“A lighthouse in unfamiliar waters”

A rad wolf

Q&A with a Dreamachine Guardian

Over 38,000 people visited the Dreamachine immersive experience at our four unique locations across the UK. Within that time, we’ve seen nearly every human emotion expressed. More than 15,000 people shared their experiences within their drawings, their writing, conversation, and their reflections within our Sensory Tool, a guided platform designed to help deepen self enquiry – including a wide variety of emotions. The majority of our audience reported a feeling of peace, but other emotions expressed included amazement, anxiety, compassion, connection, euphoria, grief, isolation, love, optimism, fear, and surprise. Many visitors described profound emotional responses: one even said that the experience had such a positive effect on his mental health that he came to Woolwich Public Market, our London location, 27 times. Some described experiencing a range of emotions within a single visit – which they often likened to a feeling of reckoning, and then relief.

At each location, a team of Guardians played a key role in welcoming, guiding and supporting our visitors through their journey. Every experience of the Dreamachine is unique to the individual, so the Guardian role is a really special one: they are the people who hold, who witness, and who celebrate the sheer range and diversity of responses. They’ve seen tears of joy, and tears of sadness. They’ve seen worries calmed, hearts opened and minds expanded – and it’s often the visitors who come into the experience with the least expectations who experience the biggest shifts after it. All of our Guardians are trained in disability awareness, empathy and mental health first aid – and these skills are key to ensuring a positive Dreamachine experience.

We interviewed some of our Guardians to hear more about their insights from the experience – what they learned, and what they loved about their role.

How do you think the role is important to the experience?

The Guardian role is wonderful, it’s all about CARE.

We are like a lighthouse in unfamiliar waters for the participants. How people feel affects the way they experience the Dreamachine, so we work to set the tone for them.

What was your favourite thing about the role?

Being with the participants, and having the honour of guiding them through such a wonderful thing; interacting with them before, seeing the surprise and delight on their faces during the experience, and speaking with them after – so many brilliant conversations with all kinds of people about all kinds of things.

These are memories I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Was there anything that surprised you about the role?

How at peace it made me feel.

After working at Dreamachine, I’m more confident in myself and more grounded. Giving people that sense of security and knowing I could be of such service gave me a real inner strength.

I was also surprised by how open and creative most people were after the experience, sharing so freely with strangers, our team and other participants. This was especially surprising in London which is generally a more “keep to yourself” kind of place.

Are there any participant stories that really stood out for you?

There is one I always come back to.

I was sitting around the drawing table, I struck up a conversation with the man to my right, and asked him how it was and what he saw/felt. He went on to tell me how 10 years ago his parents had died, and throughout his experience they manifested themselves behind his closed eyelids, holding him in their embrace. He told me it was beautiful, and just what he needed. He spoke so calmly about what I perceived to be a big deal, I couldn’t help but feel proud of his strength.

Did you witness emotional shifts in participants, from arrival to departure?

Yes, most people came in with a polite, appropriately friendly and guarded demeanour and then left with a relaxed, open, fresh kind of spirit. Some people would say they felt really chilled afterwards, and others were more awake having not realised they were ever asleep.

Did you notice any patterns in the stories participants told you?

Lots of red and green. Lots of little dots like ants or raindrops. Many people lost track of time.

Quite a few people told me they felt like they were being born and dying all at the same time.

Very often people told me that they felt sad when we came in to end the experience.

What do you think the impact of the Dreamachine experience is?

I think it opens people’s eyes to what is going on in their brains and their lives, and how different we all are – even from our own perception of ourselves!

How does the Guardian role compare to anything you have done before?

Best job ever!

In terms of the quality of the training, witnessing people having a very happy experience and working with very diverse colleagues.

Nothing like anything else in terms of the interaction on the floor – I was so much more connected to visitors, often having real, in-depth conversations. I’ve also never had the chance to meet with people from other parts of the UK through work. I just wish it could’ve continued.

What skills have you developed in this role, or what have you learnt while working on Dreamachine? Has anything surprised you?

I developed my public speaking and communication skills – how to perform to a group of people and read the energy of the room; sensing when people feel comfortable, or uncomfortable, or closed off and want to be left alone.

Has this role changed your attitude and general outlook? If so, how?

It has really changed my outlook on what work can look like; that I can do things I like in this world and still earn a living, and that workplaces exist that are concerned with the welfare of employees.

When I first arrived in the UK, I had the idea that making friends was very difficult and that people were a bit rude. But having had contact with so many people, I realised I was wrong. I’m still not certain what I want to do with the rest of my life, but I think I want to help people like we did on this project. I want to do something that inspires and brings wellness to others.

I’m not sure about the emotional impact yet, I think I’ll know after a few years, but writing this is making me feel very teary. So I guess it did something profound.

What do you think are the core values of a Guardian?

Love and Respect.

Thanks to all of our partners, and all 92 of our incredible front of house team, for being the anchors for the Dreamachine experience in every city that we visited.


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