2014 has been a year of new partners, new projects, ideas and energy. A new humility at the amount of work that is being carried out world wide by artists who are using their creativity to help people in so many ways as well as practicing their own artistry. At the Salzburg Global Seminar on “Conflict Transformation through Culture: Peace – Building and the Arts”, 60 artists from Cambodia, Rwanda, China, Kenya, South Africa, Palestine and Israel amongst many other countries exchanged practice, ideas and information. My question was just how many people are there in the world re-building societies through culture and the arts and when will we reach that moment when the power and influence of what we are all achieving together with our communities, will connect in one big moment of change. It can’t be far away.
In April we led a short research programme funded by UNICEF on the uses of music in 8 elementary schools in the Srebrenica region (Bratunac, Zvornik, Milici, Potocari, Srebrenica, Skelani, Vlasenica). This we hope will develop into a larger project and more information on this under current work. Thanks to Tony Pesikan, John Moonen and Mladen Kojic for their expert skills in delivering the music and art workshops. A full report can be found under the What We Do Page.
In July Nigel Osborne led his Summer Music Camp for Children with Special Needs in Pula and Rovinj in Croatia and in Tuzla, Bosnia. Nigel and volunteers fund and run this camp which caters for a minimum of 150 children and young people, working with partners Los Rosales from Mostar, the School for Rehabilitation in Pula, Croatia, The Mare Centar in Rovinj, Croatia, Ulysses Theatre, Zagreb and the Universities of Zagreb, Pula and Edinburgh, and us. We managed to raise a further €31,000 from a variety of sources and with the help of Mrs. Doraja Eberle the founder of the Austrian NGO, Bauern helfen Bauern. Our aim was to take as many children from the flooded areas in the region of Srebrenica for a holiday to this camp, including a group from Leptir, the Association of Handicapped Children in Potocari, nr. Srebrenica. Over 70 children, carers and volunteers were able to participate in the Summer Camp, giving them not only a wonderful holiday by the sea but also offering musical activities and music therapy and sport, good food and rest. Our partners from the Srebrenica region were EMMAUS, CESVI, SARA, the Youth Council and our excellent project manager in Srebrenica, Milena Nikolic. A full report is available from Opera Circus on request, see the contacts page.
In August we ran a youth culture and arts pilot project at Bryanston School in Dorset, UK. These 8 days were in preparation for the development of a five year international programme of youth arts events built around equality, inclusion and Human Rights. The project was called The Complete Freedom of Truth, which comes from an original quote by Vaclav Havel, “When a truth is not given complete freedom, freedom is not complete.” Full details of the project can be found on the web site and the future plans will soon be on our page Current Work.
In October international arts producer Gillian Newson, organised a meeting for us with the Director of the Ravenna International Music Festival and the Director of the Association of the Theatres of the region of Emiglia Romagna. This meeting was to discuss a partnership to develop the chamber opera Naciketa. As a result we have an “in principle” agreement to produce a semi staged concert tour of Naciketa in May-July 2016. Further information on this shortly.
In the same month I was invited to be part of a team of artists developing one strand of Siena’s bid to become Capital City of Culture in 2019. Siena’s bid was shortlisted but didn’t succeed. It was a wonderfully complex series of inspired ideas and journeys to rebuild Siena’s society through culture and the arts. Happily some of the excellent team that created the ideas are working on ways to use some of their plans through partnerships and other forms of EU funding. The Commune di Siena is also a partner with the youth project The Complete Freedom of Truth and we very much look forward to working with this beautiful city and its generous people.
Late October, I was invited to Mumbai and Rajasthan to take part in a truly inspiring process by Leader’s Quest.
120 people from local and global NGO’s, social entrepreneurs, artists, facilitators, corporations and businesses of all kinds came together in the deserts of Rajasthan to explore ideas and actions to change the current global inequality and to explore many new creative and fairer practices in the way we live and work. I hope that the contacts I made, the new perspectives I came away with, the energy and the friendships will contribute to the work of Opera Circus and can be shared widely and with our partners.
In November I took part in an informal workshop on Cultural Spaces during and post Conflict with the External Services of the EU. There is a full report on this on this blog. Discussions are taking place as to the follow up to this workshop possibly with the support of Salzburg Global Seminars. This is the beginning of an EU wide discussion on the importance of culture and arts to all aspects of our lives. Finally the discussion is on the table.
There were many trips to Srebrenica and Sarajevo, meetings, discussions and learning, as always. A lot of time is spent on raising funding and reporting, particularly with the overly complex EU applications. There has to be a better system that allows artists and those working in culture and the arts to contribute more easily to societies. So much time is wasted raising funds and reporting in finite detail to an economic system that isn’t designed to facilitate and support the value of what artists contribute.
It has been a huge pleasure working alongside the HOME in Bridport project and seeing the development of this broad programme of community work, based on culture and the arts and food. Films have been made, in particular the beautiful Homes for Heroes, exceptional photographs and a subsequent exhibition of 17 local people’s art work at the Bridport Arts Centre. HOME has worked alongside Transition Town Bridport and St. Mary’s Primary School, growing food, encouraging workshops, farm visits and community events. HOME is working with Magna Housing Association and members of the Alexander and Princess Road communities in Skilling, slowly finding ways to improve the local environment for the residents of a particular part of the estate that needs some care and attention. This will include the development of a new garden space for growing food and flowers and pleasure, particularly for the children. It will also link to the St. Mary’s school in sharing the growing, cooking and eating process. We are aiming to design a “sensory path” from the school to the community with mosaics designed by Rebecca Garner, community and mosaic artist, working with the children on the designs and colours, sounds and textures. In 2015 HOME in Bridport, led by Robert Golden is running a programme of work called Democracy in Bridport.
It has been such an inspiration working with all our partners in Bridport, Chennai, Srebrenica, Brighton, London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Kolkata and Tuzla; the young people who have contributed so much to the quality and power of the work; the artists and facilitators who give of their time, skills and experience so generously, to our endlessly patient Board, to all of our funders (who are all thanked in various parts of this web site,) ; in particular to Milena Nikolic, Nemanja Zekic and Nedeljko Simic from Srebrenica for their commitment and courage, to Claire Hodgson from Diverse City for her inspirational leadership for The Complete Freedom of Truth and for deeply influencing and teaching us all about diversity, to Robert Golden for his endlessly beautiful photographs and films which have enabled Opera Circus over the years to share its work with the world, to Nigel Osborne as always for his music and giving all of us hope, to Doraja Eberle for her generosity and heart, to Fabio Santos, for his fund raising skills and his vast experience of working with young people…the list is endless and if your name isn’t on his list it is somewhere in this web site and embedded deep inside the work.
May we continue to work together with kindness and belief that through culture and art we can improve not only our own lives but the lives of others….Nigel Osborne said to us that economics and politics have failed and what we have left to trust is culture. Let us continue to develop it together.
“Thinking about culture as if democracy mattered”
– The Parliament of Dreams, Francois Matarasso