BOP in Rwanda

A group of 16 people are posing for a photo. The photo has been taken at a training session BOP was running in Rwanda for the British Council. Most of the people are black but there are four white people. One lady is using crutches and Robert from BOP is in his wheelchair, in the centre of the picture (how does he always manage that). Everyone is smiling and some people have their hands raised waving at the camera.In 2018, BOP had the pleasure of being invited by the British Council to deliver a series of workshops in association with Amizero Dance Company & East Africa Nights of Tolerance Dance Festival. The aim of the work was to deliver capacity building workshops in Kigali, Rwanda, as part of the ongoing development work of East Africa Arts; a project working with artists and companies from across East Africa with a focus an cross-artform practice and disability equality.  East Africa Arts also promotes new art, shares skills of creatives and ignites partnerships between the UK and East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan).

This series of workshops happened between Kigali and Glasgow, throughout 2018 and the end result was a piece of performance that had been workshopped a lot and just needed time in rehearsal before it would be performed at the theatre festival in Uganda.

For more information about each of the weeks of work, please see below. For each week, there is a summary in the dropdown box and a detailed PDF document if you are interested in further reading.

Week 1: Kigali - Feb 2018

For the first week Robert Softley Gale (Artistic Director), Mairi Taylor (Executive Producer) and Rachel Drazek (Freelance Movement Artist) travelled from Scotland to Kigali to deliver a three-day workshop. Throughout the days BOP worked responsively with the group, shifting activity in response to the group’s learning needs.  To do this we drew on our the knowledge and on the established processes of the company – including artistic practises and knowledge around disability equality and artist development.

The aim of the workshop was to equip a group of disabled and non-disabled practitioners with the skills and knowledge required to co-devise work, informed by BOP’s own processes of devising/storytelling/movement which have been developed while creating accessible work in the UK.

The workshop was planned for 15 – 20 participants, including choreographer Wezley Ruzibiza (Director of Amizero Dance Company). Throughout the days BOP worked responsively with the group, shifting activity in response to the group’s learning needs.  To do this we drew on our the knowledge and on the established processes of the company – including artistic practises and knowledge around disability equality and artist development.

Throughout the days BOP worked responsively with the group, shifting activity in response to the group’s learning needs.  To do this we drew on our the knowledge and on the established processes of the company – including artistic practises and knowledge around disability equality and artist development.

At the end of the final day we – controversially – split the group into disabled and non-disabled groups to gather feedback.  This is not something that the company would normally do or encourage but there were several reasons on this occasion:

  • To directly challenge some persisting attitudes held by the non-disabled participants
  • To demonstrate to the non-disabled participants that disabled people deserve a space that is theirs
  • To provide the disabled participants with an opportunity to feedback and have a voice separate from the whole group

The results of this split discussion were very enlightening: the disabled group felt much more freely able to discuss their newly developed independence and confidence; the non-disabled group opened up about the preconceptions they had held before the workshops of the limitations of what disabled could do and how they should be treated.

For a more in depth analysis of the feedback from the two groups, and the other elements of the workshops, please read the full report below.

BOP & British Council: Rwanda Evaluation Report – February 2018

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Week 2: Glasgow - Sep 2018

The second series of workshops took place in Glasgow at National Theatre of Scotland’s headquarters Rockvilla. One of the artists BOP worked with in week 1 – Anisia Byukusenge – came to the UK.  This came about in part after an initial suggestion by BOP that a trip to the Unlimited Festival in London in September 2018 and time with BOP and other artists in Glasgow could have a big impact on the development of the artists.  Initially Valentine was also due to travel but sadly his Visa application was denied and Anisia was the only artist to come to the UK.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Week 3: Kigali - Oct 2018

For week 3, Robert, Mairi and Rachel returned to Kigali to continue the work they had begun with the group of disabled artists they had met in February 2018.  During that initial visit the aim of the work had been to deliver capacity building workshops as part of the ongoing development work of East Africa Arts; a project working with artists and companies from across East Africa with a focus an cross-artform practice and disability equality.

The aim of this second week in Kigali was to work with 5 developing disabled artists, including Anisia, to create a performance using her poem My Journey is a Sign of Hope.  When initially discussed with the British Council in planning stages the aspirations for the week were not so clearly focused and started with more of a remit around professional development.  This morphed and became clearly focused over the summer, and following working with Anisia in Glasgow, and the British Council being able to find funds to bring Rachel out with Mairi and Robert.  This allowed the BOP team of three to work very intensely over the 5 days and to push everyone involved to realise the beginnings of a final performance.

There was an overarching aim of consolidating all that had gone before – pulling together threads and themes from across performances and with past fashion work being involved in the wider BC Rwanda Telling Stories project.  

The core material of the performance was Anisia’s poem and from this, alongside ideas and images developed in Glasgow, we started to work swiftly on exploring themes in the work, drawing from the skills and interests in the room to create a schedule that would result in a performance for sharing at the end of the five days.  We wanted to leave a structure that could be developed but ensure that the whole piece was mapped out and that those being left to oversee and perform it were confident in the content and the intent.

At the end of everyday the BOP team would plan the next day in response to what was developing in the room and with the final performance in Uganda very much in mind.  A schedule was provided every morning so that everyone knew what was planned for the day.

At the end of the five days we achieved:

  • A 20 minute in-progress performance that was ready to share
  • A script with blocking, movement cues, and design suggestions
  • Increased confidence in artists to contribute to creative and development process
  • Set, prop and design ideas discussed and left to realise
  • Rehearsal Director left with a rounded understanding of the work with the materials to rehearse and develop

Feedback with the artists about this final week revealed that the artists satisfied, and sometimes surprised, with how the performance had come together. Many of the artists expressed that when they began the workshops they hadn’t expected for the finished result to look so good. Also, everyone – even the access workers – felt they had learned a lot from each other, were exposed to new practices and would be able to take these new skills forward into other aspects of their lives.

For a more in depth analysis of the feedback from the two groups, and the other elements of the workshops, please read the full report below.

BOP & British Council: Rwanda Evaluation Report – October 2018

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

FINAL THOUGHTS

At the end of our February 2018 report we commented:

We would also suggest looking at what the disabled artists may need in terms of training and developing technique. For example, many of them spoke with quiet voices and were clearly not familiar with being assertive within a performance environment. Voice coaching and similar classes would be hugely beneficial to the disabled artists in developing their careers.

We would recommend that translators are used in these situations – there were three plus languages in our workshops and it became a layered process communicating and understanding.”

On the October 2018 visit we noted major changes:

  • Confidence – vocal projection and presence in the room had greatly improved
  • Articulation  – being clear the group should be supported as independent artists
  • More discernible skills developing – artists holding show in their minds and supporting others
  • Lack of skills more apparent but identifiable so could be more easily supported

The artists are understandably lacking some  core skills that come with training – for instance the ability to hold and retain movement – but we can see that this is developing.

In conclusion BOP had a wonderful experience working with the artists Kigali and is very pleased with the processes we used and the journeys that the individuals went on.  We feel that we managed to foster an accessible and creative environment which left everyone with a desire to continue and a passion for the messages we delivered.

A major rationale for the February workshops was to create opportunities for more collaboration and also the space for the disabled artists to develop in a disabled-led environment – on our return we could feel this being realised.

What did BOP learn through this project?

  • The ongoing need to educate disabled and non-disabled people about the core principles of disability equality and to support disabled people to recognise and communicate their access requirements.
  • To be very mindful of language barriers in international settings
  • Timeframes impact on practice and dilute good practice when you are trying to work in an inclusive way
  • The power of building workshops and training around our productions
  • The power of moving between creative action and theoretical ideas to support each strand
  • There are challenges in working across cultures and not knowing what you don’t know
  • In a situation where you rely on translation you will never fully understand what is going on in the room but this does open up other avenues of communication
  • We can work successfully as a creative team in response to intensive conditions

 

 

https://www.googletagmanager.com/gtag/js?id=UA-90930324-1