This residential creative project was another chapter in the long standing link between Dunkirk Primary School in Nottingham and Rastaala School from Espoo, Finland. I had already been over to Finland in February, spending three fantastic days introducing drama, yoga and physical theatre to the students coming over for the Lockerbrook Camp.
The camp took place at the end of March in Lockerbrook Farm in Derbyshire, a wild, rugged and dramatic landscape. My imagination was inspired the moment I stepped out of the bus and saw the breathtaking skyline of hills and woodland. I must admit I did have a 'Wuthering Heights' moment at that point!! The weather here was changeable and unpredictable. During a long walk we took on the second day we experienced wind, snow, hail, sunshine and rain! This legendary walk is now known as the '14 miles and 4 seasons walk' !! Being outdoors and moving through this landscape tested us all, resilience, determination and stamina was needed. And it was an unforgettable experience for the Finnish staff and students who do not experience such rugged and hilly landscape back home. It was also a new experience for many of the Nottingham students, many of whom have not ventured out of their urban and inner city environments. 'I can't believe that somewhere like this exists so close to Nottingham!' was just one of the comments made by the young people. Walking across the hills, feeling the harsh wind and rain on your face was truly an 'awe and wonder' experience for them and an experience that they, and I, won't forget....
Being outdoors was just one aspect of the residential. Mornings were spent inside the lovely studio space at Lockerbrook, waking up the mind and body with yoga and then working in collaboration to create a theatre piece that was filmed by Maria Stefoni, a film student from Derby University. The piece was inspired by the story "The Music of the Maple" by Tahmina Anam from the book "Why Willows Weep" (published by The Woodland Trust).
This powerful tale looks at the themes of power, greed, boundaries, barriers, segregation and peace-making through creativity, looking at how a fictional community that is separated by a wall overcomes conflict and fear to find peace again. It was a rich starting point from which to develop a creative process involving drama, visual arts and outdoor work. With the support of other staff, I facilitated the drama devising process using a range of very physical drama techniques, ensemble work and yoga. The talented Finnish teachers also brought music and singing into the devising process, including the making of a very beautiful peace song using the words of Ghandhi. Claire Simpson, visual artist and photographer, faciliated book making and creating clay sculptures amongst the trees, further enriching our explorations of the story.
Even now, 4 months later, I can't help but smile and feel energised when I recall a 'Lockerbrook moment'! And the young people are the same too...they remember the experience with pride, awe, laughter and joy. We look forward to building on this work next year when we will be running another residential camp...but this time we are venturing out to Finland!!!
For me it has also sewn the seeds of what is developing into the Be The Change Theatre project, keep an eye on the website and my blog to hear more as my plans develop!
The film which captures our explorations of the story is called 'Beyond the Wall' and is available to view in the 'Small Action, Big Change' website (Lockerbrook Camp 2015) as well Dunkirk Primary's website (on the global links page). Thanks to Maria Stefoni, film student from Derby University, for capturing this.
(photo credits to Claire Simpson, www,storiesunderstones.weebly.com)