At this time of year, the mind becomes more expansive and we look for challenges and opportunities that will feed us for the long winter months of work. This is the season of the summer-school workshop, usually associated with students. But as I get older, I feel it is more important that these events are directed at those who have been qualified for a while. As we see from the development of climbing, new inventions come out of new forms of play: for example, 'free climbing', without the aid of ropes, crampons and pulleys, is wild and dangerous.
Summer schools are the stuff of dreams, where no telephone or other electronic interruption will interfere with an emerging possibility.
A tiny thread of unadulterated joy, which, if nurtured, could change the course of your next year, or, if you're lucky, your lifetime.
My periods of retreat in Menorca are one- or twomonth summer schools (even in winter), which allow new views to be tested later in the London studio.
These working holidays are similar to the annual holiday anywhere. It has become tradition to 'get away'or 'vacate' for a while.
Rest the eye by giving it new views to take in, change the pace of life, eat food that you would not normally, and drink a little more than usual. These periods of difference give new meaning to the everyday.
We can see in America the effect of too few holidays. It increases stress levels and, in some, promotes discontent, violence and anti-social behaviour, which puts enormous costs onto the social services. There should be at least twomonths of holiday a year, with a maximum stretch of three weeks. This allows for a good balance between work and new experiences that feed back into the work. The population would develop higher levels of imagination; a creative country has a more entrepreneurial spirit, mixed, hopefully, with a social conscience.
Intensified holidays in the form of summer schools do not come better than the one at the Orangery in Wakefield. I attended and contributed last year.
Arriving on a Thursday evening, a meal is enjoyed by all, before the site of the Orangery itself becomes the subject for exploration. This workshop, which is being held again this year on 18-20 July (tel 01924 215550), combines a broad range of people - artists, architects, administrators and local participants.
It is truly open and extremely challenging, resulting in installations, storytelling and performances (this is where I discovered that Robert Powell, the director, could sing). Everyone presented on the Sunday morning and departed after lunch feeling inspired and ready to apply some of the lessons learned to their own projects; or, in my case, wondering how I could make the studio feel like a permanent summer school.
I advocate this activity as there are no rules;
only the hope that you will discover something.
WA, from Seat 8F on flight BA 905 Vienna to London