Outside In artist Melanie Hodge took part in the charity’s recent ambassador training. Here, in her own words, she tells us what the course was like and how ‘it sparked new connections of friendship, inspiration, and creativity’.
At the end of January I joined Outside In’s most recent Ambassador Training Day. After a month of hardly leaving the house, it was both a wonderful treat to be out in the real world and slightly terrifying to be doing something new.
By the end of the day though I had left the better part of my uncertainty behind, and found a brightly polished, if slightly exhausted, new confidence.
The training began with course leader, Sarah, helping our group to set our own ground rules. I’ve been to a lot of training days but this was the first time I remember time being made at the beginning of the day to talk about what we, the participants, needed to feel welcome and at ease in the setting rather than focusing on the needs of those running the agenda.
Our ground rules included speaking only one at a time to enable the sign language interpreters to communicate conversation effectively between participants, keeping our emotional space open to others’ experiences so we might share individual experiences without fear of judgement, and taking the physical space we might need to get up, walk around, or walk out depending on how we were feeling.
It’s a small thing, stating what might be thought obvious, but in that stating of the obvious I could feel my nerves settling into a more comfortable place.
After that we learned more about Outside In and the three R’s of being an Ambassador: Roles(s), Responsibilities, and Returns. It seemed that many of my fellow ambassadors-in-training already knew quite a lot about Outside In, and yet we all had to work to learn the same ‘10 Important Things about Outside In’ so we could both answer questions accurately and talk about the charity with confidence. And, regardless of whether we were new or old hands to working with Outside In, we all had ‘what if’ questions that it felt good to share – especially as together we came up with as many possible solutions as queries.
Our knowledge was then tested with a quiz and, for the last part of the day, through role playing various situations where we might find ourselves talking about Outside In: at an exhibition, on the radio or TV, and within our communities. By the time this part of the day was over I felt my head might explode, but for all of that exhaustion I now feel much more confident about taking on the role of Ambassador in a variety of situations.
The parts of the day I treasured most though were the conversations I had with the other participants. It was the most diverse training day I’ve been on and like every Outside In event I go to, it sparked new connections of friendship, inspiration, and creativity. As one of my fellow new Ambassadors summed it up, “Getting together and talking to other Outside In artists makes me feel like anything is possible.”
Which really is what Outside In does best: it brings us together so that we can make more things possible.
For more on ambassador training email firstname.lastname@example.org or if you would like to find out details of joining as an artist email Hannah.Whitlock@outsidein.org.uk
Melanie’s Outside In gallery can be found here – http://www.outsidein.org.uk/Melanie-Hodge
For more on Melanie’s journey with Outside In and to visit her website, visit – https://mjhodgeart.co.uk/pages/outsider-art
More information on ambassador training can be found here – http://outsidein.org.uk/Opportunities-new or to read other artists’ experiences click here – https://outsideinpallant.wordpress.com/tag/ambassador/