Rachel is an experienced, creative, and generous professional workshop facilitator. She works across age groups – from primary level pupils to introducing older people to filmpoetry; across education settings – from university level summer schools to men’s prisons; and across countries – from Scotland to Greece to South Africa to Haiti to Canada to Ireland.
Workshops can be tailored to the needs of the environment and participants. To discuss a workshop plan, email racheljmccrum [a] gmail [dot] com.
Her approach, for any age group, is grounded in the idea that writing a poem grants space and time to say the things that we do not permit ourselves to say in ‘normal’ life. To think about our own personal authenticity in the world, and to take the chance to write and speak for ourselves, apart from scene and herd.
Coupled with performance – the act of unapologetically taking space to speak words aloud and ask that they be listened to, even for the shortest of time – the workshops give a potent empowerment and joy in how to shape and wield words to our own purposes.
Workshops tend to be a mix of unabashed energy and encouragement coupled with specific exercises in craft which allow us to ‘remove for a while the responsibility of writing poems’ (Mary Oliver), aimed at easing participants out of self-consciousness and to open up a gentler space for reflection, empathy, exploration, and mutual support. The aim is always for participants to leave the session with a new set of tools to express themselves and to play with language, feeling exhilarated, open, daring, and proud of themselves.
Exploring the individual voice (physically and poetry); surrealist poetry play; stagecraft and presence; performance and vocal techniques; managing nerves and stagefright; figurative language and poetic technique; a deep dive into metaphor; filmpoetry; zines & DIY publishing.
Notable workshop projects
A project working with a team of poets (Elspeth Murray and Russell Jones) and visual artists to devise and deliver over 40 workshops to primary pupils (aged 12) in Scotland. Exploring themes of inner light and inspiration through metaphor, acrostic poems – and a lot of little yellow men.
Working over a number of weeks with older people in Livingston, Scotland, to explore where poetry meets film, and create 9 original filmpoems, with a world premiere at the end of the project.
Working with four schools across Scotland as part of the team delivering the first ever poetry slam for young people in Scotland.
Part of the ‘Being Human’ Festival, bringing together artists from various disciplines to explore the vulnerabilities, impossibilities, and revelations that can come from letting ourselves create to fail.
With poet Jenny Lindsay, delivering a week long workshop for young writers aged 16 – 25 in Scotland on performance poetry and spoken word, as part of the BBC’s continuing Words First program.
Workshops in Quebec (2018 – 2019)
- Poetry In Voice: registered workshop facilitator for Poetry In Voice in Quebec.
- Vallum Society for Education in Letters and Arts: A series of 4 workshops delivered at Vanier CEGEP in spring 2019.
- Various mediations and workshops with La poésie partout, Tree Reading Series (Ottawa).
- Scottish Universities International Summer School (2017 & 2018)
- Next Stage: taking performance and poetry to the next level in a professional theatre setting (2016, Scottish Storytelling Centre, with Jenny Lindsay)
- Walk On The Wildside with the Edible Flower: foraging and poetry (Aspects Festival, Northern Ireland, 2017)
- St Andrews Summer School: Performance poetry & slam workshops (Scotland, 2014 – 2016)
- Coastword Festival: Sound poetry (Scotland, 2016)
- BBC Scotland Poet in Residence workshops (2015)
- Poetry By Heart (Scottish Poetry Library, 2015 – 2016)
- artcore: zine making and risograph with Young Edinburgh Writers and Out of the Blue (Scotland, 2014)
Worked extensively with We Are Not Numbers to mentor – by Skype and email – Palestinian writers, both in Gaza and across the world.
Private mentoring sessions in both Scotland and Quebec: on writing, performance, stage nerves, presence and more.
‘Rachel McCrum saved my life. In a metaphorical, poetic way obviously. I’d performed at a few spoken word events and done some open mics but knew I needed to blend my material into a more cohesive set – I just didn’t know where to start. And I was nervous, shy, totally lacking in confidence and generally flailing around in a pool of poetic indecision…mentoring by McCrum was like being thrown one of those orange & white water lifebuoy thingies along with all the bits I needed to build a lifeboat. Rachel patiently listened to what I felt I needed to work on and then gave me practical tips, advice and wider reading that helped me gain confidence in performance skills & delivery. But even more importantly she took time to discuss the wider context of my work, suggested appropriate reading and came to see me perform so that we could workshop real set performances more effectively. Lifeboat built. But the best part of doing mentoring with Rachel was that she gave me the confidence to realise it was my boat, and I could choose where to sail it. I’ll always be grateful for her patience when time & again she asked me to describe in my own words what I was trying to say, what was the point? Hearing my own words repeated back to me helped me get it, to cut through to my own voice and know which direction I wanted to go in. Rachel, thank you! If you’re looking to develop technical skills in performance or set development or simply wish to explore your material with a spoken word expert to gain a deeper understanding of your own voice and how to direct it I can’t recommend Rachel McCrum highly enough! ‘