This September I visited the Assitej International Gathering in Kristiansand, Norway as the UK delegate invited to be part of the Next Generation Programme. This funded residency is designed to support artistic and cultural exchange between artists from around the world with an interest in theatre for young audiences. It meant a week of seeing theatre, creative practice and responding to provocations inspired by the festival focus ‘Towards the unknown, Confronting the Present.’ It was a totally brilliant, inspiring and nourishing creative experience and I would highly recommend it to anyone thinking of applying.
One of the really special things about the week was the group dynamic and bond that developed quickly. I was part of a group of 22 artists from around the world and we lived together, watched shows and spent time every day in a rehearsal room preparing for an end of week sharing. There was no pressure to create anything in particular and we had the freedom to use these daily creative group sessions however we liked. It meant we had enough time and space to just ‘be’, to talk, to explore and most importantly to play.
These sessions were facilitated by Next Generation graduates Ceren Oran and Ryo Harada and instead of sharing a carefully crafted perfomance piece we let the other festival delegates into our process of how we worked together. An exercise we’d repeated throughout the week was working in lots of different group constellations to respond to words and themes of the festival. We’d have a random group, a random word and then 15 minutes to create a response. Although it was a really simple exercise it allowed us the opportunity to spend time together, get to know each other and work in as many different configurations as possible.
We expected about 10 people to come along to the sharing but then of course the room was full and we suddenly thought we should have worked to create something more carefully crafted or structured. What emerged was a sharing that was full of spontaneity and energy and conveyed the positive and joyful working dynamic we’d built up so quickly throughout the week – a dynamic that felt really special to be part of and really joyful to share.
At a time when it feels like there are those that want to create even more borders, dividers and walls in our world it was much needed to be in a room of people from around the world who want to connect and work together. It meant the delegates watching got to walk into atmosphere of creative collaboration and the joy that comes with that. The whole week felt like a very special thing to be part of with a really wonderful group of people.