GATHERING STORIES FOR CHANGE IN PALESTINE
Somerset Storyfest will be leading a ‘Stories For Change’ Project in Palestine from April 12-22, offering a workshop space for adults to tell and develop their stories through drama and music, which will inspire a new show that SSF will tour in the UK.
Stories For Change follows on from SSF’s collaboration with Chai For All and their British Council funded trip in April 2018 that told the story of the Balfour Declaration.
"Our European brothers and sisters [Chai For All] are our advocates. What you have done is amazing" Saed J. Abu-Hijleh poet radio host and lecturer Al Najah National University Nablus Palestine April 2018
“I am glad to hear that you are coming back to do all this amazing work and yes you are the best Messenger” Hassan Muamer UNESCO World Heritage Site Battir 2018
"We need to hear their voices" David Hare author Bristol Palestine Film Festival 2018
Vivid flesh and blood Palestinians are not seen or heard much in the UK. Whether stereotyped as victims, heroic freedom fighters, or lost in the shadows of the highly politicised anti-Israeli government = anti-Zionism = anti-Semitism storm, they are too often two-dimensional.
This project seeks to enrich our understanding of ordinary Palestinians through the most powerful cultural medium we know: the telling of stories.
We want to give a space for the ‘small voices’ to be heard that lie between the extremes.
Three professional musicians, Katie Stevens (clarinet voice flute), Pete Churchill (accordion bass) and David Mowat (trumpet) and Michael Loader (storyteller facilitator actor) will be offering five adult and two children’s groups workshops and performances over eleven days. We will collaborate with local musicians Zaid Hilal and Shafeeq Alsadi whilst employing Zaid and translator Jehan Rizquallah.
We are giving our time for free. Your sponsorship will help pay our expenses.
GATHERING STORIES, SOWING SEEDS…
On our return Somerset Storyfest will tour the UK with a new show telling these stories, contributing to a more full-bodied understanding of Palestine and Palestinians, and in so doing giving hope to and offering solidarity with people living under Occupation.
This April we will be listening and collecting personal stories from workshop participants, market stall holders, actors, shop owners, musicians, theatre directors, museum curators, artists, authors, ecologists, teachers, art gallery owners, land surveyors, gardeners and farmers.
We will be working with Al-Harah theatre Beit Jalla, Alrowwad Cultural & Arts Society Bethlehem, the Palestinian National Theatre Jerusalem, students from Birzeit University Ramallah, Bethlehem Bible College, Sounds of Palestine Bethlehem, Musicians Without Borders Netherlands and Tamer Institute Ramallah.
We will be collaborating with Palestinian actors, storytellers, musicians and organisations exchanging practice, ideas and creativity, including the facilitation of a number of creative play workshops for children and families in community venues and a ‘remote village’ near Bethlehem.
The main focus of the project is to run three ‘Stories For Change’ adult workshops with Al-Harah theatre and Alrowwad Cultural & Arts Society in Bethlehem, the Palestinian National Theatre in Jerusalem and students from Birzeit University in Ramallah.
The participants of the SFC workshops will be invited… “To tell their stories they wish the ears of the UK to hear”. These stories will then form the basis of a new show to tour the UK.
Stories For Change workshops aim to…
-Share and develop stories through the expression of drama and music within a supportive atmosphere
-Encourage self-awareness, collaboration, emotional expression and spontaneity
-Teach and practise drama and music skills that offer opportunities for potential 'change' to be explored and discovered within the stories
-Share drama skills and music techniques, from the UK group whilst ‘playing back’ the stories, for participants to apply during the workshop and in future practice
-Offer this space for performers and non-performers
We will be offering a public show and open workshop with children (5-10 years) with the Tamer Institute, an educational organisation based in Ramallah. We will also be running two workshops exploring expression through drama and music with school children (6-12 years) in a ‘remote village’ near Bethlehem, with the organisations Musicians Without Borders and Sounds of Palestine who are experts in this field.
These free sessions of drama and music will offer children a safe, encouraging and positive space for them to express their feelings with freedom, be imaginative through creative exploration and play, be heard and witnessed by adults to explore another side of life away from the everyday repression of the political situation.
The total project cost is £3550, we have raised £2200, therefore our target is £1350
Flights and travel insurance for four people £1830
Internal travel on public buses and/ or private car hire as Palestinian transport can be prone to hold ups, road closures and lengthly border checks £200
Accommodation ten nights @ £12 pp per night £480
Food eleven days @ £10 pp per day £440
Employment of Palestinian singer and translator £220
UK costs rehearsal/ airport travel expenses, phone, admin management costs £200
Total £3550 minus £2200 raised
Crowdfunding sought £1350
Any surplus funds that are raised will go towards the organization and running of the new show in the UK, eg travel expenses, rehearsal room hire, publicity flyers/ posters, phone calls, artist fees etc
Our conclusion from the April 2018 trip was that Palestinians wanted us, as 'outsiders' from Europe, to hear their stories firsthand without interference or bias, and this became the focus of a new show in summer 2018 and the inspiration for us to return this spring.
We see April 2019 as a way to hear and gather new and untold stories from Palestinians, that offer alternative views on 'how we see things' due to the narrow news feed we are given by sharing them in the UK on our return. In this way we are acting as messengers of these stories, amplifying their content and creating a new platform for them to be heard.
The project’s aim is to find, explore and share stories that paint a fuller and more rounded picture of who ‘the Palestinian’ really is, from what they choose to tell us, rather than the simplistic 2D viewpoint that we are offered by mainstream media. For example Hassan Muamer of Battir in 2018 told us the story of how a Land Survey in his village resulted in a World Heritage Site UNESCO Award and actually stopped the extension of the Wall.
In Bristol’s 2018 Palestine Film Festival, the writer David Hare was commenting on the political and humanitarian situation and said “We need to hear their voices”… and to see a clearer picture and understand more about a people and a place we need to give time and space to listen, ask and respond to questions, share feelings, reflect and find new spaces to pass these words on towards a deeper understanding and possible action.
Here is a short film of the Longing Belonging and Palestine show, Chai For All toured in the UK with invited Palestinian musician Zaid Hilal, https://www.facebook.com/ZaidHilalOfficial/, who we will be working with again this April in Bethlehem and Ramallah.
Film link… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSNHWLGNavo&t=47s
WHO ARE WE…?
Stories For Change is led by storyteller, actor, teacher and director of Somerset Storyfest Michael Loader, who has been involved professionally in education and the arts since 1987, creating, collaborating and touring with workshops and performances for all ages at home and abroad. His creative work has encompassed charity work in Romanian orphanages, elders with dementia in residential homes, storytelling in children’s hospitals, themed intergenerational projects, story gathering in Transylvania, facilitation in the corporate world, programming local community arts to performance at arts festivals and storytelling residencies.
Somerset Storyfest has run over 80 events including performances, workshops and community projects to over 6,000 people since its founding in 2012, whilst reaching 63,000 visits to its website. Recent community project themes have included WWII, Refugees and Anti-Bullying.