By Liew Jones

“Lockdown 1, real-life EFA youth exchanges are canceled due to the COVID pandemic. I was not booked to be on the exchanges but I could see that helping out remotely was a must. The vitality that the real-life exchanges give to participants and the staff is unique so how can we provide a high-quality online alternative version of that?! 
Without the technical expertise to unify and support or work we all experimented with Zoom and other online meeting platforms. After many meetings we started to offer an online version of the exchanges. I struggled to find the best place to put myself because I love all art forms and saw the benefits and downfalls of being ‘online’ and not face to face. All of the workshop leaders provided safe, solid and creative spaces for the participants. 

Simple, flowing fun movement. 

Deep, open conversations and real-life stories.

Magic, musical, energetic transactions.

After participating in the first few online sessions I decided to offer something I hoped would bridge the space between the different online workshops. I set up some shared documents OUR_STORY_WE_TELL this was a space to ‘collaborwrite’ on story writing and Lyrical Wall so we could all write poems together online. 
The sessions I delivered online were very mixed and the number of participants went up and down people also dropped in and out at different times depending on their current home commitments. With this fluidity in mind, I decided to use the most basic of all the skills needed to develop an artistic idea, improvisation. After catching up with people letting them know that any ideas we develop “live’ can be recorded and then made solid in our shared documents (during the sessions and in between too) we began. First playing word association games – live and within the chat area, then depending on the participant engagement levels and energy we would have kind of word play, slam poetry free styles. 
So for example one person would say a word and another would try to turn it into a song lyric or develop the word into a narrative. Sometimes this was extremely informal and loose other times it was slowed down and co-written using a shared google document. What I found fascinating was how open the participants and staff were to express themselves and share all sorts of information, happy, sad, deep and mad! 
We talked lots about isolation and how strange the whole lock down situation is but also about how people relate to one another, what goes on for people in their home life and what family, community and society means to people day to day. “

Example of poem from Lyrical Wall:

Friends bring energy, ideas, hugs, glimpses of chaos, jigsaw pieces juice together, 

A willingness to make new experiences together,

Without our fear,  

We are all humans, we are all family,

Remembering old hard times,

New sparkles, appear in dark nights,

Feeling the new perspectives, 

Remembering victories,

Releasing tension,

Giving thanks.

Here is workshop leader Llew Jones, from UK, taking up the track with human-beatbox and a little dance, making a great contribution to the online project Dance against Corona.

Read also about Stories from Home, another example of Exchanges for All online project connecting workshop leader ad participants during the quarantine in the Spring of 2020.