The 5HB Project Coaching for Creative People

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About. TEDfiddle


I’m from an artistic family, so I guess it’s no surprise that many of my earliest memories are creative ones. Visual art was high on the agenda, as were my own improvised musical performances long before formal lessons began.

Instrumentally, I was thankful to an-old school violin pedagogy. I can even follow a direct line of teachers to pupils back to 1685 through a distinguished line of performers and composers. But it wasn’t just classical music that interested me. Folk, jazz and rock were also important in performance and ideology.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, composition formed an important part of my creative life. I wrote for a number of theatre productions, including creating the original score for an award-winning Edinburgh show. My numerous concert pieces resulted in being shortlisted twice in a national composition competition, and yet more compositions were reproduced in a national music publication. Also during the 1990s, I sat on the Board of Directors for The Junction - a live music and arts venue in Cambridge with strong European connections.

Music education became increasingly important to me during that period of my professional artistic career and saw me take on a variety of roles, including work within schools, and mentoring for both Trinity College of Music and the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music.

While my inner creative process has never diminished, during the latter part of the 20th century, my interests in the creative psychological process became more apparent. I began to paint, draw and write about childhood experiences which in turn led me to undertake almost six years of twice-weekly Jungian analysis.

The real bridge between my creative and the psychological process came within the group facilitation work I undertook in Home Office and local authority secure accommodation, where the artistic processes I used in my work helped young people to connect in careful and meaningful ways, and express and share some of their feelings with each other. Indeed this was the catalyst for some considerable changes in my working life – including undergraduate study of developmental psychology, philosophy of art (aesthetics) and a full professional training as a BACP registered and accredited counsellor /psychotherapist.

Since 2006, I have chosen to sit in a chair that faces the stage rather than being on it. That said, I continue to express myself creatively through a variety of arts such as writing (Turned On: Intimacy in a pornized society) and more fully through working with visual arts – digital and traditional. I still actively compose, particularly working on projects with other artists.

If there is space for nothing else in a busy life schedule I regularly attend life drawing classes – not only because it offers me development in the visual world but also because it teaches me deeply about the communication of inner states – something a coach, therapist and creative must always be vigilant to.

MUSIC: Worked with great creative forces including a memorable period with Viv Stanshall (ex-Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, and Master of Ceremonies on Tubular Bells) on ‘Stinkfoot … An English Opera in the Grand Tradition’; stand out gigs included playing in a scratch band with jazz great, Andy Sheppard.

COMPOSITION: Won Independent Newspaper Theatre Award for Edinburgh Fringe Festival production of Bulgakov’s The Heart of a Dog; shortlisted twice for Cornelius Cardew Composition Prize (for ‘Fen-skating Suite’ and ‘Union’)

EDUCATION: Held residencies as a composer in the community, working with groups of people aged two to ninety. Established music departments in special needs education.

MENTORING AND COACHING: Mentoring for Trinity College of Music; for four years, mentored and led workshops for The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music within the CT ABRSM teacher training programme and summer schools for talented Hong Kong musicians. Guest-lectured undergraduate students about music and special educational needs teaching at the Royal College of Music.

THERAPY WORK: Worked as a therapist, mentor and supervisor in numerous settings including psychotherapy at Psychological Treatments Services, Addenbrooke's Hospital, counselling students at the University of Cambridge, and group and individual supervision for organisations such as the Cogwheel Trust and Choices.

In working with creatives of all types, I draw on 34 years of professional practice in the creative arts, 20 years in arts education and 15 years as a counsellor/psychotherapist. I have helped numerous musicians, artists, composers, performers, actors, designers, media workers and architects find the thing they have been looking for to unlock their creative goals. I’ve also been able to help engineers, teachers, scientists and chefs who didn’t recognise their creative self within their life and work difficulties. Sometimes it takes a creative to be able to truly help you find your way, suffer less and create more …

The 5HB Project
Duncan E. Stafford
MBACP Accredited and Registered.

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