For the last two weeks, I have been in Leicester, my temporary home for a month. I have come to be in this strange land as part of my secondment/placement with the British Council and Khoj International Artists Association.
Sometime last year 15 the young and smartest of South Asia found themselves honored with the Arthink South Asia Fellowship, and this placement is just one step of that Fellowship.
But today was the first day of the Spark Festival for Children, organized by The Spark Arts for Children – my host organization.
Now coming from a third world country – Pakistan – it takes very little to impress us; people driving in lanes, not breaking signals, etc. But the first day of the Festival alone is enough to constantly ask yourself “Have I been living in a jungle?”
The first week of the festival is dedicated to School Programs, where there is a great focus on doing programs in schools or bringing schools to theater venues. I was able to witness two of the former on the first day. The day started off with a visit to Braunstone School, where a theater group called “StopGap”. The uniqueness of the performance lied in them having employed a person in a wheelchair and a beautiful actress with Down Syndrome. This performance highlighted everything for me that is simply at the moment is impossible to do in Pakistan, and thus while there are many questions surrounding the technical aspects of this performance, for me the idea that inclusion in all its shapes and colors is possible is a lesson enough.
The second show of the day which I was able to view was Baghdaddies. The musical performance was much more an educational experience than anything else. It is while observing such moments, that one can see the need for Arts. Not only were the kids listening and interacting (development of cognitive skills) there was also an interchange of knowledge – culture and the background of the songs, their origins, dances associated with it.
I hope that in the next two weeks I would be able to have a more clear idea of why we need to do these things. And more importantly, what I can take back home from this.