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“Challenging traditional pedagogy”: Marissa Beatty on Creative Warwick

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Creative Warwick looks set to be Marissa Beatty’s magnum opus as Societies’ Officer. It’s been collaboratively organised by the SU, the Arts Centre, and university management, and is designed not just to tap into the creativity which already exists on campus, but to make clear just how important that creativity is to all of us as part of the Warwick community. I began by asking Marissa how she plans to kick off Creative Warwick this term.

“The idea is that we’ll have a lot of interactive things around for people to get creative with,” she tells me, “whether it’s drawing pictures, writing poems, stuff for everyone to see. We’re also planning to have a video booth in the arts centre, so we can start asking people ‘what is creativity?’ so people can start thinking about what it is, what it means, and how we can make more of it.” I nod enthusiastically, and ask if these ideas all stemmed from her, or whether it came together as a more collaborative effort.

“I came up with it from my end – I’ve always been big on creativity – and when I raised it alongside Teach Warwick, it turned out to be something which had already been discussed at university level, particularly with the arts centre. It was a campaign they were really keen to do. So it just happened to work out really well and really coincidentally, with us all having similar kinds of ideas and different ways of achieving them. The university have been really involved and really helpful, particularly with marketing; the senior management level are all really interested in it, and are helping with the Warwick Fringe Festival, which will be coming in June as a culmination of Creative Warwick. It’s really collaborative and we have the university, the arts centre and the SU all coming together – it’s a new way of working between all these areas of the university.”

It’s really collaborative and we have the university, the arts centre and the SU all coming together.

This makes me wonder, and ask Marissa; what inspired her to pursue this project and to make it such a big part of your time as Societies’ Officer?

“Part of Creative Warwick for me has always been about increased collaboration between societies, for the sake of having a greater impact, and as I’ve seen collaboration between societies, I’ve also seen it across Warwick as a whole. There’s so much that’s happening on campus that it’s really hard to keep up with everything, and I think Creative Warwick is a chance to encourage everyone at Warwick to start working together on big projects and seeing how big an impact they can have.” I ask whether she sees these projects as going beyond performance and theatrical societies.

People pigeon-hole themselves as uncreative, which made me think “‘no! Everyone can do this!'”

“Absolutely,” she asserts. “Societies do really interesting, broad, diverse stuff, so much of which is creative even if it isn’t thought of as creative! For me, it’s about challenging the stereotype that creativity is all about performance. The word ‘creative’ has become owned by certain industries, so it’s about challenging that definition and making people see that they are creative, particularly… recently we’ve seen creativity in schools diminished, and it’s worrying, because creativity is good for everything! It’s how we function to get things done to a high standard. People pigeon-hole themselves as uncreative, which made me think ‘no! Everyone can do this!’”

So, I ask, if a student were to say ‘that looks really interesting, but I don’t have time because of my studies’, how do you think you could say ‘this will actually be to the benefit of whatever you’re trying to pursue’?

“In terms of time, the idea is that there is something for everyone, and by putting it all out there, it’s easier for them to find and explore the things that they want to involve themselves with. To be honest, it’s really just changing peoples’ way of thinking about creativity, by asking them what creativity can be and how we can help to foster it. It would be really good for people to see how beneficial creativity it is and why they shouldn’t shy away from the word.”

It’s really just changing peoples’ way of thinking about creativity, by asking them what creativity can be and how we can help to foster it.

This intrigues me, and I ask whether Marissa sees Creative Warwick as a wellbeing venture as well as a creative one.

“Yeah, definitely. In term 3 we have the ‘mind’ and ‘natural world’ weeks, because during May and June people submitting essays and sitting exams. We purposely put both weeks in the same weeks as the ‘Are You OK?’ days are happening, so that we can explore ways that creativity can help wellbeing – we’ll look at things like creative revision techniques, and making them very individually-focused, in the mind week. The natural world week is more about people going outdoors and experiencing things in their study breaks, like outdoor dance classes and tai’chi. It’s so important to get those relaxing 5 minutes outside of the library!”

“Another big aspect on the wellbeing side is focusing on how important diversity is to creativity. We want to look at different cultural events, so making a space for people to talk about different holidays and cultural traditions they celebrate – I think this is particularly important on such a diverse and international campus. We want to create the opportunity to showcase all of the different cultural events on campus, which I think is particularly important considering that One World Week doesn’t run anymore.”

We purposely put both weeks in the same weeks as the ‘Are You OK?’ days are happening, so that we can explore ways that creativity can help wellbeing. 

I ask if she wants to make sure Warwick doesn’t fail to embrace of different cultures on campus.

“Exactly! For example, Opera Warwick and East African Society have decided to get performance and cultural societies to pair up with each other and to collaboratively create work to showcase. I literally couldn’t think of anything more perfect for Creative Warwick than that!! So that’s a way to use different art forms and different cultural traditions to… well, we’ll wait and see what they create! It’s about embracing the diversity we have on campus and representing it in a different, interesting way.”

With that, the interview starts to wrap up, but I’ve one more question to ask Marissa; where do you see Creative Warwick going in the future?

“I hope that in years to come, Creative Warwick means we see more creativity in the curriculum at Warwick, and as a part of Warwick’s strategy, fostering creativity, and for Warwick to be at the front of challenging traditional pedagogy.”

Creative Warwick launches in week 3 of term 1 at Warwick – for more information, check out their video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITjlkvG_LoQ 

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