From Gill Dowsett:
“So for many of us, including those of us involved with the Exchanges for All project, covid 19 seemed like it might be a great big full stop on our work! Used to the privalidge of travelling across Europe to work with groups of young people and bringing our artistic passions in their many forms, I for one was happy to try and adapt what I do in order to provide another platform in order to engage young people from the countries that had signed up for the Exchanges for All, youth exchange project.
As a drama teacher and forum theater practitioner, I have spent about 50 years of my life listening to the stories of young people both here at home in the UK and throughout Europe. Indeed I often describe myself as a ‘story listener’. Much of my work involves listening carefully and respectfully to stories about personal difficultis being experienced by the young people that I’m working with. Much of this listening also requires watching the body language, micro-expressions and personal nuances being expressed in any given moment and in response to that moment. So I knew there would be challenges to my working on-line via my computer screen. However I was prepared to give it a go. Covid was threatening the liberty of us all – like many of my colleagues in the drums for peace network, we decided to offer what we could, to those young people who wished to engage with us. It became Stories from Home, we wanted to listen to and share our personal stories of the pandemic. How it was affecting us all, the common themes and the personal challenges. How each country was handling the situation, what life at home was like for us all, what anxieties were being thrown up, and what common human threads were running through our everyday lives. And then, to find expression for these through the various art forms we bought to the on-line meetings.
In hindsight now, I can remember the frustration I felt from the restriction of not “being in the room” but that was coupled with the excitement of seeing those familiar faces popping up on the screen at the same time each week. Some faces I knew from previous projects, some faces my colleagues already knew and some popped in from the ether!! Some faces on occasions were “switched off” ( the interesting power of technology) and a disembodied voice would join the meeting – and that proved to be ok too, that person still present – even if temporarily invisible…….This was nothing like running a forum theatre project or any genre of drama project, neither was there a lot of dancing, singing, drawing (though all of these art forms were incorperated) What evolved was a personal sharing – expressed beautifully through the faces and voices of a group of young people and artists from about 10 different countries. A brief moment in time where no one really knew for certain where we were heading, but I’m sure many heartfelt connections took place. Respite from the mundane, respite from the uncertainty and respite from the fears thrown up by the biggest universal pandemic in over one hundred years.The Stories from Home zoom meetings were new and unique and yet again for me it was a privalidge to be able to witness and share those moments. I’m so grateful to all those who shared their time! How special was that!!!!!”
Read more about Online Projects in Exchanges for All: