What’s Been Good About 2020!


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What’s Been Good About 2020!

Opera Circus home base Bridport and West Bay Dorset UK 2020 – Photo: Robert Golden

Looking at what’s been good about 2020 and then moving on. We’ve all got stories to tell, pain to deal with and frustration. Time has distorted and for some, human relationships improved, perhaps we really see each other a bit more. The BT engineer in Glasgow telling me how much he missed his Nan, the local What’s App support group and a growing understanding of the artistic landscape by all, even perhaps the Government. How much do we need music? Did you see the world dance when Trump lost? The need for the choir practice. I want to be with actors and singers in the theatre, live. Online doesn’t suffice, no matter how hard everyone is really trying. Half of life is missing. Let’s please be honest and not try and pretend everything everyone does is wonderful.

In March, along with everyone else, some of our projects were wiped out, funding disappeared, partners vanished, theatre’s closed and a cry of anguish sounded out from artists whose veins, filled with their life blood, had been cut. Yes, the mortgage, the rent and the children’s food but that gaping hole normally filled by making, creating, nurturing and giving for a purpose, empty and aching. Difficult to explain this but that’s what it feels like. Of course you can create work in an empty room without an audience, painters and writers do it all the time, but for musicians, singers, actors, dancers, clowns, comedians, jugglers, tumblers…..you are 50% of us and what we do, you reflect back to us the stories and the songs we share.

Photo: Robert Golden

So, everything stopped, and we thought, what do we do next? Bridport where Opera Circus is based, is a small town of some 13,000 people. Mostly generous and compassionate people. There was never a moment from what we could see, when someone couldn’t get their shopping delivered, or their medicine collected, all the local businesses began to deliver, everyone donated to the food bank and we all got to know our neighbours better, which was a delight. I am not ignoring the tragedies of the deaths, the lost education, the domestic violence, the hate crime, the growing right wing extremism and all the other horrors we read about and some deal with every day. Those that can must be rebuilding and not be filled with fear all the time, as the Government would wish.

We decided to develop more ideas, pick up some that were halfway into the workshop process and just fund raise, fund raise, fund raise. It truly eats away at the soul.

What drives the fund raising is the possibility of working with other artists to make something that is much richer than we could possibly create by ourselves, having the freedom to choose countries whose cultures you want to delve into and tell the stories you want to share with others, as you want to hear theirs. Brexit is truly cutting off our limbs and part of our reason for being, our profoundly shared culture and history, our shared Humanity, our Humankind. Our sense of being together and not isolated.

What we miss! Photos: Robert Golden

So what has this year’s work brought us:

  • A successful Erasmus + grant to work with 3 new partners on 2 TCFT youth arts and cultural journeys to Pristina, Kosovo In April and to Portland, Dorset, UK in June 2021. The partners are Termokiss, Kosovo, Beats across Borders, Denmark and b-side UK.
  • The title of the process, Freedom is Participation in Power – Building Youth Activism. This was the penultimate opportunity to apply for an Erasmus + grant before we leave the EU.
  • We have applied for the final UK led Erasmus + Grants scheme, the results of which we will hear on 31 December. More soon.
  • Another way of participating in Erasmus.

We would like to thank Francesco Pipparelli, youth leader with TCFT, for introducing us to Ilaria Zomer of the NGO Sereno Regis in Torino, Italy. As a result, Ilaria has applied for an Erasmus grant to explore arts and youth work with 6 other partners from Serbia, BiH (Maja Djokanovic and Verica Jovanovic leading), Greece, Turkey, Portugal, Italy, England and Northern Ireland. In 2021 we will have a study visit to Bridport Dorset with 19 youth leaders involved in the arts, a training week in Torino, Italy, a residency in Bratunac, near Srebrenica and a final seminar in Italy to discuss all we have learnt together and hopefully, in the same space.

  • Through Changing the Story, there have been opportunities to listen to youth activists from Columbia to Iran, from Syria to Rwanda and more. Learning so much about those who are the real change makers on our Earth, talking about the need for a sense of belonging and historical dignity, young people desperately needing space from which to work and grow, everything they do is about justice, it’s all part of the same conversation, climate, race, democracy, politics, co building is part of the conversation and intergenerational and horizontal relationships are really important. For young social entrepreneurs it’s essential to be ethical in everything you do.

The activists expressed the need to be empowered and have NGO’s, small and large, find ways to add value to the work of young people, open doors and invite them in and provide support, funds, phones, networks.

All this has really added to our conversations about TCFT and the changes we can make with that work, who makes them and how.

Happy in Sarajevo with Henry, Tiffany, Melisa, Hana, Francesco, Berina, Baja, Rory and Lamia. Photo: Robert Golden
Changing the Story continues with a small co-learning project bringing together all the thoughts from the work we did with Izazov and the work of the partners in Kosovo and UK- Tiffany Fairey and Henry Redwood, Kings College London, Jasmin Hasic, Director of Humanity in Action, BiH Paul Cook, Chair of World Cinema, Leeds University, Rory Newbery, Stephanie Schwandners-Sievers and Lee Ann Fenge, Bournemouth University, Nita Luci and Linda Guisa University of Pristina and Mary Drosopolous, Early Careers Researcher. See further details on the CtS and Izazov web site.


Theatre for Everyone GAZA.

A new partnership in which we are truly delighted and honoured to be involved.

This comes from Jonathan Chadwick, Theatre Director of AZ Theatre, UK.

“Az Theatre and Theatre for Everybody have worked together on creative projects in Gaza since 2009 and were partners in the War Stories project from 2002. After numerous projects focusing on young people in Gaza we produced Gaza: War & Peace, the first Arabic stage adaptation of Tolstoy’s novel, playing to hundreds and hundreds of young people in Gaza in the Al Mishal Cultural Centre that was destroyed by Israeli bombardment in August 2018. We gained the participation of many hundreds of people throughout the world in a dynamic outreach programme that employed online video public events, climaxing in HERE THERE EVERYWHERE at the P21 Gallery in London on November 2017.
THE EMIGRANTS will be an advocacy project for the rebuilding of the Cultural Centre in Gaza. The Al Mishal Cultural Centre was destroyed by an Israeli air strike in August 2018. Alongside all our statements and publicity on this project we will promote the idea and vision of a new cultural centre for Gaza. The initial contributions for the rebuilding of the Cultural Centre are still in the bank except for money spent on research amongst the arts community in Gaza. We also have a few people who make monthly contributions for which we are so grateful!
The production in Gaza will happen in April/May 2021. We believe we can organise a number of online video events world-wide where communities of emigrants can pick up the conversation the play will start. These can happen live during or after performances in Gaza. The publics involved in these exchanges with young participants in Gaza may come from many communities. The experience of migration is crucial for humanity at this point in history.”

A conversation will begin soon with young people in Gaza and TCFT’s Network (UK, Italy, BiH). A chance to explore cultures and art, friendships and creativity, social change and activism.

We hope to organise two online events, one whilst we are in Kosovo in April 2021 and one in Bridport in June 2021 through Bridport Arts Centre. We plan to share music, theatre, spoken word, film and food online for an evening.

There will be an opportunity to donate to the work with young people in Gaza and eventually to help rebuild their theatre. You can find out more information here.

Tree – Bridport Photo: Robert Golden


Opera Circus is involved in a number of projects where we are acting as project manager. This is partly due to the difficult times and our experience in organising complex events and productions but also because we believe in the work, it fits with Opera Circus core values and we want to see the artists thrive.

Exile: A Mind in Winter,

A beautiful cross art form exhibition of the work of Ricky Romain, Robert Golden and Cedoux Kadima. Dates from 2 December – January 16th at Bridport Arts Centre. Full details here. It includes a local and global music concert to celebrate International Human Rights Day on 10th December at 7.30.

Neil Oliver speaks with Ricky Romain, Robert Golden and Cedoux Kadima at Bridport Arts Centre, 2nd December 2020

This Good Earth, 

Is a documentary about soil, food, farming and what our agricultural policies and corporate food manufacturers are doing to us. The premier is at Bridport Arts Centre on 21st January 2021 at 7pm and online. More details and tickets will be announced soon. Trailer and more information here.

Adam Simon Farmer packing flour Tamarisk Farm Photo Robert Golden

Naciketa and Music Medicine:

The next blog will explore the journey of the new chamber opera Naciketa and its work with Music Medicine. Its tour planned for the early Summer of 2021 and cancelled because of the Pandemic, resurfaces in a different and more vital and inspiring form.

Partnering with the NHS, Southbank and Dorset Council amongst others and led by Emeritus Professor of Music Nigel Osborne, MBE through his work with Music and Well Being and the NHS Recovery Colleges.

Music and Well Being Bridport TCFT with Zangi Photo Robert Golden

A thank you to all the organisations, institutions, individuals who have worked so hard to provide support, ideas, funding, who have battled with government departments, protested and in some cases won on our behalf. Thank you.

Perhaps we now need to look at alternative stories for the arts and not ones led by the State or vested interests in the “outcomes”.