It is the week of the General Election here in the UK and the main political parties have been arguing about the ‘state’ of our economy, Europe, the challenges facing our National Health Service which is meant to provide free and universal care, and Immigration.
This last subject seems to be one of the most emotive and divisive at this time of so called ‘austerity’ in Europe. Across the world immigration seems to be making headlines and it could be argued that there is a critical need to counteract the easy finger-pointing at people from other countries in relation to so many economic and complex social problems.
My own involvement with ASSITEJ has always been motivated by the principle of internationalism and the simple but profound value of bringing people of different nationalities and cultures together. ASSITEJ is a unique body in this respect, celebrating multiculturalism whilst at the same time seeking to find a common, universal language in relation to theatre for children, an ongoing creative, political and challenging endeavour – one that brings people together.
The Augenblick-Mal Festival and ASSITEJ Artistic Gathering which just took place in Berlin, not only celebrated 50 years of ASSITEJ as an association which first came into existence to ‘build a bridge across borders’ but it also brought together nearly 40 young and emerging artists from developing countries for the Next Generation Programme (including participants from North and South Korea). Many participants were travelling outside of their home countries for the first time and had a joyous opportunity to experience, to share, to make friends and forge new relationships, carving out new international ‘cross-cultural’ narratives. When you are at a festival you are suddenly a member of an international community.
Back in the UK, this month sees 2 well established children’s theatre festivals taking place; The SPARK Children’s Arts Festival, the largest arts festival for children in England – http://www.sparkfestival.co.uk and IMAGINATE in Scotland http://www.imaginate.org.uk which marks Tony Reekie’s last official festival as outgoing Artistic Director after 20 years of producing the celebrated Children’s Theatre Festival.
Over the next 12 months, TYA UK with our friends and colleagues at TYA Ireland, will be preparing for a new, specially curated festival, ‘On The Edge’ which will be the next ASSITEJ Artistic Gathering taking place in the city of Birmingham. In July 2016, we will create space for people to come together from across the world to see shows, to connect, to participate…. and to celebrate diversity and being part of that international community