Whirlwind Winter Workshops

By Sarah Lewis

February can be a dreary month in England. The rain remains raining, the clouds remain clouding, and the promise of spring feels like Zeno’s paradox, always just out of reach. When, in this context, a moment comes along that uplifts the spirit, it can feel as if a light enters the room that transcends even the rainiest of days. Such was the atmosphere of the Winter Workshops. From the joyful companionship of ballroom dancing to the quiet introspection of free-form writing, Brockwood’s residents were given the chance to fully immerse themselves in a process of discovery. The week culminated in a whirlwind display of masks, plays, stones, dances, amoebas, graphs, and discussions, during which participants were able to celebrate the potential that exists within each of us to learn, collaborate, and create.

Ballroom Dancing

While all of the workshops offered a great deal to their participants, there is one workshop that took the entire school by storm. Ballroom dancing was the most well-attended and widely discussed workshop of the week, thanks largely to the inexhaustible efforts of its teachers. These two young men from Liverpool seemed never to sleep as they taught full-day private workshops, late-night open workshops, extra make-up lessons, and finally helped to coordinate a school-wide dance with a live band. Their strong commitment to the potential of partner learning inspired the shy and the bold alike to reach out to one another. The rock-and-roll open dance still found a few Brockwoodians a bit unsure which foot to kick and which way to twirl, but the kindness and encouragement present made space for even the most left-footed to try out their new-found moves. Watch a video of the dancing here.

Workshop leader Dave Madgwick teaching about the weather

Notable for its highflying acrobatics was a workshop led by one of Brockwood’s maintenance workers—Dave Madgwick. Dave is an avid WWII-era enthusiast, as well as a pilot-in-training. In the desire to share his interests and talents, he built a working WWII Spitfire cockpit simulator entirely from spare and broken parts and held a pilot training workshop. With a vintage record player, an old bomber jacket, and an incredible passion for his subject, Dave transformed the maintenance barn into a WWII-themed flight school, instructed his trainees on wind speed and navigation, and guided them through simulated flights. One of the most beautiful moments of the week occurred during the school-wide presentation of the first landing. Of all the fledgling pilots, Dave announced that only one managed to land the plane on the first try. This hot-shot pilot was the smallest of the bunch, and the only female. Roaring applause erupted in the assembly hall as Kimaya Shah stepped forward to collect her certificate.

Kimaya’s landing was just one instance of a spirit of generosity, discovery and celebration, which was so strongly present during the week. Winter Workshops can be unsettling, as they challenge participants to deeply engage in new and difficult ways. Through the skilled and gentle guidance of this year’s workshop leaders, participants were given the space to flourish, and discovered potential within themselves previously unrecognized. This spirit of discovery filled Brockwood with joy and a united sense of lightness, even in the midst of England’s most dreary month. The daffodils may have appeared in April, but it was Winter Workshops which brought spring to Brockwood.


Kimaya in the Spitfire cockpit landing her plane


All the stuff you need to be a pilot


The submarine Spitfire MK11


In the Stone Sculpture Workshop


Stone Sculpture Workshop


Making Masks


Textiles Workshop


Practical Anatomy Workshop


The Art of Drawing Workshop with a Drawing of Staff Member Carvalho


Ballroom Dancing


Ballroom Dancing


Aesthesie Workshop