Improv: Failing Beautifully at School

I have a new obsession: Improv.

I discovered it by accident in the summer. The guitar course I wanted to join was full so I asked what else you got, and the answer was Improv, a ten week course. Close enough, I thought.

This was the first of many happy accidents that have led to my current addiction to spontaneity, as practiced via the discipline of Improv.

Improv is short for Improvisational Theatre and it seems to be exploding at the moment, particularly in Bristol. Last night I was watching Closer Each Day, Bristol's very own improvised soap opera, now in its sixth season. There's an improv festival in March and classes and jams springing up all over the city. I don't know what's behind the wave of interest, but it's probably to do with the fact that it's incredibly entertaining to watch, and even more fun if you're involved.

It's scary, but not as scary as you'd think. It's not what I expected and it's certainly not about trying to be funny or scoring wisecracks over your co-performers. Well, it is, a bit, but only as part of a much more interesting set of dynamics, mostly about trust, listening, being present and saying yes.

It crosses over into other areas of interest to me, consciousness and meditation, and provides a way of experiencing the creative power of the 'group mind'.

Recently, I have been thinking about all the benefits it's brought me in my life and how great it would be to take this into schools. I'm sure it's already practiced in drama departments, but the games and exercises are so simple that they could be used in a much broader context to promote self-confidence, collaboration and - perhaps most importantly in such an assessment-obsessed environment - the utter joy of failing beautifully.

I haven't yet worked out the how, what or why of a professional development offering for teachers, but am convinced there's something worth pursuing here. I would be keen to hear from teachers (including but not limited to drama teachers), and people who've run Improv workshops in schools. Post your thoughts here, or mail me at