Friday, February 5, 2010

Moishe House London - new programming ideas

Every so often the housemates of MoHoLo get together for what we like to call 'blue skies thinking' sessions (to borrow a term from the world of management consultancy) in which we let our imaginations run freely and talk about nothing practical. We share our visions of where the house is going and what we'd like to see in it, and generally we find ourselves coming away from the evening inspired.

This month, when we had our first blue skies thinking session for some time, we found a theme emerging about programming. There's too much of it! Every month we easily meet our 7 event requirement and often far surpass it. Partly this is because of all our partnerships with local community groups and the regular programming that is in our calendar long before the month begins. For example, we have a Bet Midrash ('House of Learning') every two weeks, a monthly event for Jews and Darfuris (in partnership with the JCC) and a monthly silent meditation session (led by a friend of a friend, who approached us). This month we also have a four week creative writing course facilitated by a friend and regular visitor. So when you add it all up, that's 7 events already and we haven't even had a chance to add anything new or do any exciting 'one-offs'.

The challenge for us is to remain inspired and enjoy the full possibilities of MoHoLo, when our schedule is so laden with programming. At the blue skies thinking we entertained the idea of scrapping ALL existing programming and starting from scratch, with whatever wonderful ideas came to mind. We restated a principle we'd mentioned before: that unless at least one house mate is excited by and in love with a particular programme, it shouldn't be taking place.

Clearly we're not going to sever all our communal partnerships and cease all regular programmes, but we are going to try to make space. The programmes that have worked the best in the past have been those that fire the imagination, for which at least one resident put in a lot of thought and planning. Examples have been:

- Moishe Fest (200 people for a full day of bands, performances and art)
- Moishe Art House (an art exhibition of young local Jewish artists)
- The Open Talmud Project (a four day intensive learning retreat)
- Wassailing (reviving an ancient British folk ritual to revive togetherness and cohesion in our neighbourhood)
- Open Space Technology (a radically open way of holding multiple simultaneous discussions)

There are things I'd love to do in the house, given more time and space. For example, I'd love to do a series of Open Space Technology 'salons' that allow us and our community to look at different aspects of one area each session (the series might run 'body', 'spirit', 'mind'). I would love to create and direct a play which uses each room in the house, bringing the space to life through an intricately woven narrative. Or a night featuring different pieces of performance art in different spaces in the house. I've thought of a four day intensive davening retreat, improving the quality of service leadership in our wider Jewish community. And I've been inspired by other houses' programming ideas, like the 'Dancers in the Dark' pitch black dancing session run by MH Providence.

We keep a rolling list of event ideas on Google docs, and so far we've picked off a few. God willing we'll make the space in the house schedule and our own lives to create many more innovative events at Moishe House London.

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