I was lucky enough to attend the Asian TYA Network Programme hosted by the Ricca Ricca Festa in Okinawa in July 2018. I attended as a guest of the festival and to present a seminar paper on my work co-creating with young audiences.
I found the meetings, discussions, seminars and post show critical reflection to be really well organised, inspiring and transferable. By transferable I mean that I will take experiences and insights from the network meeting and apply them in my own work and to my own networks in Europe. It is to the credit of the Ricca Ricca Festa and the organisers in Okinawa that such a diverse and interesting group of artist and cultural workers were able to come together and exchange and interact so well.
Performances – seeing the work and talking about it:
The Ricca Ricca Festa presented a variety of high quality work from all over the world and enabled and supported the Asian TYA delegates to see a selection of this work and talk with the artists who had performed / created it. What a wonderful gift that was! We were quite a large group so sometimes split up to see different performances and then came back together to discuss what we had seen. This process was very well planned and supported. We saw work from Scotland, Japan, Russia, Ukraine, Germany, and Denmark. As a group from different backgrounds, traditions and trainings this opportunity to exchange views and perceptions was very precious. The working language of these discussions was English which was very good for me but perhaps a challenge for some of those taking part? I am not sure that there is a way around this but at times and for some this was a source of some frustration. Translation and the pursuit of precision sometimes slowed down an often complex and heart felt discussion. Given the limits of time and space this was dealt with really well by delegates and organisers. Due to the diverse nature of the group along with a very strong shared passion for our work we could have spent very much more time discussion work and understanding varied perceptions of it. I was fascinated by the debates at various times about quality and process. Perhaps a future purpose of the network can be to continue these debates?
Art and the City – cultural inclusion – Seminar
Part of the meeting was dedicated to detailed presentations and discussion of some key issues. I presented a short seminar paper on my own work with NIE in the UK and Europe focusing on the work I have made that was co-created with children and part of the making process.
This part of the TYA Network programme was very well organised and structured. There was a wide range of presentations all approaching key issues for cultural workers: funding, networks, inclusion, national and regional issues and differences, examples of best practice, cultural policy, network building. It would be interesting to develop this debate to embrace a more complex exploration of the tension between capacity and quality, both were discussed in these sessions and form a major element of the debate around TYA internationally.
These events presented a range of experience and examples to wide audience and provoked some lively and in depth debate amongst the participants.
The concluding plenary session attempted to pull all of these debates and conversations together and to help the participants to plan the next steps for the network. The solid foundations and connections made in previous years of the programme were built upon here and will perhaps bear fruit in the next years as the Asia TYA network develops and more fully defines itself.
Future network debate –
As a guest of the festival and of the network I did not make big contribution to this debate. I did share some perceptions and experiences from the TYA networks in the UK and Europe. It seems that the Asian TYA network is at a crossroads in terms of its funding and structure. Given the distances involved and the very different funding possibilities it might be hard for the network to survive. I felt that, given the excitement and dedication of some of the key people who met in Okinawa, a way forward would emerge. The network needs, in my opinion, to develop a clearer definition of its aims and boundaries. There was a key discussion about how the network encompassed very different traditions and methodologies.
Key questions / projects might be:
A definition of TYA in an Asian context.
The inclusion of theatre by and with children and young people as well as theatre for a young audience and the tension between these two approaches / practices.
Can Theatre for Young Audience and Theatre in Education and Theatre as Creative Learning be supported in the same network.
The network is just at the beginning and the possibilities and opportunities are huge. It was a great pleasure and honour to be part of this meeting in 2018.