On Friday 14th September we launched the Gaza Opening Signs project at College Park School in Westminster. Ciara Brennan and Caroline Moore are working with a group of school students to create an exchange with the young people who will work with Theatre for Everybody at the Deir Al Balah Rehabilitation Centre in Gaza.
College Park is a special school. The group of students there have special needs and learning difficulties. The group in Deir Al Balah will be a mixture of deaf, partially hearing and children who are participating because they have shown signs of being particularly disturbed and face difficulties because of violence and living conditions in Gaza.
Ciara is responsible for the drama work and Caroline for the video work with the College Park students. Our idea is to use drama and video as a way for the two groups of young people to send messages to each other. The first step will involve the groups in exchanging images of spaces they have particular feelings about in their school or their locality.
The College Park students were enthusiastic and pleased to welcome us to their school and to work with us in drama. It is going to be so exciting to see what they can come up with.
In the meantime, we have received video material from Gaza that we will use at our Gaza Opening Signs project launch at the Globe Theatre on Saturday 22nd September. Hossam Madhoun and Jamal Al Rozzi are telling us how important drama work is for extending the capabilities of young people in Gaza, how difficult the lack of space makes life , how dreadful the impact of the violence is, how privacy is difficult to claim and how this means that people find it hard to really listen to each others needs. They tell us how the big space of expression that theatre and drama can give helps people to think about themselves and to succeed in facing the tasks that life presents them with.
Hossam and Jamal have been learning signing and preparing to train deaf drama workshop facilitators so they can run sessions with deaf children.
Also in this video material is a wonderful signed message from one of the candidate trainee deaf theatre facilitators trainees telling us how much she wants to work in drama to help her to be more conscious of the other and to be able to relate.
At the same time my friend in Mexico, with whom I studied economics last year at the University of Leeds, wrote and told me how exciting (‘sad and yet relieved and happy’) to see our Gaza Breathing Space Film and the work of Theatre for Everybody in Gaza. She tells me that her work in an organisation she set up with friends to help young people to learn mathematics and science might well be advanced by using drama. At the moment they improve their grades but not their ‘behaviour and mental situation’. Could drama help? She is going to be organising a screening of the film in Mexico.
Tomorrow I go to Oxford to meet our colleagues in Insightshare. We are working together on the mappa mundi project. They are participatory video practitioners and we are planning to collaborate on the creative sessions we are holding in early November where we will be trying out our ideas for making drama videos about change using participatory techniques.
These are very exciting times in the work of Az. Lots of ideas about the use (and the importance and the magic!) of theatre and participatory methods in drama and video all coming together in both main projects the company is running, mappa mundi and Gaza Opening Signs.