Christoffer de Graal has become a Clean Learning Associate and is set to widen the community of Clean Language by building a Practice Group in Bristol. I use the term building because Christoffer has literally built a studio in his back garden so he can host group practice meetings and provide training from his home in Fishponds. I talk to Christoffer about his background, his journey with Clean Language and what he hopes to do with Clean in Bristol.
Christoffer, what were you doing before you found out about Clean Language?
My main love in life has always been music closely followed by my passion for dance and movement. I started out playing chamber music and played in orchestras in Devon as a teenager whilst at school and later went on to do a performance degree at the University of Miami. I then played in a number of orchestras and West End Shows, but realised that playing the same music and watching the other musicians do crosswords mid-show when they had finished their bit just wasn’t for me. It felt like the soul of the music was being removed.
And then what happened?
After a period of disengaging with music I eventually got back into performing when I delivered a dance and theatre based programme funded by the Manpower Services Commission supporting people who were deaf, disabled or long term unemployed. The contract was underfunded and the clients were not getting a great deal from it, so I decided to deliver something more meaningful and set up my own company with my partner at that time. The company was called ‘Common Ground’. It turned out to be a pioneering 10-year creative cross-cultural multi-arts experiment with people from all different backgrounds, world views and levels of arts skills.
Following this I went on to run a disability arts service in West London through a Local Authority and was running focus groups and doing coaching. It was at this time that I continued to grow my interest in non-verbal communication and introduced my moving sound creative workshops to help people connect using sound and self-expression enquiry.
And how did you get involved with Clean Language?
I discovered Clean Language when eating a bowl of spaghetti with James Lawley after an NLP practice group! James and I got talking and he thought I would be interested in Clean Language. I then went on a personal retreat where I met David Grove and became hooked.
I particularly connected with David Grove’s approach to Clean Space and how it can facilitate a creative environment using psychoactive space. I have always had a deep curiosity for the information you can get from being in different spaces and I felt that some of my thinking was similar to David Grove’s. I really liked the way he was able to codify and name things that I had been working with unconsciously for years.
I went on to do a number of trainings with Penny Tomkins, James Lawley and Caitlin Walker and over the next few years I continued to develop my Clean Language skills and combined it with sound and music. I like to use curiosity and work hard to maintain the state of not knowing in my moving sound creative journeys. I am also very interested in the artistry of Clean.
And then what happened?
I was fortunate to be awarded a Churchill Travelling Fellowship.
The Fellowships provide a unique opportunity for UK citizens to travel overseas and bring back fresh ideas and new solutions to today’s issues, for the benefit of others in the UK. My project was to explore Music in the Community in Australia, USA and Indonesia. I have since travelled all over the world using Clean Language with sound and movement in a number of different contexts across a number of different countries and cultures working with people who have different capabilities. This has ranged from holding sessions in Bali, working with people from Chernobyl and with people who have learning disabilities, are pre-lingual or are deaf or are partially hearing. I work with all types of individuals, businesses and organisations. The tools are very transferrable and I encourage all my clients and groups to experiment using Clean Language with sound and movement.
And what’s happening now?
More recently I moved from Devon to Bristol and took on a role with Genius Within as a coach for people with neurodiverse conditions. Through this connection I have seen that there are a number of people in the Bristol area who would benefit from a Clean Language community as well as a hub that can offer training and practice in Clean Language.
As space is very important to me, I have built something that is fit for purpose. I am able to offer Clean Language training, along with my moving sound creative journey from the Blackberry Studio. The studio has now been built and includes a reinforced floor to accommodate my piano.The Bristol Clean Language Practice Group, will be held every third Thursday of the month. The next Practice Group is on Thursday 18th May 2017.