Art and our Humanity


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Art and our Humanity

Anthony Barnett, the renowned writer and journalist wrote this for Open Democracy this year.

“In these dire times,” I concluded, “asking what you can do for others is the best way to reach out for yourself… to be a co-creator of society and never just a consumer. It means always using the power of your intelligence, including your emotional intelligence, to make the call that matters, to ask what we can do for others – with love and justice.”

This could be the cry from the heart of The Complete Freedom of Truth, a long-term programme of arts and social justice work with young people, inspired by a visit to a group of young artists in Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2008.
a group meeting in the YC yard col

The backyard of the old Youth Centre, Srebrenica, now closed
due to lack of interest and support from the Municipality. 2015.

Covid, vast human migration, climate emergency and the destruction of species, war, famine, hatred and abuse of women, neoliberalism, greed, racism, hatred and corruption, adding the dangerous rise of the far right, dictators, oligarchs, demagogues and many religious leaders, gives us an overwhelming sense of helplessness. Anthony’s words are vital advice and as in everything taken step by step.

So, we move into this new year of 2023 with many battles, small and large, personal and communal, local and global. How do we take these next steps?

As a small performing arts organisation, a non-profit and a registered UK charity, we have had one of the greatest supporters of our work for the last 32 years removed. No, it’s neither Arts Council England, now badly damaged by excessive funding cuts; nor the British Council similarly dismembered by the same government, into a promoter of business rather than its previous role to nurture cultural and human relations. It is in fact the European Union with its vast and generous wealth of funding, doubled in many cases since the Pandemic, that is no longer accessible to us. Not even as a partner country or what used to be called Neighbouring Countries. We are now on the same level as Russia, at the bottom of the list with no access to funding or partnerships.

Since January, 2022 we can no longer apply for EU funding, such as Erasmus and Creative Europe, nor participate in the fascinating New European Bauhaus or take part in such EU youth initiatives as the Charlemagne Youth Prize. At the moment we still have the Council of Europe, with very small funds that, as a member of the European Youth Foundation, we can still access. But these are in the tens of thousands, not the billions that were available to us.

Take P-Art final performance August 2022 Bratunac Bosnia and Herzegovina

5 zoe and George v2 dancing

Zoe Cochrane and George Caprariu rehearsing for a performance, Srebrenica BiH 2022

nigel-leading-an-experinetal process

Nigel Osborne leading an experimental process with Share Music Sweden, Random Music, exploring virtual music with musicians with disability in and around Malmo – partnering with Stanford University, California and IRCAM, Paris. The process also involves x-system which Opera Circus has been working with alongside Nigel, Darren Abrahams and Dorset Music Hub with primary schools.

What do we do next? Many older people I know, in their 70’s plus, play a vital role in business and society as Elder, sharing life-long experiences and skills, mentoring, supporting and encouraging. They are vital and relevant and in the arts are inspiring, skilled powerful leading lights for so many people.

Do small arts organisations like ours who have been around for over 30 years still have the need to continue? Artists, the majority freelance, keep creating till they drop, and often living on or below the poverty line, are driven by the overwhelming imperative to keep creating, and to keep striving for social justice because of that unfathomable gene inside us that won’t be silent. And where is the Ego in all this, both of the individual and the organisation?


Intergenerational community, local and global, eating together in Bridport’s Historic Old Town Hall as part of Opera Circus’ internationalism in this rural community funded by the TCFT Erasmus + programme.

We will continue to make the call that matters.


Music venue on the Island of Portland at Quiddles café as part of TCFT’s summer residency 2022
and a reflective moment at Termokiss headquarter’s in Pristina, Kosovo in April 2022.

Opera Circus Board of Trustees minus Susan Bisatt who had to run for a train and Robert Golden
who took the photograph Guest Observer Francesco Pipparelli, OC’s Erasmus + Intern in 2022.

We are looking at our usefulness and where our work is heading in 2023 and 2024. The next steps for us this year include a mixture of research and development for new performances, youth arts programmes, being involved in practical research with universities, arts events including concerts concentrating on Human Rights and Democracy and using our skills and networking to support other people and organisations where we can be of value.
concentration psd

Experimenting with x-system in Edinburgh led by Nigel Osborne, collecting emotional data from the heart,
mind and bodies of two opera singers, Darren Abrahams and Lore Lixenberg, seeing how music affects the brain in performance.

Often this means helping with fund raising, but it can also mean producing theatre and music, organising concerts, facilitating workshops, helping young people from countries at war or post conflict, to find opportunities for further study, e.g. Music in the Community working with traumatised children in Ukraine.
We are producing a new music theatre project, The Stumbling Stones, based on refugee stories including Jewish and Palestinian and from Malawi and Rwanda.
We are continuing to link European Union organizations with young people in events in which we can participate, ensuring they still have access to a broad network of young people, networks and opportunities, continuing to encourage and fund youth theatre in Srebrenica and Bratunac, BiH and much besides.
music on stage
Bratunac Youth Theatre with Joana Knezevic actor and drama teacher from Belgrade, Serbia

Locally we are part of a group of voluntary organisations and individuals who have worked for over 10 years in developing Edible Gardens in Primary Schools in Bridport, Dorset, encouraging children, teachers and parents to learn about where their food comes from and being part of the STEAM National Curriculum linked to biology, maths, language and the vital need for the arts to encourage creativity. This work continues, although we battle the cuts in education, the exhaustion and lack of time of teachers and the increase in poverty in our area as well as Covid.


Robert Golden photograph by Djordje Nikolic

In 2022 Robert interviewed nearly 40 young people in TCFT projects from Denmark, UK, Bosnia, Serbia, Italy, Portugal, Mozambique, Eritrea, Kosovo and then online with some who had been introduced to him and had much to say, from the US, Ukraine and Palestine.

The film is called Belonging/Becoming, words that came from the young people during the two Erasmus + projects we ran this year and then wider interviews from other projects and collaborations in the USA, Palestine and Ukraine. Freedom is Participation in Power in Kosovo and on Portland, Dorset, UK and Take P-Art, led by Centro Studi Sereno Regis in Torino, Italy. Take P-Art residencies were in Bridport (Dorset), Torino and in Bratunac and Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina. More information on the projects can be found here

These were our two last Erasmus + funded projects until the UK can apply to re-join the scheme.

We are planning to screen Belonging/Becoming as part of a weekend of events around the International Day of Democracy between September 15 – 17th 2023. This will be in Bridport, Dorset and we are aiming to raise the funds so that 20 young people who participated in the film can come for the weekend. There will be a music and poetry event on the 15th we hope at the Lyric Theatre. On the 16th a take-over of the youth and community centre for a day of conversation, music and inspiration. Provisionally the film will be shown on Sunday 17th at Bridport Arts Centre with discussions. All events accompanied by food and music. More news on this soon. There will be a crowdfunder as well as applications sent to a wide list of funders including Council of Europe’s European youth Foundation.

Please look around the web site for other performances or events. Soon there will be a diary with which you can keep in touch, and a mail chimp newsletter you can sign up to.

It’s impossible to thank everyone who has contributed to all this work whether as an artist, partner organisation, volunteer, funder, donor, mentor. Many of you have been thanked individually. To everyone, all that we have achieved is down to all of those who have contributed ….every single person – no matter the age, race, culture, gender, ability or background.


Blackburn 2018 celebrating young people’s achievements in the city thanks to Jaffer Hussein.
“One of my most loved photographs. What an evening it was.” Tina Ellen Lee.

putting the u up

We are still aiming to live up to this, the theme of TCFT 2016 at Bournemouth University’s campus 2016.

Tina Ellen Lee FRSA
Creative Producer and Artistic Director
Opera Circus