Opera Circus is partnering with Bournemouth University on this 4 year Arts and Humanities Research Council Project called Changing the Story. Please see the web site for this fascinating research project. Our work will be part of the Kosovo process because of our history of engagement in the Balkan region in particular with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. This is an exceptional opportunity to further the use of arts and cultural activities with young people in areas of post conflict. Thanks to Professor Stephanie Schwanders-Sievers for this opportunity. https://www.leeds.ac.uk/arts/info/125052/centre_for_world_cinemas_and_digital_cultures/3107/changing_the_story
Geoffrey Brown, Director of Euclid, an organisation which offers a wide variety of assistance and advice on EU funding, partners and much besides, is organising a seminar on November 8th. www.euclid.info
In the last 10 years, the EU’s Erasmus+ programme (and its predecessors) have provided over £20m to UK partners in projects involving the arts, culture, heritage and the creative industries. There are a number of Erasmus+ deadlines from now until March 2019 and on 8 November 2017 in Leeds, Euclid is organising a unique one-day event which will explain the opportunities from this programme. There will be presentations from the official UK contact points, and from a number of successful projects, and delegates will have the opportunity to meet with all speakers to ask detailed questions and present their project ideas. The cost is £60 (or £30 if you book before 20 October).
Brouhaha from Liverpool, Opera Circus South West UK, Ecorys, British Council, Leeds City Council and a variety of organisations will be talking about how to make the most of this large funding stream whilst we can.
On October 26th and 27th we are in Brussels for the first meeting of this new Erasmus project led by Matera Hub and Teatro l'Albero, Matera, Italy.
This is a two year project which looks at the possible ways that the variety of art forms within opera could be used to create tools that can help to share cultures with our new migrant communities, if they are interested. The work is not directly with migrants but initially is a research programme that will explore with artists, facilitators, university research departments and others how we could deliver tools, processes and information that could be useful.
The other partners in this process include Opera Circus, RESEO, the European Network for Opera and Dance Education, the Network of Migrant Women, both based in Brussels, the University of Patras, Greece and ESART, an international centre of higher arts education in Barcelona.
It will be interesting to see how we can all combine our experiences of informal arts education and research. We will create a web page on our new web site, coming shortly, which will feedback on this whole process. Thanks to Matera Hub for writing such a successful Erasmus application and for bringing together such an interesting group of partners. https://www.facebook.com/materahub
96% of artists who took part in the Referendum to leave or remain as part of the European Union, voted to stay.
Europe is our culture, our history, our arts and our future. It is a fact that the EU needs change. EU bureaucracy, corruption, values and an insistence that the main purpose of the 28 (still) countries working together is for economic purposes.
Romano Prodi who was the 10th President of the European Commission (1999-2004) was reported to have said that if he had the time again he would have based the values of the European Union on that of Culture and not Economics.
I imagine we would be in a very different place now if that had been the case.
In the recent paper produced by Jean Claude-Junkers, the current President of the European Commission, he describes
5 alternatives for the future of the EU. In the entire paper the word culture is not used once.
So we regress as a society and those of us who have advocated for years for the recognition that the arts and culture is
of central importance for the education, health, well being, peace, creativity and progress of our communities
and society, seem to be back at square one, or maybe not.
Opera Circus is now working more than ever in Europe. 26 years on from the start of this small performing arts organisation, we now have partnerships in 8 European countries and are exploring further conversations with three new arts organisations in the Middle East, Egypt, Palestine and possibly Tunisia or Jordan.
When we were a much more active touring company we performed globally from Peru to Thailand, Canada to Georgia and across wider Europe. As a result we grew as artists and people, were challenged, educated and inspired.
Now through our youth process The Complete Freedom of Truth we aim to offer some of these experiences and hopefully inspiration and learning to a broad cross section of young people with our partnerships and beyond.
If you didn’t see the documentary about the development of the work from 2008 in Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina to today and into the future, click on the link here.
TCFT, Opera Circus and the future:
Since the end of the last Erasmus + youth residency which was in Sarteano, Italy in 2017, a number of smaller initiatives by young people have been delivered in Srebrenica and Croydon London. There are plans for other small programmes in Serbia and Portugal as well as Italy.
We are running our, now annual, TCFT week in Bridport, Dorset, UK and looking forward to welcoming our partner youth organisations, SLYNCS from Blackburn, Young People Insight from Croydon, and we hope You-press from London. This is from 12 – 17 February and do get in touch if you want to know more or be involved. Thank you to Awards for All, West Dorset District Council, Bridport Arts Centre, Bridport Town Council and others for making this possible.
Opera Circus in Italy
We are at the moment involved in two European programmes of work with partners in Matera, in the region of Bassilicata, Italy.
The first is an Erasmus + project called Get Close to Opera. It involves partners in Spain, Greece, Italy, Belgium and us in the UK. It is an exploration to see if it is possible to use the art forms in opera to explore ideas of cultural integration with refugees. We will be guided very closely by RESEO and the Network of Migrant Women in Brussels. This is led by the highly efficient cultural NGO Matera Hub in Italy.
The other Matera project is a beautiful new community opera, working with the young theatre company Teatro L’Albero in Matera and delivering a new work across two years. .
The fascinating orchestra Senza Spine from Bologna and L’Orange Platine from Angers in France will be part of the creative team. We will know for certain whether we have the go ahead in December and if so will be part of Matera City of Culture 2019.
Our relationship with the region of Valdichiana continues with our colleagues and friends in the small historic town of Sarteano in the region of Tuscany. This is led by Laura Fatini and her highly skilled young team through Arrischianti.
They hope to involve two other towns, Montechiello and Montelaterone. We have had successful conversations with the Fondazione Monte dei Paschi di Siena to develop this partnership and the Fondazione’s involvement in more than just funding. Partnerships these days have to also be about sharing skills, networks and opportunities.
We are also in discussion with Glyndebourne about a TCFT residency in July 2018 at Lewes, near Brighton involving artists and young people from Sarteano as well as established partners Setubal Music Festival and their inclusive chamber orchestra. This will be a slightly different TCFT experience as the process will involve local young people who live in and around Brighton and Lewes, young migrants, artists, partners and facilitators from the area. We are meeting from 10 - 13 November and will be able to see a performance of Belongings, the new youth opera at Glyndebourne, music by Lewes Murphy and libretto by Laura Attridge. http://www.glyndebourne.com/tickets-and-whats-on/events/2017/belongings/
The two weeks residency in July 2018 will structured around the story of Giufá.
“Giufà is a character who appears in traditional tales from cultures across Europe and the Middle East (from Turkey to Sicily, from Egypt to Portugal). His story is interpreted in many and various ways as people have travelled through history. Giufà’s stories have contributed to the cultural identity of each country in which he has travelled.
Giufa's stories, are simple as fairy tales and equally instructive. They can be a useful tool for working on our human concerns such as identity, difference, self-knowledge, and freedom. We use this art of storytelling as a way to communicate with each other.” Laura Fatini writer and theatre director Sarteano.
Laura has written the text to this new music theatre piece and Sara Ross, now working at the Teatro Sāo Carlos, the Lisbon Opera House, is writing the music.
During 2018 there will be meetings and work in progress in Setubal, Sarteano and Glyndebourne. More information will be available later in the year both on this and the TCFT web site.
We haven’t spent as much time as we should have done on this web site and apologise for the lack of updated information but………
Opera Circus is about to transform itself.
The good reason is that we have been so successful in our work over the last 5 years that we now have more work than we can handle for the next 5.
We have produced chamber opera, music theatre, children’s, youth and community projects for over 26 years in the UK, across Europe and from Peru to Thailand, Georgia to the Basque country.
We have designed and led residencies for children in state orphanages 1 and 2, in Vilnius, Nigel Osborne’s Balkan Summer Music Camps in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina and in India for children with trauma and disabilities.
There has been a slow and positive development of work with young people through arts and cultural activity which began in Srebrenica, Bosnia in 2008.
This resulted in the birth of TCFT (The Complete Freedom of Truth an international youth arts and cultural long term process and network.) More information on this web site and please see the beautiful films directed by Robert Golden, particularly for 2017 http://thecompletefreedomoftruth.com
We have many partners in many European countries, a network of hundreds of young people and have led 14 day residencies in Srebrenica, BiH, Sarteano, Italy and Bournemouth University, UK.
We have organised artist, youth and schools exchanges, built new networks, created new artworks and been introduced to new artists, life changes and friendships.
As a result of all this Opera Circus has to evolve and transform in the way we run, in how we approach our work and in some cases, even where we work and whom we work with.
We are sharing what we do more widely. Our very mixed ensemble is distributing the work of the funding applications, even an Erasmus +. Smaller versions of TCFT are being led by youth leaders who have grown into the process we have developed together over the last few years. New European partnership projects have evolved and new performances are developing.
As a result over the next two years we are aiming to design a different, more transparent and fluid way of working.
A cloud based production office, creating greater transparency and for a team or ensemble to work together digitally from literally anywhere. Our database will finally be updated and include all our existing networks with space to encourage a greater spread of connections and in particular a wider reach for fund raising and income streams from a more comprehensive section of our global change making society.
We are partnering more and for 2021 having a vision being part of two creative arts and cultural centres, one in Brighton UK and the other in the Valdichiana/Val d’Orcia region of Italy.
We are interested in different approaches to running projects and offering work opportunities to some of the talented young people who have worked with us for a number of years . We need to value more the wisdom and skills available to us, embracing the intense artistic grace and gifts found deep in the experience and talents of many of the invaluable artists we work with.
A number of projects are under discussion including a second TCFT residency in Sarteano, the first took place this April 2017. See the film.
A new music theatre project, whose work in progress title is The Giufa Project, is under discussion with major UK partners for the summer of 2018. This new work is written by the Italian theatre director and writer, Laura Fatini with music by Portuguese composer, Sara Ross. The production will be accompanied by a participation project involving informal education in schools, with young artists and with migrants both in Italy and England. Other partners who are part of this discussion at the moment are Crisis Classroom, Brighton, the Fondazione Monte dei Paschi di Siena, Fondazione Cantiere Internazionale d’Arte in Montepulciano, Glyndebourne and three small Comuni in the region, Montechiello, Montelaterone and, of course, Sarteano along with Suzie’s Farm, an ecological and vibrant learning, growing and social eating space.
We continue to develop North/South England exchanges between Blackburn’s youth organisation SLYNCS and Bridport’s young people. There will be a visit to Blackburn during the October 2017 half term and a mini TCFT during February 2018 half term in Bridport, involving Blackburn. We hope, the Young People Insight project in Croydon will join us, founded and led by one of the senior TCFT youth leaders, Shaniqua Benjamin.
Following on from a meeting with artist Vania Cauzillo at the Opera Europa conference in Bucharest, Opera Circus is now partnering on two projects in Matera, Basilicata, Italy.
Both are linked to the European City of Culture for 2019.
One project led by Matera Hub includes partners in Greece, Belgium, Italy, UK and Spain and is exploring the use of informal education opportunities through opera with migrants in Italy and across Europe.
The other project is led by Teatro L’Albero in Bari and Matera, creating a new community opera called The Silent City.
We are looking forward in the distant future to working with the beautiful city of Timisoara in 2021 as part of their European City of Culture programme, which has now been confirmed.
We have had an interesting journey with our Erasmus partners, Bournemouth University. Having run a two week residency there in the summer of 2016, BU has been funding a research assistant, Dinu Munteanu, to look at the Impact of our work with young people and the arts through TCFT, in particular. This is an on going process which is beginning to spread across faculties and we hope will deliver, at least, an academic paper as well as a part funded Phd scholarship.
TCFT was part of the Global Engagement Festival of Learning at Bournemouth University in July 2017.
BU is also taking part in creative R and D with Nigel Osborne’s new opera, Naciketa, libretto by Ariel Dorfman. Two BU artists are researching ideas for animation and projection and an electronic soundscape. Nigel has become a BU visiting professor and in September will meet with Opera Circus and other prospective major partners in the region.
There are SALTO and European Youth Foundation conferences being applied to, exploratory work around the Commons and P2P, exploring different thinking and language through the work we do, new board members and new funders.
Amy Wisenfeld and Rory Newbery, students at Manchester and Leeds University respectively, submitted the application to have TCFT awarded the EU Charlemagne Youth Prize and came first out of all the applications from the UK.
Francesco Pipparelli from Sarteano, represented TCFT at Achen to collect the award.
Young people who have grown into leadership positions and become role models are running smaller models of TCFT exploring Arts and Friendship, Mental Health and Food Security with Local Food and Farming.
We are developing a number of small scale and Forum theatre projects. One of these that grew out of parental concerns in Bridport, will look at texting/sexting and the bullying that comes from this. An Awards for All grant has been successfully applied for to support this work. We are meeting with Sir John Colfox School’s teachers and students to talk with them about how this might be a way to open this difficult discussion with parents, the school and the community.
ACE has just awarded us a small grant for some R and D around the art that has evolved from TCFT and to find a way through performance to explore with participants and a wider audience the emotional and secure cultural space that this long term programme of work engenders.
"TCFT is a process for understanding each other, differences and everything that has connected and divided us.
For me when I see it in the future, it is a good system, system where we all could live by, it’s like we have a great structure for this system. It’s like the village in Spain (Mondragon - https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/mar/07/mondragon-spains-giant-cooperative). I always see this is possible in TCFT." Sandra Duric, Philosophy student, BiH.
I would personally like to thank everyone who has contributed to all that has been achieved. Without an ensemble/partnership/collaborative team very little of this would have succeeded in the way it has. People’s patience, kindness, talent, wisdom, energy and commitment has ensured we have created work that goes beyond expectations and evolved into more than a network, more of a creative and equal community of people working towards something kinder, something deeper and something that acknowledges the vital importance and value of every single one of us through our creativity, our art and our multifarious cultures. The Learning has been profound and life changing.
Now for more art.
Tina Ellen Lee
February was our last post. The next three months we led the delivery of the final phase of an extraordinary International Youth Arts programme of work The Complete Freedom of Truth, which was part funded by an Erasmus + grant.
One of our 11 partners, the Comune di Sarteano, hosted and helped to organise this final residency for 14 days in their beautiful town in Southern Tuscany. See the photograph at the top of the page to look at the main square with the Arrischianti Theatre on the right hand side. A tiny mini version of La Scala in Milan, exquisite and perfect and at the centre of the life of the town and its kind, patient and hospitable community.
There will be an evaluation and a report on the projects web site, TCFT, http://thecompletefreedomoftruth.com and more news and updates as all the film and photography, words and poetry are added.
There will an update shortly on where this project will go next but it will surely be followed by small residencies from
1 day to 1 week, Srebrenica, BiH, Bridport and Croydon, UK and possibly Setubal, Portugal.
Now it the time for the final reporting and evaluations but this will give food for the space in the brain that says what next, where do we go from here with this amount of energy and inspiration. Certainly Opera Circus is going to continue working with young people in Bosnia and is delighted if collaborations are formed with Arischianti in Sarteano.
There is interest in working with a number of partners in the Middle East and Northern Africa and we hope several UK individuals and partners who have helped create this work from day 1.
More than anything it is time for more art, more creativity and less mind - numbing bureaucracy.
Thank you to everyone who has helped fill the last 24 months with delight and joy, learning and struggle.
To the few who thought they knew best, we wish you well.
Opera Circus 25th year:
In 2016, Opera Circus will have been active in some form or another for 25 years. We will find a way to celebrate this as part of TCFT at the University of Bournemouth this summer, from 1 – 14th August. Billy Alwen, from Cirque Bijou, will lead the facilitation and help to create an explosive final performance for all involved which will include the local communities in Dorset.
Opera Circus has had many ups and a few downs, but the company, and charity, is finding an interesting and rich path in building its work with our youth led activities as well as exploring emerging young international artists through Naciketa’s journey. We are invested in simplifying our processes, keeping our administration lean and efficient and reflecting back to the organisation the aims of truth, freedom and equality that the youth led work radiates. We are also interested in learning how digital technologies can advance our network and support the building of our global community as well as our virtual office.
What has emerged through the work this year is the immense capacity of young people to empathise with others, their interest in creating a global community, their curiosity in other cultures and in 99% of the cases, their understanding and tolerance of difference, be it gender, race or ability. I have been moved and amazed by their generosity, courage and hope for what is a difficult and unsafe future. They are impressive and an example to us all.
This leads me to the Four Towns Youth Initiative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, now called Network Domino. Ljubisa Surlan, a young man from Srebrenica, decided last year that some of the young people from his town had been lucky in having so much international attention as a result of the Bosnian war. He said that as a result of the significance of this town there had been many trips, activities, peace programmes and cultural opportunities, whereas other young people in other towns had had nothing. He wanted to share the skills that he and others from his town had learnt. So 3 towns were chosen, we ended up with 4 in total, to take part in a 10 day long programme of work led by young people with a small number of artist/facilitators to support them.
Visigrad, Tuzla, Jelah and Srebrenica took part with over 40 young people participating from other towns, and audiences for their final performances of over 500. Jelah welcomed all to their Rastok Fest music festival which was reciprocated in Srebrenica with the Silvertown Shine Music Festival.
This led to a second period of work in Visegrad in late October and early November, to provide support for the young people of this town in their bid to be recognised by their institutions, to start their own NGO, which they have begun, and to provide a continuous programme of activities for children and young people. The OSCE in Foca helped to provide a presentation platform with the local institutions and has offered to help develop relationships with the local Municipality.
We travelled from Visigrad to Sarajevo to attend meetings and for some of the young people to participate in the European Parliamentary Delegation on BiH and a working lunch with leading NGO’s and MEP’s. Julie Ward MEP was significant in helping to organise this.
We also visited OKVIR, an organisation supporting the LGBT community through Forum Theatre and therapy, and Mozaik who are offering support, training and opportunities for fund raising. The OSCE in Foca and Srebrenica are involving the young teams in workshop opportunities and looking for ways to support their step by step development as local youth leaders.
We were also pleased that Mrs Rebekah Wigemark, the wife of the new European Ambassador to BiH, came to Visegrad for the day to take part in activities and listen to the stories of the young people. We were also joined by Will Richard, Head of Office of the OSCE in Srebrenica who is being particularly supportive. We would specially like to thank Andy McGuffie and Maja Stojanovic, from the European Commission, who worked tirelessly to source some vital funding from the EC to help cover our basic costs. Without them this small, but important, linking project would not have happened.
In all cases the young people are intent on ensuring that they extend their safe cultural spaces to other young people of all religions and ethnicities including minorities and those of all genders.
I would like to congratulate them on their courage and commitment.
The numbers of participants and partners is increasing in TCFT and we need to explore with support and advice as to how we can manage ourselves in the future; is there an existing model we can follow or do we need to invent something new? Deloitte’s have taken us on this year as one of their charities to support with consultation and advice and hopefully they can help us with this. We also need to look at our capacity, very stretched, and develop a virtual production office to share information quickly and efficiently.
We, meaning everyone we work with in TCFT, and not just I, were honoured this year to be nominated by Clare Moody, MEP and awarded the European Citizen’s Prize 2015. This was for our work in Europe in upholding the values of the European Union and working together to fight against prejudice, racism and develop inclusion and equality in everything we do. I was unable to attend the presentation in Brussels and Nemanja Zekic and Milena Nikolic, both friends and colleagues from Srebrenica, accepted the Prize on our behalf. They did a wonderful job. Thank you both.
We were also amazed to have our very own MEP, Julie Ward, in Srebrenica during the TCFT project in August. Julie, as an MEP, has responsibility for Culture and Arts and Bosnia and Herzegovina, so we were very lucky to have her with us and to lead discussions on Youth Activism and the EU. In addition we were very pleased that the Head of Mission and Ambassador to the OSCE in BiH, Jonathan Moore, came and discussed youth issues with three youth leaders and the British Ambassador, Edward Ferguson, came and spent a day with us.
A few people were critical of the way we invite diplomats and European leaders to come and spend time with us, but they have an important role to play. It is hardly ever about funding but about advocacy and ensuring we have a voice at any table that is discussing the work we and others do in using culture and the arts as a very powerful tool to develop a peaceful and an economically and socially vibrant society. It also provides time for young people to have a voice with those who often decide how they can live their lives…it is vital that youth activism is encouraged.
In Italy in 2017 we plan to have a 3 day Policy Makers seminar in which the most important learning from TCFT can be delivered by young people to those that make policy across wider Europe. Those who work in isolated bureaucracies need to know how life is lived by most of us and what needs to be addressed and changed. It is also a way forward for Europe to have much more involvement of young people. They are going to be our leaders in the future. Too many white, old, rigid, be-suited men run Europe and this needs to change. It is not representative of who we are.
There will be an update shortly on the TCFT web site. Meantime we fund raise, meet, research and plan.
There will be separate update about the new chamber opera we have commissioned from Nigel Osborne, composer, and Ariel Dorfman, writer, Naciketa.
There are some smaller discussions and partnerships in development, including an invitation to participate in a bid from the city of Timisoara for Cultural Capital City in Romania in 2021 and a possible Italian process involving Matera and maybe Bari. Along with Ravenna and Sarteano, Italy seems to be a favourite destination of ours at the moment.
We hope that your year has been as free as possible from disaster and conflict and that working together through the power of culture and the arts and a commitment to human rights, equality, freedom and truth we can find a way to turn the world around and begin to make something better of what we are as human beings. In my journeying around the world over the last 24 months I have met artists, facilitators, teachers, farmers, refugees and even businessmen and people from the military who want to change society from being a less greedy and destructive form to something that works and supports all. We have a long way to go but step by step, individual by individual it will change. We have to challenge the destruction of our environment along with climate change and the power of corporations, market forces, violence, poverty and inequality. We can do something about this.
I have just returned from a special week in Bucharest, invited to attend the Opera Europa conference, 18 – 21st November. Our meeting rooms were in the magnificent opera house in the city and our hosts welcoming as you would expect from this deeply cultured country.
There were 246 people from 32 countries, many of the major opera houses and arts festivals from around the world and it has given me much to reflect on, not least the place of opera in our lives and also its reputation and lack of diversity. It was good to acknowledge the innovation and inventiveness of small scale companies and how we lead in many areas of education, facilitation, use of digital technology and diversity, out of necessity if not a much greater freedom and flexibility…I don’t include the struggle for funding in this statement!
People in general were very open and interested and we have made a couple of excellent contacts for future collaboration.
Thanks to Nicholas Payne for this inspiring visit.