What follows is a detailed account of the context, activities and outcomes of the Act 2 workshop that took place in September 2010 under the aegis of the British Council Switzerland’s Act 2 Programme. The workshop was led by PAN Intercultural Arts and forms part of an ongoing, collaborative research project with Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance on ‘Testing Methodologies’ in theatre for development.
The documentation and website was created by Andrew Eglinton and is presented here as an archival resource for those involved in the project and as evidence of the reconciliatory potential of theatre post-conflict. This report to the British Council Switzerland was written in response to the following questions: what were the aims of the workshop and to what extent were they achieved? How was the work in Image Theatre conducted and received? What can be learnt from the workshop as a model for teaching basic notions of applied theatre to a heterogeneous group ‘outside the field’?
In September 2010, the British Council Switzerland organised a programme of events in and around Geneva under the heading ‘Act 2: Cultural Relations and Conflict’. Director of the British Council Switzerland, Caroline Morrissey MBE, and Act 2 Project Manager, Aisha Gilani, convened a group of international activists, artists, academics and practitioners from the applied arts and development sectors to ‘highlight how cultural relations makes a difference in conflict prevention and reconciliation’.
The project began with a week-long training workshop in Image Theatre led by John Martin and Adwoa Dickson of PAN Intercultural Arts, London. It took place in the town of Ueberstorf near Berne and was attended by a group of twenty-four young activists with varying degrees of experience working in conflict-affected communities. Thirteen members of the group were from the Shakthi Forum Theatre Company based in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka, while the remaining eleven participants travelled from Chechnya, Georgia, Kenya, Northern Ireland, Palestine, Peru, Rwanda, South Sudan, Yemen and Zimbabwe.
The workshop was followed by a one-day conference at the Museum of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent in Geneva, where a distinguished panel of practitioners, academics and policy makers gathered to discuss current practices in cultural relations. The panel sessions were chaired by BBC journalist Razia Iqbal and were intercut with short speeches by selected workshop participants. Discussions addressed a range of topics including ethics and cultural relations, methodology and best practice, and the relationship between policy and the applied arts.
Act 2 culminated in an evening of public performance at the Grütli Arts Centre, Geneva. It began with a full production of a Forum Theatre play by the Shakthi group and ended with a series of songs and spoken word pieces by Act 2 Patron, Emmanuel Jal. Jal is a former child soldier turned international hip-hop artist, actively involved in international development projects. He played a prominent role in the workshop and conference, sharing his experience of using music for social change.