Gaza Opening Signs Celebration event was great!!

Gaza: Opening Signs Celebration Event was held on Wednesday 27th March at 4.30pm at College Park School, Garway Road, Westminster, London. About 50 people turned up; supporters, friends, teachers, parents, families and students.

The key facilitators of the event were Caroline Moore and Ciara Brennan:



Caroline, a visual artist working in video, and Ciara, a theatre practitioner, had worked with year 10 at the school since September 2012 on the exchange programme with young people, working with Theatre for Everybody, at the Deir El Balah Rehabilitation Centre in Gaza.  The group in London are young people with learning difficulties and those in Gaza are a mixture of the deaf and the hearing.

The celebration was introduced by Sue Latham, the drama teacher who worked alongside Caroline and Ciara at College Park School.



They were joined in the work by David Sands who is a deaf theatre practitioner who uses a visual vernacular signing language.  You can see David at work in this short video made at the launch of the Gaza Opening Signs project at The London Globe Theatre Studios in September 2012.

The celebration event had a quiz on Gaza presented by Year 10 students.



The audience really liked this!



The videos made by Year 10 students as their ‘gifts’ to the young people in Gaza were shown.


As also was the video made by Caroline and Ciara to show our friends in Gaza about life in London.

There was a reading by David Calder and Ciara Brennan of a series messages in the form of a ‘war journal’ written by Hossam Madhoun, Co-director of Theatre for Everybody, during the attack on Gaza by Israeli armed forces in November 2011.



The audience were fully engaged.





Hossam Madhoun can be seen on video talking about the Gaza Opening Signs project.  Take a look.

The Gaza Opening Signs project involved Jamal Al Rozzi and Hossam training in signing for the deaf and running a training programme for young theatre workshop facilitators some of whom were deaf.  Here is a video from Gaza of one of the young trainees telling us about why she wanted to do drama.  See the video.

The highlight of the event was the showing of the video sent to us by our friends in Gaza.


This shows the wonderful work they are doing with young people there. Please click here to see the video and when you get to the video put the word ‘gaza’ as the password into the box marked access.

One of the College Park teaching staff wrote:

“It was an amazing evening! It really gave a different perspective to the school, very international and very moving. It had a real community feel to it. I must say the year ten’s signing piece to poetry was beautiful.”

And as Hossam wrote later:

“It was lovely chance for me to share something from Gaza!”

The Gaza Opening Signs work with young people at Deir El Balah is continuing until the beginning of May.  Hossam reports:

“As I mentioned during the event, the children are fully involved and find a great space of free expression. The violence and aggressive attitude is much controlled, the teamwork is going very well among them. The next phase we will concentrate on is self- expression, stories, dreams, hopes and fears and we will use the acting scenes as a tool to reflect them. The group of the children is very big and this is another challenge (26 boys and girls) but still we are able to work with them.”

We expressed our gratitude to the British Shalom Salaam Trust, the International Performers Aid Trust and the Street Theatre Workshop Fund as well as the 50 individuals who have made financial contributions to make this work possible.

Thank you and please stay in touch with Gaza Drama Long Term by emailing us on visiting our web site

The next stage in our ten-year collaboration with Theatre for Everybody will be a production of an original Arabic adaptation for the stage of Tolstoy’s epic novel War and Peace.  Interested?  Let us know!

We are also committed to facilitating the continuing contact between College Park School Westminster, London and Deir El Balah Rehabilitation Centre in Gaza!

Thank you.




December 2012

As a strategy to enable each student to have a varied experience working with David and Ciara with the medium of performance, and Caroline with the medium of autobiographical film, we split the group in two and alternated weekly sessions.  Ciara and David worked with students to create a visual language, the ‘visual vernacular’ used by David in performance, and seen at the Letters, Signs and Songs event at the Globe in September.

Through using this mode of performance we are making a piece of ‘theatre without words’ that the students at Deir El Balah will be able to understand as it transpires language and hearing barriers.

All of the students, who in some way experience their own barriers to communication, were intrigued and impressed by David’s ‘VV’ performances, and generally through his use of British Sign Language.  Whilst the group struggled to relate directly to their peers in Gaza, having no tangible form of exchange, through David’s involvement in the project and his inspiring teachings, in many ways we had become more directly engaged with Deir El Balah students than we had hoped for.

College Park students created their own visual vernacular to animate their poem ‘Take a Journey with Me’.  David taught the group that visual vernacular is an interpretive and expressive form of physical theatre, movement and sign language.  He taught the group that they are the painters and there is no wrong way to paint your picture.   Each student painted their own picture using a different line from the poem for their palette.

Caroline joined us at the end of the term to film the results.

Selected students recorded the speaking of the poem, to be used in the final film, along with subtitles in Arabic.

The poem, beautiful as a stand alone piece, brought to life by the visual vernacular will make an impressive gift to be sent to our friends in Gaza.  Caroline is currently editing the film and we hope to share it with College Park early in the new year.

Take a journey with me

The group wrote this poem during the first session back after half term. Over the next four weeks they will use it to create a piece of visual vernacular with the deaf actor, David Sands. We will film their devised ‘vernacular’ each week and use it to create a performance based film which will be shared with the young people in Gaza.


I fly, I whoosh, I breeze

Take a journey with me


It starts at Paddington Station

in the crowded carriage full of men in suits and women in make up

We go through the tunnels, whizzing past houses and gardens

Past bikes and boats and buses.


I fly, I whoosh, I breeze

Take a journey with me


Like a bird I flutter through the smokey air

Through green parks and never-ending office blocks

From above I watch people like ants going bowling or ice skating.


I fly, I whoosh, I breeze

Take a journey with me


As free as the wind I race through Piccadilly

I scare the pigeons and tickle people’s heads

I dream of taking a dandelion flower to the top of the London Eye

Watching it dance in the breeze.


I fly, I whoosh, I breeze

Take a journey with me


During our last session before the half term holidays, we began to explore through films and photographs what Gaza was like? who lived there? and what they did for fun?

When preparing for the session I watched ‘THE GAZA BREATHING SPACE FILM‘ again, looking for parts of the film that would appeal to and be accessible for our group. Although they were few and far between, I though the small number of clips I had selected would help the young people understand a little more about the situation in Gaza.

Initially I thought this would be an exciting and thought provoking session for the young people, but very quickly it became obvious that Gaza was a very difficult concept to understand or even explain in an appropriate manner.

What is Gaza like? Why can’t the people who live there go on holiday? Why can’t the people just go through the tunnels to Egypt? Why did Israel do that?

How do we answer these questions? How do we make the answers understandable? and what can we do to continue our groups passion and thirst for knowledge about Gaza?

True or False….

True or False?….Gaza is the most crowded place anywhere in the world? TRUE…There are 3577 people living in each square Kilometre.

 An interesting and distressing fact, but its difficult to imagine what this might mean for the people of Gaza…

“You three, stand behind that table, the rest of you enjoy the room. Use the space as you wish. WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! Get BACK behind that table. You are NOT allowed out.”

How did it make you feel to be trapped in this small space?





True or False?…Since 1948, 71,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been forced to move from their homes.

TRUE…The Israeli Defence Force regularly destroy buildings. They claim this is a deterrent against terrorism. House demolitions are also carried out when buildings do not comply with Israeli set building regulations.

“Every one put your desks back. Adam, not you. You can’t have a desk there any longer. No you can’t sit with Hackmat. I don’t care where you go. NO. NOT THERE…”

How did it make you feel to not have somewhere to sit?

“Confused, discombobulated”


At the moment our group at College Park feel as if they are a very long way away from the young people in Gaza. The situation there is a very difficult concept to grasp, especially for a group of London school children.  Creating experiences through drama about the issues that young people may face in Gaza, may have made the situation easier to comprehend. Perhaps the group at College Park felt like they had slipped one toe into a shoe belonging to someone in Gaza?

At the end of the session we discussed the future of the project with the group. “In December what would you like to have learnt to do with your hands, what knowledge would you like to have in your heads and how would you like to feel in your hearts?” Resolutely, the answer was…“We want to hear from the young people in Gaza”

Head, Heart, Hands – a reflection

This week we reflected on the previous four sessions to explore what we had learnt to do with our hands, knowledge we now had in our heads and how this made us feel in our hearts.

The group used words such as: confident, sorrow, happy, strong, sad, rich, poor, freedom, excited, camera, can’t leave, feel, stories, sharing, helping, filming, acting, looking, movement.

It was clear from this reflection that the group have begun to think about the parallels that there are between young people in Gaza and young people in London, suggesting that they are beginning to take ownership in the project.

Next week we will explore what they would like to have learnt to do with their hands, what knowledge they would like to have in their heads and how they would like to feel in their hearts at the end of the second half of term.

Who and Why? – Time for reflection

After a very high energy session this week we decided that it was time to focus the groups attention back on Gaza, exchange and friendship. We, as outsiders and facilitators have successfully built a relationship of trust with the group. So it is time to ask ourselves and the group…What is the purpose of these sessions, and what do we want to achieve from our relationship with each other and the young people in Gaza?

During our next workshop we shall reflect on our achievements to date and question where we go from hear….

Who are the young people in Gaza?

What are their lives like?

How can we show them who we are?

Why do we want to do this?

An exploration of space through a narrative performance

The third workshop at College Park saw the group taking full ownership of the project. During their morning drama class the group had developed a drama piece focused on a central character, ‘Mr Lazy’, a new caretaker at College park who is constantly falling asleep in strange places around the school. During the afternoon workshop they performed this piece under the direction of a camera woman and an actor/come director. Collectively they explored possible camera angles and mastered the challenging concept of multiple takes so that a visually stimulating film could be cut together.

On a simple level this was a narrative based exploration of the schools facilities, which through the use of film allowed the group to view places from different perspectives; on a more complex level it was a portrayal of what is and what is not expectable in a school environment, and aportrayal of what we consider to be socially expectable.

We wait in anticipation for the second instalment of the saga to see why Mr Lazy just can not keep his eyes open…

Click on this link to see the film Mr Meshnoum.


Mr Meshnoum

The initial investigation into the concept of space and the start of an international exchange

Our investigations into our known spaces within the school through the use of film began on Tuesday. Participants used dramatic exploration to frame their environment in new and unusual ways. This also saw the initial contribution towards the exchange as the footage captured will be edited into a short film which will be sent to Gaza, as well as shared and celebrated with a wider audience this Saturday at Letters, Signs and Songs at the Globe Theatre.

We wonder how our understanding of our own spaces will expand by sharing them with our peers from across the globe?

Click this link to see an exploration of College Park through film.

New perspectives and friendships

Exploration. Friendship. Exchange. Curiosity. These are some of the words which could be attributed to the official Gaza Opening Signs launch on Friday the 14th of September. Eight Year 10 students from College Park School, a special school in Westminster participated in the workshop which introduced them to key concepts of filmmaking and the Opening Signs project. Over the next 3 months these young people will be the main U.K. contributors to Opening Signs, during which they will use drama and film to explore, translate and share their personal spaces with collaborators in Gaza.

This first session introduced the importance of looking at the world from new perspectives, how we could use film and drama to explore and create new spaces form know spaces, and how these discoveries can be shared with our friends.

We hope the joy and anticipation created will set a precedent for the weeks to come.