Last week saw the conclusion of the truly spectacular Enchanted forest in leafy Perthshire. The scenic whisky den of Pitlochry is a place more famous for its big trees and ceilidhs than the psychedelic disco stroll I encountered on my visit. The light, music and conceptual arts event runs for 5 weeks every year in Faskally Forest. Our family visit was aimed mainly at our young brood, but I found my mind darting to work mode, and reflecting just how multi sensory could the staging of a learning event could be by comparison? How could the atmosphere of nature at night bring some inspiration to a clinical, and often expensive meeting room?
As we set foot on the shuttle bus to our wooded wonderland, we were played a recorded briefing on how to tread carefully from a good humoured and cheesily named Hettie Stafely. Exits and hazards clearly sign posted, without a hint of the typical air steward like instructions often encountered at group gatherings.
Off the bus and into the woods we went. It’s not often I’ve been in a disco lit forest at 9pm, well not since 1991 anyhow. Using ambient lighting to enhance the experience isn’t something as a Trainer I’ve ever considered. Which colour might reflect which state we are trying to create in the room? Fairy lights round the flip chart would be an intriguing starting point.
The music on show was a combo of chill out and break beat. It really did translate the sound of the pixies and fairies at work bringing the forest to life for our young uns’. I swear as I crossed the rainbow bridge the music moved in time to my steps, each person following after me stomping in time. Music is something I use prior to learning events. But do I have a musical soundtrack to each of my sessions, could I download it as an aid memoir?
Next it was feeding time. Swiftly my young crew emptied my pockets of loose change. I found myself sitting on a tree stump supping on comforting rich hot chocolate served from the glow of a fairy lit catering outlet. Okay it was a burger van, but by this time I was absorbed. Too often at an event it’s a custard cream or those rusk like viennese biscuits in the burgundy wrapper. How about for future events I make something? Or ask participants to bring along a bake? Perhaps make the great training bake off part of my session. Participant centered bakes could even connect us to the often illusive 4th and 5th senses of what you smell, and what you taste.
Then finally there is me, the host. Our gatekeeper was a magical storyteller. She talked about not just any forest but this very magical woodland here in Faskally. Her stories and words were oozing with texture and vibrant colour. One guide didn’t just tell us about forest fairies he vividly described ‘fiery bright salamanders and obsessive compulsive cleaning elves.’ Great speakers are often great storytellers. They paint word pictures. They keep curiosity high. Their characters like the ones in the forest truly speak to us.
Everyone we met at this venue was totally involved in the experience. This felt like Olympic or Commonwealth volunteering. Everyone knew everything they needed to know. Everyone on the same page with a common narrative of illuminating nature. Enchanted development might not be the stuff of fairytales, but the backdrop to the future of training events.