the multi oscar nominated La La Land. Outside of a High school musical (3) it was the only the second musical I have seen at the cinema, having been to see Evita in 1996/7… (hmm) Anyway, La La Land it was, and it served up a distraction of colour, vibrancy and music compared to the events in the world right now. But here are 8 reasons why youth workers should go and see this film.

  1.  Because evLa La Land (2016) Posterery now and then go and see something that might be different, a change from the normal might provoke something, an emotion, a reflection – Musicals probably wouldn’t have been my thing up until recently, then probably undergoing many many repeats of High School musical and Disney films with my daughter, then the films with music like School of Rock, Rock of Ages, Les Mis, and the magnificent Sing Street (sadly overlooked at the Oscars) , musical films have become family favourites, and personally something uplifting, poetic and yes emotional. That’s not a bad thing. Doing something a bit different is good for us. Shakes us up a bit.
  2. La La Land isnt meant to have Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers as lead roles, but two ‘ordinary actors’ uplifting themselves to these parts, as if ‘normal’ people being enveloped by song, and dance, they arent meant to be perfect in every routine, and this is refreshing its a reminder to us in the roles that we have with young people. They take what they have and work and practice and develop their skills and gifts.
  3. La La Land required months of rehearsals, but theres a number of ‘one take’ scenes. Youthwork is like this, in the present moment there might be only one opportunity to ask the right question, do the creative thing, in effect perform, but that ongoing reflections and rehearsals are important for the active live moments.
  4. At the heart of La La Land is a story about Jazz, about improvisation and so its only appropriate that there were some long ‘takes’ which had the freedom of the actors acting with the music and the scene. Improvisation is part of being a youthworker, it is part of theology, as Benson says: ‘in the beginning, there was improvisation’, we need to reflect on reacting and hearing the music from the context we are in, on responding to the cue of God in the midst, of improvising from being prepared. To offer into the space our piece, and to receive from others. (Wells, S, 2005)
  5. ‘The reason you can’t be a radical, is that you’re too much of a traditionalist’ was a line from one musician to another in the film.  When it comes to enabling young people to be radical and take risks – how radical are we going to let them? What traditions of our own practice, heritage, faith, culture might cause us not to take radical steps in youth work ?   Do we hold on the beautiful things and miss the heartbeat of a new walk, a new tone, a new colour.
  6. It was a story about creating music, about creating theatre, about performing and sharing creativity and not always worrying about who will see it, but doing it because it is a vocation, our youth work practice is an art, unpredictable creativity a performance of our vocation. How might we help young people develop their creativity or have space to play their 8 bars in the jazz performances of youth groups.
  7. It had all the hall marks of an old film, the dance numbers, the technicolour, the music – the story in itself was not revolutionary or modern, but it connected because it was played authentically, the characters weren’t flawless, or perfect, but real. Their relationship wasn’t Hollywood, but had ebbs and flows, their career choices weren’t without disagreement, they had stony silences over the dinner table. It evoked something authentic about real life. Something old wasn’t made relevant, it was made authentic. As youth workers, the faith story we help young people navigate within is to be made authentic through us.
  8. Just watch it, it was good enough without it being all these things as well. Take a night off being stupidly busy, get yourself some decent food and have a night to yourself.

Apologies for the spoilers and for anyone who knows far more about theatre and Jazz than i do, there was much that resonated with me in it, is it deserving of the oscar nominations, hmm not sure about that one, definitely some very good performances in its, and it was a positive, bright distraction – but hey this isnt a movie review blog…

 

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Reclaiming artistic Supervision in the Church

We’ve got a bit of an issue in the church about management at the moment havent we?  for one it feels corporate, globally scary and tied in with images of corporations like Macdonalds, Apple or Facebook, let alone traditional industries like Ford. Yet Management is what seems to be whats being required more and more in the church, the youth worker needs a line manager, so does the administrator, or the finances need to be managed. Nelson (1999) talks then about new public management in a post modern world, of christian leadership in a post modern society and how Management  (especially new public management) is often about performance management, about managing data, numbers and effectiveness, and in a neo liberal context this is about value for money, efficiency, control and a focus on outputs and outcomes. What management tends to be is task focussed, with the individual playing second fiddle to their own efficiency in the role. As the old adage goes what can be measured can be managed, but is management itself a construct adopted too easily by the church, and if so what are the alternatives?

Where Management is barely mentioned Biblically, i was as shocked to find Supervision anywhere in the Biblical text, but i did, its in Numbers 8:22 and 1 Chronicles 25 3, 4 &6

The Sons of Asaph were under the supervision of Asaph

(6 brothers…..) were under the supervision of their father Jeduthun

All these brothers were under the supervision of their fathers for the music of the temple of the Lord. with cymbals, harps for the ministry of the house….they all were under the supervision of the King

For the task of the creative musician, the brothers required supervision, as they played their music, as they performed their service. They were supervised to perform artistically in the task of service and for the King.

Sue Cooper (2012, in Ord, J (2012) writes that balanced supervision is to have three essential functions ; ‘restorative/supportive, formative/educative and normative/managerial- and that the process itself must be two way’, she is writing in the context of the supervision of youth workers, a profession that prides itself on being artistic (Young 1999), creative, imaginative and socially constructive.

But as should Church and faith be also a theatrical pursuit, one that seeks to perform scripture as local gospel theatre (Vanhoozer 2014), with the full gospel that seeks faithful discipleship for world transformation, if that can be measured and thus managed and is not an unpredictable, creative art then i’m not sure what else it is supposed to be…..As Vanhoozer suggests, the picture of theology as science has held the church captive for too long, instead it needs to be dramatised and become a theatrical art form. (2014)

And thats where supervision comes back in, It is argued that taking one of those three aspects away causes supervision to be less satisfying for both parties, in the situation of the music, a heavy hand would constrain performance, too light a touch might produce chaos, somewhere in the middle improvised Jazz occurs.

Maybe Management as a concept needs to be dropped in the church.

A reclaimed view of artistic supervision could take its place, one that balances the managerial with also education and support in order for creativity to be realised, and for the persons in the supervision relationship to value the ongoing creativity that both the process of church and youthwork (where this is the relationship) are to be creatively performed.

If Supervision swings from development focus to managerial focus – what does that say about what we believe church to be- a science? or a faith?  Maybe a fuller understanding of supervision, especially its educative function for a creative ministry is one that will help to rebalance current practices of supervision in the church, whether that its clergy being supervised, or clergy as supervisors. To reclaim the educative function of creative supervision might also enable it to feel more like the kind of Discipleship that has Biblical tones rather than a form of management that seems at odds with the freedom even Jesus gave his disciples to decide for themselves actions, or even criticise him.

If the most important resources for an organisation are its staff, and one of the main complaints from youth workers (and other employees in a church) is that of the relationship with their line management often the clergy (Davies 2012) – maybe it might be time to rethink what it means to be an educative, supportive supervisor of people in the creative performance of church & mission in the church & world, in order that people are able to play the tunes as collaborative artists, in the improvised mission in service to the King.

Lets value and develop the right kind of supervision for organisation of the church, in order for it to perform practically and prophetically the gospel on the stage of the world.