Phil Sixsmith

Jacaranda Blossom

Phil has long been involved in bringing together arts and drama education and environmental education, first based in England and then in Greece.

He studied Drama in Education at Edge Hill College of Education, part of the University of Lancaster (UK). On graduating, he realized that, as useful as his time in higher education had been - particularly in his chosen field then undergoing something of a transformation as the radical methodologies of Dorothy Heathcote gained credence - he was not yet ready for a move into formal education. He was appointed as a member of a multi-arts team that included people from visual arts, dance and verbal arts backgrounds under the aegis of the Everyman Theatre, Liverpool. The team’s brief was to devise arts projects for and with citizens who were traditionally ignored by the arts establishment, and to go where they were, rather than expecting them to come to the theatre, concert hall or library. Working in hospitals, day care centers, youth clubs and prisons was tough going at times, but hugely rewarding when the work took hold, and established a lifelong passionate belief in the rights and entitlements of all people to access the arts. It also reinforced the importance of a multi-disciplinary approach, recognizing that the different art forms offer a unique way of interpreting the world, and allowing people creative and imaginative opportunities to make their statements about how they would like things to be. In later times, with the emergence in the UK of a reductionist curriculum, when making the case for the presence of the arts in young peoples’ lives, the rallying cry was ‘all of the arts, some of the time’. Says Phil: ‘We’re still shouting’.

After some time teaching drama in a secondary modern school in Wigan, Lancashire Phil had the chance to share his ideas and methodologies with teachers in all phases of education when he was appointed as an advisory teacher for drama to Wigan Education Authority. His work ultimately resulted in the opening of a local authority drama center with Phil as the Director. This provided a base for a professional theatre in education company (Pit Prop), an intimate performance space for innovative small scale touring theatre, mime and dance groups (Theatre de Complicite, Trestle, The Kosh, to name but three) as well as numerous age range-specific Youth Theatres and Community Theatre Groups, the in-service training of teaching colleagues and a location for the local authority’s performing arts team.

With a background in road cycling and competitive running, Phil has always had an acute awareness of the environment. As the environmental education movement began to emerge as a vital component of young peoples’ learning in a rapidly changing world, many of the principles expounded resonated with the principles underpinning arts education. Workshops presented to Wigan teachers and international conferences at Low Bank Ground Outdoor Education Centre, Coniston in the English Lake District confirmed the synergy. Working actively and co-operatively, rigorously interrogating accepted norms of behavior, questioning self beliefs and the opinions of others in a non-confrontational way and creating possible alternative outcomes are just some of the connecting corridors between the arts and active environmentalism.

Since his move from post-industrial Wigan to Greece some 15 years ago, and his personal and professional relationship with Dr. Veta Tsaliki (that’s what he calls her in the kitchen!), he has successfully co-presented participatory workshops combining the arts and environmental education in as seamless a way as possible all over Greece and in neighboring countries of the Balkans. Phil has also had the opportunity to share his drama approaches with students attending the Theatre Studies course at Aristotle University, Thessaloniki. He was a course tutor on an MA in Environmental Education at the same university. He has also continued to work with young people in devising and performing their own imaginative work in a variety of settings.

Phil now spends Saturday afternoons thoroughly miserable after yet another defeat for Sunderland Football Club, and Sundays futilely chasing twenty-somethings up Greek mountains on bikes.

Introducing SF Associate Members, Veta Tsaliki and Phil Sixsmith, Thessaloniki, Greece

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