World Play London




Watch Favour plays alone , remembering a playground game


our new friend, Joakim, came to a session and these are his words

25 May 2016 – Finding a common language

Blogpost 1 – 25 May 2016 – Finding a common language

Having worked several years with refugees in different countries around the world I was excited to come across PAN Intercultural Arts and when they made a call for volunteers I didn’t hesitate to apply. Here I am a few weeks later at Central Saint Martins in London, where their weekly workshops for the so called Fortune group takes place every Wednesday.

The session is supposed to start at 6 p.m. but hardly anyone has arrived by that time. Artistic Director, John Martin explains to me that the participants come from many different parts of London and don’t always show up exactly at six. As we stand there waiting, more and more people drop in. Some are known faces to PAN and have been part of the group for over a year, whereas for others it’s their first time. The newcomers are nervously looking around, chatting with someone they already know or someone that speak their language. It’s mix of cultures and languages with people from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, and Albania and they have all come to spend the next three hours with PAN.

Finally, everyone has arrived and we can start. Johan leads the group through a session ofintroductions and people start to relax. Each participant then has to introduce themselves in front of the whole group imagining that they are a famous TV-host while everyone else is cheering them on. At first people are shy and say their name and then quickly rush back to the rest of the group. The do it again and again and slowly they start gaining more confidence.

When the exercise ends people are laughing and chatting lively. I ask one of the participants what he likes about coming to this group and he smiles and says: ‘We have fun and it gives me self-confidence for school.’

The current theme for the group is childhood games. Everyone is asked to share a game that they played as child and tell the group a memory they have from playing that game. It doesn’t take long before we are all sitting in a circle singing in Amharic, playing an Ethiopian game called Dimby la Dimby. It doesn’t matter that most of us don’t speak the language. People are fully engaged  and having a good time. As we go through few more games people quickly realize that many of the games from their countries are not that different from the games that people play in other countries. There is common ground.

The night ends with sharing food and the participants no longer sit next to the person they already knew when they arrived. Instead they are busy getting to know a new face, trying their best to get their point across in English. I realize that getting together and doing theatre for a few hours is the highlight of the week for many of the people in this group.

My first night with PAN reminds me that it’s not always the big and complex activities that make the biggest difference. Sometimes a quite simple activity can be just as effective in making a difference.

For the next couple of weeks I will be sharing some thoughts from the weekly Fortune sessions as we continue to explore the world of games. I invite you to follow us on this journey!

By: Joakim Daun – human rights activist and theatre maker


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