INDRA NEWSLETTER: ISSUE 8
Dear Friends of Indra
This newsletter is written in celebration of the wonderful Congress in
Derry organised by Mary Duddy and Sinead Devine. The Congress was set
alight by the creative energy, joy and friendship of the committed young
participants who travelled from Palestine, India, South Africa, Brazil,
Greece, Cyprus and from Burnley, Bolton, Durham and Plymouth in the
UK. The event was an inspiration to us all.
Photo: Emmett McSheffrey
Emmett was the official photographer for the event and you can view a selection of his Congress images, This is Indra 2013
, on Youtube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Vn3ZSjxs1A
The photographs are accompanied by the Congress song, Happy Accidents
, written, recorded and performed in less than a week by participants, with the guidance of singer/song writer Paddy Nash.
The successful hosting of the Congress represents a huge achievement
for Mary Duddy and the members of First Act Theatre. For our last
ARROW/Indra Congress we enjoyed the backing of a University College, the
use of space and accompanying infrastructural support. Mary undertook
the task this year as an isolated practitioner running a small youth
theatre with minimal resources. It was a great idea to link the
Congress with the celebrations for the Derry City of Culture 2013 as
this enabled Mary, with the help of the irreplaceable Sinead Devine, to
engage with the City and attract support from a range of sources. So,
many thanks to UK City of Culture Company, EU Regional Development Fund
under the PEACE III Programme, Arts Council NI Lottery funding, The Anna
Lindh Foundation, Derry City Council Good Relations Project Funding,
the University of Plymouth and local businesses Quinns Garage Ardmore
and Centra, Trench Road and Mr and Mrs Grace.
Congress participants had to fund their own journeys to Derry, as there
was no central pot of money to draw on. This in itself presented huge
fund raising challenges for young people and co-ordinators and the
demand was met though a variety of local fund raising events and
activities – First Act raised the resources to sponsor one of the Indian
girls for example, and the generosity of sponsors, families and friends
made the event possible.
It is always disappointing and sad when potential participants are
unable to attend these events. For example, it was a shame that we had
no representation this year from Kosovo or Sierra Leone. It is doubly
sad when fund raising efforts have been successful and participants are
so much looking forward to the Congress as a major experience, only to
be turned down by the dead hand of bureaucracy. During the week our
hearts went out to Shweta, Preeti and Tulsi who were due to be part of
the Indian group. They had their visa requests turned down by the
British High Commission. A deeply upset Dr Urvashi Sahni, Head of the
Study Hall Schools Foundation and their teacher, explained that all the
girls had exactly the same paperwork and that she was nonplussed as to
why 2 had been approved and 3 rejected. These courageous young women
fight daily all the prejudices in the book from sexism to caste-ism and
they were heartbroken at missing out on this life transforming
opportunity. We wish them well and I hope we can keep in touch with
them and bring them to another Indra event.
What happened at the Congress?
During the week we were treated to a running series of presentations,
which represented the wide range of practice within the Indra groups.
The performances were moving, and sometimes painfully challenging, but
they were all characterised by a strong sense of hope.
From Greece we watched a powerful and disturbing film, which showed the
despair experienced by too many young people as they cope with an ugly
growth of bullying in their struggling society.
The young people from Bolton demonstrated through presentation and film
the range, depth and quality of their activities in the town; an
impressive diversity of projects and workshops generating ideas and
practice that challenge prejudice, alienation and racism.
From Cyprus we were treated to a ritualised performance, rooted in
images of mythology and classical drama that portrayed the struggles of
the past and present on the island, but which showed a strong hope for
Although the Indian group was depleted by the absence of their three
colleagues, they produced a very moving presentation using drama, dance
and film, which showed the struggles of young women to resist forced,
early marriage and to fight for their rights to education, respect and
equality. Despite the loss of three out of the five actors the
performance was a very special event. At the 2010 ARROW Congress the
Indian girls had made a presentation which told the story of their
friend Khushboo who had been forbidden to attend the Congress because
her father had insisted she discontinue her education and accept early
marriage. This year Khushboo herself was present at the Congress and Dr
Sahni showed the award winning short film in which Khushboo featured.
From Palestine we watched a strong, intense piece of theatre depicting
the harrowing experiences of young people under Occupation, the brutal
restrictions to travel in and out of their own land and the
extraordinary challenges they face in their daily lives. The play was
an adaptation of a chapter in Mourid Bargouthi’s novel, The Bridge
In Bargouthi’s words: ‘The cliché has it that bridges are symbols of
communication, connection and coexistence. This bridge is a symbol of
discrimination, distance, disunion, and the historic distinction between
the frightener and the frightened, though sometimes it is hard to be
sure who fears the other more.’ Despite the stark reality of the
situation the young people were amazing in their positive attitudes and
the hope they communicated.
Photo: Myrna Sakhleh
The group from Durham is part of the wider Jackass Youth Theatre and
they treated us to an extract from their sobering, moving yet humorous
play, Get Along,
based on the village Categorisation scheme
that was implemented by Durham County Council in the 1950s - Villages
were graded A-D; A being economically viable and therefore worthy of
support and regeneration, D being classed as a dying community after the
closures of many mines and cokeworks. These villages were left to ruin,
with councils buying up houses in streets and leaving them to decay,
destroying the village aesthetic and driving out other inhabitants.
The Burnley group entertained us with a playful, ingenious exploration
of the impact of football on the lives of young people in the town and
the array of behaviours and attitudes from passion to hooliganism that
emerge from it.
The South African group presented an informative and insightful
presentation into the diverse cultures, traditions and tensions in their
country, which is struggling to forge a new identity for itself. The
presentation provided a platform for the talents and verbal skills of
the group and identified many questions and troubling issues facing
The Plymouth group treated us to a powerful, moving and excitingly
theatrical portrayal of the confusion and anxieties faced by young
people in the UK as they struggle with the expectations and demands of
the pressure cooker of education and their search for authentic
And lastly, our very own hosts, the young people of First Act Theatre
in Derry gave us a rich, diverse presentation, part spoken, part drama
and part film which showed the very real, authentic strides that have
been made in Northern Ireland towards a more peaceful future. The
presentation was bravely honest about the underlying tensions that still
exist in the community, but was very positive about the extraordinary
achievements that have been made and the hope that is emerging after so
many years of despair. The group lifted the Congress with their
presentation and their warm, caring hosting of the entire week.
During the week the participants took part in an exciting range of art
workshops, which culminated in a joyous celebratory performance and
exhibition evening at the Millenium Centre. Mary Duddy led the team of
artists and under her leadership the drama group produced a rich and
vivid piece of theatre expressing their frustrations, feelings and
Photo: Alix Harris
Visual artist Trisha McNally worked with the participants to produce a
series of Indra nets; each participant at the Congress designed and made
their own pearl with their individual choice of imagery, decoration or
words. The whole net was quite amazing. Meanwhile, in the dance
studio, Janie Doherty of Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company skilfully
created a web of movement that allowed space for a rich and diverse
array of expression.
Singer/song writer Paddy Nash worked with the participants to devise,
write, rehearse and perform a very moving song for the Congress, Happy Accidents
, which will be wormed into our heads for a long time!
Digital photographer Emmett McSheffrey, working in meticulous detail,
took individual portraits of the participants, which were then made
available for each person to enhance through word, image or reflection.
Tom Maguire, of the University of Ulster, kindly offered us a space for
the day-long symposium, which was chaired by Tim Prentki. The day
offered an opportunity to reflect on where we are now and where we want
to go next. In the morning the delegates of young people and
co-ordinators listened to each group’s key principles and aspirations.
This was followed by input from the young people who expressed concern
about the lack of communication between events, the need to create more
linking and partnership projects in between each Congress and for
greater engagement in planning. The group from Bolton volunteered to
re-vamp the web-site and promote greater opportunities for dialogue and
The afternoon was spent discussing the practicalities of moving
forward. Proposals were made to hold the next Congress for 2015 in
Bethlehem, Palestine, followed by South Africa in 2017. These proposals
give us clearly defined fixed points around which to build a wider
programme of ongoing local, regional and collaborative projects.
The evening of cultural sharing has always been popular with
participants and we had a splendid fun evening of dance, music, song and
games. On the Thursday afternoon the participants were given a guided
tour of the City of Derry walls and visited a couple of museums, which
helped to put the week’s experience in a wider historical and cultural
In conclusion .........
A wonderful, transformative week, which will live long in the hearts
and minds of those fortunate enough to attend. A striking feature of
this Congress has been the groundswell of energy from participants and
co-ordinators, which is moving the Indra Congress into new territory.
There is much to reflect upon and debate as we move now towards the next
Congress in Bethlehem – a significant challenge of planning and
organisation in itself.
So, many thanks to Mary Duddy, Sinead Devine, First Act Theatre and the
people of Derry, for inviting us to your wonderful city for the Indra
Best wishes from us all.
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