After finishing the MFA course at Goldsmiths in August 2012, I vowed not to return to facilitating workshops in schools.

Seven months of fruitless job searching later (part-time, well-paid please) and here I am again, working freelance as an art facilitator… and my art practice is suffering.

This blog is an attempt to bring these two “jobs” together and to shed light on the complexities of the UK school system.


For a change, instead of ranting about teaching in schools (I’ll leave that for next week, I’m teaching in Romford AND Clapham, ALL 5 days of the week….) I thought I would write about Artquest’s brilliantly organised conference “For the love of it”. It’s not often that there are good, practical seminars for practising artists – I’d say about 90% of the attendees were artists in some form.

I saw a few people I sort of knew, two of which I’d worked with before and one who’s commissioned me to write a piece for a website, which made me realise I must be part of London’s “art scene” – I still chuckle at this thought. How many artists do you need to know to be part of an art scene? Sounds like a one-liner.

Anyway, during the afternoon’s talks during the “Collectivity” talk we were introduced to “The Institute for Art and Practice of Dissent at Home” and for once in a long time, I was fascinated by this couple. Not only their presence in the room, but the Institue’s transparency, what they do, etc.

I didn’t get to stay for the whole session but I’m going to get in touch to discuss a residency or project with them.


I thought I’d share this because it’s quite fitting when talking about changing paradigms. It’s a documentary (available on YouTube as 5 episodes) around a teacher in Japan, who follows an un-orthodox teaching method: Advocating honesty, talking openly about your feelings, etc.

I’m only on episode 2, but it’s a good distraction from “real” work.

At the moment I’m juggling with planning for my usual facilitation spot at a primary school in Lambeth with another project at a school in Romford – 3 intensive days working with children from nursery to year 6 – doing everything from building a newspaper-stuffed “giant” to animaitng a book.

So this little series has provided lots of food for thought. Hope you enjoy.

Children Full of Life


Ofsted. Possibly the most dreaded word in any school, public or private, good or bad.

The school where I’m currently delivering workshops is due an Ofsted visit in the new term and that reminded me of the last time I was in a school being assessed by Ofsted.

This was my second consecutive day teaching at a nice school in Fulham, where I was covering another artist who worked there regularly. She had prepared an Ofsted-proof lesson plan for that day, with the QCA schemes of work linking to other skills, including literacy & numeracy, outlining the learning objectives, detailing how to help SEN & EAL students… EVERYTHING was there.

I walked into the school to find a ‘surprise’ Ofsted visit (they’d found out the day before). Instead of delivering the perfectly planned workshop, I was kindly and subtly asked to stay out of the way, putting up a school council display board (luckily I have an Art degree!) and to leave once that was finished, lest they start asking me questions.

Not sure who’s more to blame – Ofsted (with their narrow-mindedness when it comes to evaluating schools), the government’s system (putting other subjects ahead of creative ones, evaluating schools based on targets, etc) or the school (for turning into a madhouse and pandering to the evaluators).

Anyhow, I wanted to put that into writing to try and make sense of it. All part of the system. Sir Ken Robinson is so right, we MUST change the paradigm. Not that I think too highly of myself, but to have a professional artist come into a school should be something to be proud of, not to hide away….


It’s been almost 4 weeks since my last post. Not sure what happened. The last workshop I delivered (see previous post) left a bad taste in my mouth and I haven’t been able to revisit it by writing a new post, I think. Specially since I’ve been putting off writing about delivering workshops in schools…

Anyway, I vowed that from next week, I’m back to working on my practice full time.

I’m teaching one day a week (except for school holidays), taking on any freelance projects that come my way and for the last 6 eeks, moving into a new home. Painting, clearing out, unpacking. I’d had no time for my art practice – unvariably the first thing to suffer – but now I’m back. At least all the painting did inspire a new short text which you can see here:

Neutral Colours for All

I hope to carry on exploring this kind of “uncreative writing” from next week.

Also, I’ve been asked to write a short piece for Axisweb on the politicisation of community-based arts practice. I don’t have to hand it in until August, but I’m hoping this blog will serve as some kind of empirical research.


I know I said I’d be writing about working in schools but before I get to that, an insight into the workshop I delivered last week, a word of warning for other artists & facilitators out there.

I arrived to the (empty) community centre with enough time to set up. I asked if I could borrow paper towels – to clean the paintbrushes and any spills. The answer was, well… No. I could buy them from a shop a 10-min walk away (from my own money), or I could use them and pay for them. Apparently I had to bring all the materials for the workshop – which I did, just not paper towels or pencils, or water for that matter. Even though I’d asked, the room had no sink so every time we needed water I had to walk down the hall to the toilet, with the dyes and paintbrushes spilling behind me….

I’m not a “batik expert”, but in search for work as a facilitator I often have to take jobs that require a more “crafty” approach to art. I’m often asked what kind of “art” workshops I can deliver and “art writing” is never in the list. Batik, painting, and collage however, rank highly. (Read: forget all the knowledge you could pass on, just do an activity that is “fun” and that will have a finished tangible outcome in 3 hours.)

I’m also still not 100% aware of all the health and safety regulations. I try my best at risk assessments, but ultimately find them bureaucratic and a waste of time. Although I can glimpse why they’re necessary in some occasions, I’m hard-wired as a Mexican and struggle to understand the bottom line. Which explains what happened next.

Thirty minutes into the workshop, a health & safety inspector arrived at the centre. And surprise! I was using 3 hair dryers to dry the batik flour paste and no, I hadn’t included them in my risk assessment, mainly because they were an after-thought. I hadn’t planned on using them when I proposed the workshop until I realised the t-shirts wouldn’t dry in the space of an hour. All hell broke loose.

Mid-workshop I had three people asking for the risk assessment, which I didn’t have with me (why would I?) but I had definitely sent to the booker.

The booker of course couldn’t find it.

The H&S inspector wouldn’t leave until she saw it.

The hair dryers had to be turned off for 30 minutes for no apparent reason.

The workshop came to a halt.

45 minutes later, the booker typed a new risk assessment and sent it to the centre, who printed it and delivered it to the H&S inspector. Satisfied, she left and we returned to our batik-hair-drying-business.

All for a piece of paper with details on the risks of fabric dyes. No love lost there.

Meanwhile, my search for a “proper” facilitation project/ job/ art project/ residency continues.