The Balloon Story

9 March 2017

Hazel Darwin-Edwards

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Lead Artist Hazel Darwin-Edwards writes about what happened when a balloon got loose and how the group worked together to get it back!


As it was our last week before Easter we celebrated with beautiful colourful chaos. We were buried in confetti and rolled around in it while covered with sticky tape. When all was swept away and everyone was about to leave a helium balloon tied to a pram made an escape…

The balloon rested high on a very high ceiling. Having some experience in working with helium (well, you do pick up some skills in this line of work) I knew that the potential hazard of this (aside from a disappointed small person) is that it may descend in the night triggering the motion alarms. That would summon some poor soul from their beds to investigate an attempted robbery by a slightly deflated, very sorry seeming purple balloon.

So, we needed to launch operation balloon rescue. Having spent the previous 2 hours engaged in quality creative play we were nicely warmed up. We discussed various imaginative options:

  • shimmy up the wall ninja style?
  • human pyramid?
  • blow dart?
  • fanning/ air conditioning/ flapping?
  • just leave it and cross our fingers?

In the end we asked around the building for some help, procuring some long bamboo poles, a broom, some sticky tape, and a tall helper called Hamish (who we gave a shiny pointy party hat.) We taped several poles together and Hamish stood on a table with our long, improvised, balloon retrieving invention and stretched out to reach the string, pulling the balloon down safely into the clutches of a slightly bemused one year old.

What did the one year old get from this experience? (Other than a nice purple balloon to take home.) Well, the room was filled with an air of excitement followed by a sense of triumph. Mum and Gran went home with the feeling that they are part of a community who can face problems and tackle and overcome obstacles. Friendships and bonds in the room, which we have been building for months, were strengthened. He had quite an interesting spectacle and narrative to observe, and an experience filled with laughter and joking.

After a short break for Easter we plan to begin a new project together with each group. In Fife this will be inspired by the parent’s and babies interest in music and singing together. In Wester Hailes it will be inspired by the group’s love of costume design and dressing up. This incident reminded how important it is to set small challenges to solve together, where we genuinely don’t know the solution.

We often talk about one of our aims being to increase confidence. I’ve been thinking recently about the difference between being extrovert, outwardly confident and unabashed, and growing inner self-belief and self-esteem. I also came across the idea of ‘self-efficacy’, which psychologist Albert Bandura describes as the extent or strength of one’s belief in one’s own ability to complete tasks and reach goals.” The theory is that we can strengthen our self-efficacy by a process of ‘guided mastery’ described in a recent TED talk David Kelley (from design company IDEO) about helping build people’s creative confidence.

With this in mind, the balloon story seems to illustrate how, as a result of our creative journey together, we could persevere to solve our problem not only successfully but also lightheartedly. And, I reckon doing it all whilst performing a daring, original clown stunt with a long pole wearing a party hat (amusing and delighting one year olds) is even better!