Monsoon Musings season 3: Alfaaz (Creativity, Activity, Service)

I went to my first ever open mic event when I was 12, and I absolutely loved it. Soon enough, I realised my love for words and since then open mic events have always been my favourite events to attend. I always dreamed of hosting one myself, and 2 years ago when my school started an annual student-led open mic called monsoon musings, I was elated. In grade 11, along with a few of my friends, we decided to continue this tradition, and hosted an online (COVID) open mic event: Monsoon musings season 3- Alfaaz. On 17th September 2020, we spent an evening as a school, to express our emotions and come together to celebrate words. This multilingual event allowed all teachers, students and parents interested to use their art to emote their thoughts without any hesitation, and the safety of their homes in the midst of the pandemic. The event was truly memorable to me.

I was one of the event managers and hosts for this event, which made it my responsibility to coordinate and organise this event with my peers, from the scratch: planning, sending out forms for participants, writing script and hosting the event on the day, publicising the event before, using social media platforms and co-designed posters and videos that may strike interest. The whole process was a series of meetings amongst each other, our supervisors, and school technicians who would help us host this event online, without any technical or other difficulties. And given the hard-work and love we all put into this, our online open mic turned out to be a great success.

LO1: Identify their own strengths and develop areas for personal growth.

This entire experience made me understand my strengths and weaknesses better. I believe that being a creative personality coming up with designs for our graphics, marketing strategies and writing the script for hosting were things I could get done efficiently and quickly. My passion for language was also an undeniable help in convincing more people to attend the event, and since I had attended a lot of open mic events outside school over the years, I was very well aware of the things audiences would or would not be interested in, and how the overall flow of the event should be, infact because I had attended a chunk of open mics before, I could even get one of the open mic coordinator who also is an amazing poet (Priyal Bhatia) to attend and perform at our event- which also helped in publicity.
On the other hand, I realised that I can get overwhelmed easily, the constant replying to queries, approving/reviewing participants’ pieces, keeping audiences engaged and interested in the event until the actual day, became overwhelming for me and I didn’t know if what I was doing was enough. However, by eventually managing my time and making a list of tasks everyday that would help me understand what needs to be done, and prioritise the tasks by its importance, I made the process more organized and myself less stressed.

LO 2: Demonstrate that challenges have been undertaken, developing new skills in the process

The biggest challenge in organizing this event was the fact that it was online. I am not as comfortable with the online platform in general, and so planning an event online, was taxing for me; this event was about words and emotions, and i was afraid that emotions won’t come through as well online as they would in person which would make this event unsuccessful, I was also worried about keeping the audience engaged, because I have noticed that audiences in such events can easily get distracted, and if there is no physical presence either, the chances of losing interest would increase. To overcome this, we researched online events that took place during the pandemic or otherwise, so that we can use similar strategies to host ours. We came across quite a lot of online open mic/ poetry reading/ discussion events, and also drew inspiration from them in terms of the kind of fillers and activities they inculcated to keep the audience engaged.
The online platform was challenging not only on the day of the event but even before. Since this was a group experience, coordination and communication with others was extremely important, however the lack of physical interaction led to quite some conflicts and misunderstandings in our group. There wasn’t much we could do about this, except be more tolerant and patient while communicating our ideas: this took some time, but happened quite organically on its own. I realised how important it is to not only voice your opinions in a group but to also be equally tolerant and accepting of others ideas.
Lastly, another challenge that online work brought into this experience was taking updates and coordinating with the participants, since this was a school event, it was absolutely necessary to review and ensure that the pieces being presented were appropriate to the environment, and a lot of participants did not submit their work on time, so getting them to do so, and reviewing their work at the last minute, was quite a task. This taught me that not everything goes according to plan, and sometimes you just have to deal with that.
arrange meetings where we could mull over our next steps. However, we tried to fit 15 mins meetings every week just to track our progress and ensure that we were at par with the original timeline we had created.

LO 3: Demonstrate how to initiate and plan a CAS experience

I have demonstrated how to initiate and plan a CAS experience throughout this experience. It started by being introduced to my team, coming up with a name for our event, coming up with a basic flow plan of our event, marketing strategies, inviting participants and audience members, writing and editing scripts and filler activities to then finally hosting the event. We started by creating a google sheet and listing everything that needed to be done, then we divided the work according to each person’s personal potential, had several meeting with each other to discuss and note our progresses, any changes that needed to be made, had ,meetings with technicians, to understand how the event will be streamed, and how to best make it hassle-free, and lastly, hosting and thanking everyone for their participation/help/engagement through emails afterward. The experience gave me a very deep understanding of the inner workings to planning anything, the tiniest details that need to be taken care of, and how important it is to be social and communicate with your peers, to help reach the full potential of the event. After hosting Alfaaz, I gained a great sense of confidence, and now if I would need to organise any such event in the future, I would have a strong base and won’t hesitate.

LO 4: Show commitment to and perseverance in CAS experiences

Whether the event would happen or not was always at question, at first, I thought that people wouldn’t be interested in attending an online event, which also reflected through the low response from participants on the first day of sending out forms, but I really wanted to do this event, which is why I decided to stay committed to it no matter what, eventually with more marketing, people did get more interested, and we got a desirable response. It was undoubtedly very important to stay committed to this event, and to my responsibilities to ensure that the event happens and happens beautifully. As a team, we tried as much as possible to help each other keep up the enthusiasm, and show perseverance, and clearly with the result of the event we were successful in doing so.

LO 5: Demonstrate the skills and recognize the benefits of working collaboratively.

Even though we fought on a lot of things, and had different approaches on how to conduct the event pretty much throughout the experience, I wouldn’t have been able to pull it off alone. I am beyond grateful to have worked with the team I did, because when in a team, work gets distributed, people pick areas of their strengths which ensures all parts of the management are being operated by someone good for that job, like for example, one of my peers is good at being organised so she made sure that we tracked and recorded our progress at all times, and kept reminding us of our deadlines, another one of my friends was great with online graphics, so she could execute our planned design online. Working in a team also means that there is always someone with an opinion different from yours, which in the end always leads to excellent ideas born out of two just good ones and most importantly, I knew that I could count on all of my teammates to help me out wherever I got stuck, that trust gave me a more deeper sense of confidence to speak out my visions, and make the event whatever I wanted it to be. Working collaboratively was helpful for sure, but it also made the experience a lot more fun to be a part of.

LO 7: Recognize and consider the ethics of choices and actions

This was a big scale event, and we needed to make sure that whatever we did or said, or whatever our participants performed was ethically correct. Ethically correct in terms of its content, the type of language used, whether it was plagiarised or not etc. This event was to express, and if we thought someone was using someone else’s work without credit or consent to do so, we were ready to disqualify them, luckily we didn’t find any plagiarism in the work submitted, but we did have to deal with a lot of late submissions.
Also the fact that this event was happening in the middle of a pandemic, keeping it online was a very conscious, important decision. By the time, a lot of people had started going out again, as the lockdown was lifted, however, it was still very risky, and no matter how much we wanted this to be an offline event, to make sure everyone stays safe, we conducted it online instead.

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