It was with great pleasure that I was able to accept an invitation from Hisashi Shimoyama, Nao Miyauchi and Haruka Tanji to attend Ricca Ricca Festival, 2016 in Occinawa, Japan in order to present my own work in Cambodia and the UK and to participate in two conferences dedicated to connecting professionals working within TYA in South East Asia. It was an extra bonus to be able to invite Ya Ratha from Phare Circus in Cambodia to accompany me and experience firsthand Theatre for Young Audiences and, in ricca ricca*festa itself, a thriving festival packed with quality shows and discussion.
This was a unique opportunity to sit with a variety of professionals from all around Asia and to explore the work being created for young audiences in many of its countries but also to discuss what might lie ahead. This conference was brilliantly chaired by Caleb Lee from Singapore. We first split into smaller groups in order to highlight the work already being done in our various countries. In my group we had the pleasure to hear about what is happening in Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand where there is certainly a few notable companies such as Phare, Youth Theatre Vietnam and Bangkok International Theatre for Children Festival who are very active and also a very healthy traditional scene such as the puppet theatre in Laos and Thailand. In Cambodia and other regions a lot of work is directed towards the tourism sector so I think it was interesting for Ratha to see and hear about work created specifically for children. After presenting our findings an open discussion developed which saw delegates sharing ideas and experiences and it was clear that to develop closer working relationships and expanding the TYA membership will have great benefits for all regions.
This particulate session was an opportunity for each of the TYA delegates to make a short presentation about the work we produce within our particular regions. Although we each only had a duration of four minutes it was enough to get an idea of each company or individuals personal experiences. It was amazing to hear about everyone's work although I did feel it may have been more beneficial to have programmed this event earlier in the week and before the Open Talk. It was again though, a valuable and rewarding opportunity to connect with other professionals and extremely inspiring to hear of everyone's experiences and the lessons learnt along the way.
Another fascinating conference I attended was about TYA in Belgium, a very unique country in its actual geographical location which has an impact on the linguistics and social politics for the population. This affects funding and in turn the production of TYA in different parts of the region but certainly there is a healthy scene and clearly Belgium has developed work with its own unique style that seems quite contemporary and experimental. It was pleasing to hear of the value given to development work in the build up to production with artists working closely with children and other people in the local communities. This, I believe, is very important when making more challenging
and issue based work. During the festival, because of the friendship between Japan and Belgium that was being celebrated, I was able to see several pieces of work from that country.
Throughout the week it was wonderful to witness a great variety of work from all around the world. There was a fantastic range of style and content but my three personal favourites were Leo by Y2D Productions, A Mano ( By Hand ) by El Patio Teatro and Faithful Elephants by Puppet Theater HITOMI-ZA. It was a great privilege to enjoy all the work being shown and to meet some of the producers, directors and performers. It is my hope that myself and Ratha can bring some of these shows to Cambodia and Ireland. Our experiences at Ricca Ricca will surely empower us in the realisation of this ambition to produce the first festival of theatre for children in Cambodia.
It's was a wonderful week and first I'd like to thank the Festival Director, Mr. Shimoyama along with Nao and Haruka who made it possible for me to visit Ricca Ricca along with my new colleague, Ratha, thanks to the generosity of Japan Foundation. The hard work and effort that they, along with all of the team, have put into this festival is much appreciated and meant that this has been a very easy going but productive first visit to Japan. I return to Ireland with nothing but praise and respect for Ricca Ricca but also for the many Japanese people I have encountered on my time in Okinawa. I have been made to feel so welcome and that will not be forgotten. And then of course I'd like to thank my new friends and colleagues from all the corners of East and South East Asia. I have nothing but admiration for all of you and the important work that each of you are doing. I believe it is important that we continue to communicate and together move towards our mutual goal of securing successful and innovative TYA in the Asian region and beyond. Our collaboration has only begun and we must somehow seek, along with ATYA, to maintain the momentum and continue what has been achieved in this short time. We all have much in common, but importantly, we all possess unique skills that can benefit each other's projects and future plans.
Best wishes to you all and I hope that one day soon we will welcome you to Cambodia and, who knows, maybe Northern Ireland too!
To the Future!
Hugh William Brown
WOW! Arts Cambodia