It’s a Thursday evening; and I have my face pressed directly into a 50 year old banker’s sweaty armpit.  I’ve never felt more out of place and out of myself. It smells. It’s not particularly comfortable. This is London. 6pm ish, rush hour, on the Waterloo and City Line (Which, feeling very un-London, I’m surprised to learn only has two destinations) I’ve just come from an office job in Bank which just lets me float by… ish. This is not where I expected to be a year ago when I was still in sixth form college, performing in around four plays and prepping for my A levels. I feel very regional, uncomfortable, slightly nostalgic for people that chat and say hello on public transport and begin to think of home.

Then I remember where I’m heading.

Tonight is the third masterclass with Sour Lemons. I feel so grateful and excited to be part of this amazingly talented, beautiful and diverse group of people, all a similar age to me and all keen to learn and grow as creative leaders. I have to make another change to an overground train (but not the overground line, which again confuses this humble Midlander). I finally arrive at the Battersea Arts Centre and after a quick change of clothes I’m ready for creativity, learning and teamwork. Tonight’s masterclass is on creative collaboration and is lead by Chloe Osborne who after introducing herself, I’m convinced is the most lovely, bouncing ball of energy I’ve ever met. We begin by each saying ‘Hi My name is …. and I am really good at…’  after that we try it again but this time we change what we’re really good at and everyone else has to really listen, not judge, laugh or react but just listen. This is much harder than it seems, no nodding, no smiles, no encouraging mumbles of ‘Um hmm’ or ‘Oh yeah’ just listening. This really gave me a sense of how important it is to try to listen and understand each other in complete collaboration, to not listen to reply but to listen to understand.

We next took a piece of paper each, drew a river, before then mapping out onto the river all of the things that inspired us to get to where we are today.  We then read out the three most important things that inspired us. Mine involved my Mother, my A level Drama Teacher and one of my favourite plays ‘The Kitchen Sink’ by Tom Wells. After listening to everyone else’s inspirations,  and looking at and discussing their rivers, I felt an even more immense sense of connection to everyone else in the group. This was especially felt with Leanne when I learned that we both had similar relationships with our mothers and Raymond who equally found it a turning point in his life to see himself reflected in art. It was just as important for him to see J.Cole: a young African American succeed in the music industry, as it was for me to see regional working class characters wanting to achieve beyond their limitations in the play’s of Tom Wells.

Next we rolled out a huge piece of paper and each picked a pen of an individual colour. We then all knelt down and began quickly drawing lines of connections with people from the group, my favourites were: ‘Who loves NANDOS?!’ followed by a frantic scribble of pens to illustrate the flavour-popping chicken connection. Some beautiful and unexpected connections emerged. Miska and Stevie’s connection over both being in an environment that they both didn’t belong to but both grew through it.

An East London gent and a Slovakian teenager.

Me and Abondance both realised we have a love for Punk.

A white lad from Stoke-On-Trent (It’s near Manchester) and a black woman from Tottenham.

It seriously made me think that if Paul Nuttall or other preachers of hate or anyone who seriously believes in or encourages division, classism, racism or anything similar joined in this exercise, they would be changed. The unexpected, beautiful and human connections were just… gold.

Our final exercise in its several stages was to write words on pieces of coloured paper that could be barriers to our progress as a group and could stop us from working collaboratively. After assembling this wall of issues ‘Indecision’, ‘Differing Ideas’, ‘Egos’ and possibly the most important of all ‘Being Hangry’, we started to collaboratively build solutions. We took bouncy balls and when we had a solutions we threw our ball down and then began discussing said solution. The ultra democracy in working collaboratively that Chloe preached was at once eye opening and infuriating. I wanted to shout out ‘BUT WE NEED TO GET THINGS DONE!’ at so many points. It was brilliant though, to have my automatic assumptions of some level of autocracy within a group and a decision making process challenged. I could see how, in order to get the best out of each group member and to eventually produce a truly head turning, mind blowing event we needed to maximise everyone’s input and truly learn how to work as a group collaboratively.

I left the workshop on a train back to West London, I couldn’t wait to get back in the room with all of those amazing individuals and create.