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Solidarity Is Our Weapon – RtR Newsletter August

Solidarity Is Our Weapon – RtR Newsletter August

Dear friends, allies and accomplices,

Hello to you all! Welcome to our irregular Reboot The Roots newsletter …

In these times of Brexit and growing hostility to persons from other places, RTR proudly stands for solidarity with all oppressed peoples, and continues to champion the use of creative arts practices to promote multicultural harmony. We believe in direct action and unremitting creative resistance to all forms of domineering behaviour.

As long as there is an oppressed, we are on their side.

It has been one of our busiest years yet, with over a dozen new associate artists and facilitators sponsored by RtR to do what they do best – create and facilitate social and personal transformation through the arts! However, a key feature of that work this year has been to do with self-care, burnout, and creating resilience.

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Highlights include:

-workshops for 60+ people at the COP21 protests in Paris in December, taking a de-escalation bloc (BEEVA BLOC!) to the streets in clown-army fashion to keep the cops on their best behaviour whilst supporting the family friendly and accessible atmosphere.

– a dozen change-agents from across Europe trained in theatre of the oppressed at Ecodharmain October, exploring how we can use Rainbow of Desire and forum theatre to promote unity and liberation.

– we visited Budapest twice to deliver a two-week theatre project around the theme of response to the refugee crisis, returning again to explore therapeutic theatre for healing in February.

– we funded artists to attend festivals in Switzerland and Greece to exhibit their artworks and perform in autonomous spaces, in support of anti-elitism and prisoner solidarity.

– we supported facilitators to return to Cluj in Romania to deliver workshops on the feedback method, feminist history and theatre for social change.

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But we’re not through yet!– in August, RtR is partnering with the Eroles Project to facilitate two weeks of arts-activism on the theme of borders and creating resilience in these troubled times, providing funding and training for a team of facilitators to work with a team members to explore how to keep on keeping on in the face of burn-out and sometimes overwhelming resistance.

– still upcoming this year, we will rejoin Focus Atelier for the inaugural platform event in Chiesenau, in the Republic of Moldava. This will be the first time RtR and Associatia Reciproca are holding this event in one of the poorest countries in Europe.

– we hope to attend the Berlin Tattoo Circus in September with associate artist Sierra Weppla and Creative Director George Wielgus to support prisoners and generate dialogue around the injustice system through Theatre of the Oppressed.

– for this year’s Theatre of the Oppressed Training Week in Ecodharma, Cataluyna, we want to sponsor two emerging facilitators to attend to expand our network and support their development as trainers and artists.

– in 2017, we will launch the Ouroboros Exhibition in London – our first major UK Project – featuring a range of multidisciplinary artists with experience of social exclusion. The theme is around creative responses to the destructive nature of crisis. Watch this space for the upcoming indiegogo campaign and future updates.

 

 

How You CaTeatru-Forum-si-Teatru-Invizibil-Focus-Atelier-44n Help

– join us! On September 4th we are having our annual general meeting for all our members and supporters. More details to follow but feel free to write to us to express an interest.

Solidarity is our weapon. Come vote on our decisions, stand to be a trustee, pitch us an idea, get involved, you are most welcome, the house is yours!

– share our website & social media to promote our work

– write something for our blog on your experience. Did you attend a workshop or performance? Has RtR helped you? We would love to hear about it …

sign up as a regular donor … as little as £2 a week will help us to continue to support the development of artists with experience of social cohesion, assisting them to gain access to new audiences and achieve our vision of a united, multicultural society.

bung us some cash … one-off donations make up nearly 50% of our funding each year. Maybe you participated in one of our free workshops and enjoyed it, maybe you were funded yourself to attend something, now we need your contributions to make these amazing events keep happening!

– watch out for our upcoming indiegogo campaign to raise £3500 to host a multidisciplinary arts exhibition in Tower Bridge in 2017, featuring a range of artists from socially excluded backgrounds.

We couldn’t do this without each other,

Love and solidarity, and many thanks to all the people who have touched our lives,

The RtR Bloc

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Thessaloniki Tattoo Circus – from Sierra

Thessaloniki Tattoo Circus – from Sierra

 

I am a really hardworking full time artist who invests 5-7days a week working on many different projects. I have been invited during my visit to Zurich (which was sponsored by RtR) to participate in this year’s Tattoo Circus in Thessaloniki. The organizers had offered to pay a part for flights and travel expenses, as well as to provide space and all needed materials, which in the tattoo world means a lot – you save a lot of money. I am trying to build my social platform around Europe. Knowing that nowadays most tattoo artists are usually not just tattoo artists – often they are specializing in many other fields like I do, I asked RtR to support my trip to Greece, as it would hopefully benefit my future projects, expanding my contacts and hopefully ccreating new events in the future. Thessaloniki Tattoo Circus (TTC) was promoting a strong collective of artists who specialize in many different fields – from sculpture, to digital art, painting, and obviously tattoos. It was very important for me to take part as a tattoo artist – where I can learn and make contacts with other tattooists – as well as an artist – and also allowing me to see other’s peoples work and hopefully create opportunities to collaborate in the future.

One of the designs I made in preparation of the circus …

As a self- taught tattooist I was wondering if my skills would match with all those professionals working for many years in studios. I was hoping to get contacts and to open gates for guest spots in different studios around Europe.

The Tattoo Circus itself is non-profit event that supports prisoners’ and ex-prisoners’ re-integration into society. The Tattoo Circus as well organizes workshops like letter-writing to prisoners, sending books/magazines and supporting charities that help to integrate those that come out and have to ‘restart’ their lives. TC promotes social change – where the ones behind bars should not be forgotten and left alone, as well as when they come out from prisons they shouldn’t be socially excluded, rejected and incapable of starting to follow their dreams in the same way all of us try to do. I found it a morally valuable subject to support, especially in a world where, for example, while the United States represents about 4.4 percent of the world’s population, it houses around 22 percent of the world’s prisoners.

The door at Terra Incognita, where the event took place …

I had a great time at the Terra Incognito social centre in Thessaloniki. A great time in terms of working hard, up to 12 hours a day, and in terms of communicating with other participants and festival visitors. It was just stunning to see how people managed to organize such a big event completely DIY, as well as provide all the materials, space and furniture necessary for 25 artists over 3 days. It has really left a big impact on me – why couldn’t I start organizing events myself again? It led me to start putting up a concept and discussing with other artists, and here we are, slowly moving towards next step – a huge art project right here in London.

I most definitely succeeded in the fields that were important for me: I have made new conctacts in Berlin, Prague and Lausanne, where I was invited to come to tattoo and exhibit. As well, I expanded my contacts throughout other European countries. Most importantly – it lifted up my self esteem, as I realised I am not worse at tattoos than others – just different. (: As I wrote in my proposal letter- my theory about other tattoo artists specializing not just in tattoo – confirmed itself and I met alot of creative people with whom we will cooperate in the future. Besides that, my success as a tattooist in the festival was satisfactory – I received quite a lot of attention, created new works, updated my portfolio, plus raised some funds for the prisoner support groups.

One of my designs at the Circus, requested to look like one of my paintings …

I found it quite difficult to operate inbetween another 25 artists. I learned about interpretations of my technique and style – lots of people like it, but it’s ‘too dark’ to have it. Pretty much the same as with my paintings and everything else I do. When there are so many tattooists in one location there is always a lot of competition. I am happy I did some of my designs (which was rare at this event– usually people were bringing their own ideas), meanwhile, there were few tattooists who didn’t do a single piece. I believe they were anticipating a bigger crowd this year.

I am grately thankful to RtR for supporting my way to the event, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to attend. Because of the funding I received I was able to book my flights and survive throughout the week in the city.

Where I’m going next?

Where to start? The next project is a big collective exhibition in London – inspired by what I saw in Thessaloniki. Perhaps it is a semi-autonomous space, or hopefully in more established gallery. Meanwhile, I will be guestspotting as a tattoo artist around Europe, and in September attending the Tattoo Circus in Berlin –the second capital of Art in Europe. There is a possibility to exhibit there too, and I will be working really hard to make all these projects to happen.

Thanks again for the ongoing support … be sure to check out my new website at www.oneslutriot.com!

 

A Threshold Moment – from Ruth in Budapest

A Threshold Moment – from Ruth in Budapest

A threshold moment.

After a feisty 2 weeks in Budapest last November Reboot the Roots were invited back to explore Augusto Boal’s transformative techniques with The Alternative Workshop Series Budapest. Last week, late February 2016, George Wielgus and myself facilitated the group for 3 days focusing on Rainbow of Desire.

This was the first time I had co-facilitated with Reboot the Roots and even though George and I had had detailed conversations about the form and content, I arrived on the first day nervous and expectant. What I found was a keen, smiling, (and late) group of social workers, teachers, people working with refugees, in human rights NGOs and drama students.

My role was to facilitate the mornings, preparing the group physically, emotionally and mentally for the afternoons and cultivating a culture of care within the space. Not everyone knew each other or the techniques, and I had concerns that newcomers might be overwhelmed. However the group bonded with ease and we reached a better-than-planned threshold moment by day three.

In the mornings we played trust games in pairs and in groups. We tried out how it feels to make physical connections, to touch and be touched, lift and be lifted. We played many power games some I’d devised to work alongside Rainbow of Desire, so I’m looking forward to trying them again when I facilitate with George in May.

In the afternoons George lead us through Rainbow of Desire including Analytical Mirror and Cop in the Head, all forms of Theatre of the Oppressed that focus on oppressions we experience from within. Augusto Boal, developed these technique in response to his time in Europe when he found the oppressions many people faced were internal more than external (different, he writes, to in the South American cultures with which he originally designed Forum Theatre.)

To give a surface overview George would ask a protagonist to perform an unfulfilled desire in front of the group. Then following a specific structure and involving other participants, the situation was explored from many angles. By the end the whole group is acting / (spect)acting resulting often in the protagonist reimagining their situation.

George is great at holding everyone’s attention, keeping sight of the structure while allowing spontaneity space to play. This for me was where the magic began. When the protagonists, antagonists and spectactors were moved to get involved, when without instruction people intuitively knew what to do, how they wanted to move, speak and relate to others in the space. In these moments there was a tangible sense of flow.

Sometimes however I felt the lines were not so clear. For example deciding when to step in and when to step out of commanding the space, balancing the linear versus nonlinear aspect of the technique, knowing where duty of care ends and self responsibility begins, and when the structure of the technique can be adapted and when its order needs to be kept… All this perhaps comes down to being present listening and intuitive. I’ve become interested in tracking what shifts the energy or mood. Noticing what actions and comments instigate change or reveal another layer of understanding and learning how we can use this to change the dynamics of a situation.
The threshold moment came on Sunday as a result of some well structured pedagogy and a fantastically open group. In the morning we went quite deep into personal boundaries by practicing saying no / stop to physical touch before it became too much. In the feedback people expressed appreciation for the clarity this gave them in how they asserted their boundaries in real life settings. People reflected on how hard it was to say stop because they didn’t want to be seen as weak, others were surprised by how much weight and pressure their partner enjoyed. There was a conversation about how the memory of this simple exercise would be helpful in real life in moments of physical, mental or emotional abuse of power. This series of exercises can be very triggering so it was beautiful to see a sense of respect and quiet collective appreciation. This vulnerable and honest state made the perfect foundation for an afternoon of the intense but palpably transformative Cop in the Head technique. What a workshop!!!!

And so to the future… After telling participants about my work with Eroles Project a learning centre in Spain, which this year explores the theme of Borders, many are keen on participating in the programme. What’s more two of the participants happened to work with Utilapu a Hungarian organisation working with refugees and migrants in Budapest and we are now in conversations about forming a partnership.

As I travel back to Madrid exhausted and enlivened, I am in the midst of designing a training using techniques from Theatre of the Oppressed. I’d like to zoom into boundaries and personal experiences of power to explore the universal imbalance of power. I am hoping to offer this to women’s groups and organisations in Madrid working with refugees. My experience in Budapest with Reboot the Roots has given me the confidence to focus on what I can do, not what I can’t. There is no reason for my life to be controlled by the Cops in my Head.

Over The Rainbow

Over The Rainbow

George, the Creative Director of RtR, was in Budapest for three days delivering an intensive course about Rainbow of Desire …

The Budapest crew!

Expect to cry. I now understand the emotional release of tears during a workshop is a sign that things are going well. It sounds bizarre, borderline perverse, but I now suspect if I ran a course in Rainbow and someone didn’t cry, I must be doing something wrong.

From Friday we used the Analytical Mirror to explore moments of indecision (which job to take, whether to move to another country with a partner), to Saturday when we applied the Rainbow itself to discussing a moment of rejection by a former lover, to Sunday’s exploration of ending a relationship that has become addictive, but toxic, through the Cop In The Head. Each time, despite moments of levity and joy, a palpable atmosphere descended upon the group, one of intense listening and focus as the protagonist battled with concrete versions of their doubts, fears, desires, talking them around into transformation.

My heart was in my throat throughout each presentation, as the responsibility of bringing people into some highly emotive states rested squarely on my shoulders, but I am relieved and joyful to report that, as ever, people emerged from the experience reporting release and relief, and often, a little better understanding of themselves.

Collaborating with Ruth Cross also provided a great foundation to the emotional work involved in the afternoons. Ruth facilitated some incredible sessions involving massage and power, and I look forward to working with her again in Ecodharma in May.

Equally, organiser Andras was amazing, managing with the help of his team to clean out and prepare a semi-derelict cafe space for us to use the basement of- replete with carpet tiles, heaters and lights!

I was thrilled to see so many of the people we worked with in November return, and hope to see them all again very soon to continue our journey. There are plans for subseqent workshops in Budapest, plus I have invited them all to join me in Cluj next month for a week of forum theatre training, and aswell there is Tu Fuokan festival coming up in June. It’s shaping up to be quite a year!

 

“True power lies within finding compassion … “

“True power lies within finding compassion”

Ruth Cross of Cross Collaborations and the Eroles Project joins us in our return to Budapest to deliver a course in Rainbow of Desire.

 

It’s 10pm on Wednesday night and I’m in the basement of an old club in the heart of Budapest. It’s covered in a thick layer of dust & colourful graffiti and now used for underground parties and workshops. Thanks to the connections of Andras the workshop coordinator here in Hungary, we’ll be using this space for the Theatre of the Oppressed workshop on Friday, Saturday & Sunday. We’ are moving piles of wood and strange 80’s club furniture, finding lighting, sweeping, mopping… Andras finds some speakers and Ludovico Einaudi‘s soaring melodies giving our mopping a performative rhythm.

I arrived in Budapest yesterday morning, it’s my first time here, and my first time facilitating with Reboot the Roots. Walking round the city at dusk the streets are calm and empty in a way particular to February’s, even in capital cities. The people I’ve met are friendly, couples holding hands and laughing, groups of tourists taking photos of each other in the rain, market stalls vibrant. The architecture is strong, and much more beautiful than I had imagined, the bridges over the river light up the night and give a magical feeling to the divide between Buda and Pest – the two towns that once upon a time joined to make Budapest.

As we work I think of the conversations we’ve been having today about the migrant crisis, oppression, xenophobia, sexual abuse, some of the improvisation themes that I’m told have surfaced in workshops with this group before. I think of the research I have been doing about the lives of women and children refugees as they try to cross borders. I think about the fact that these thing are happening now. I feel the uncomfortableness that thinking about these oppressor/oppressed situations is creating in my body.

I wonder what we will share together in this space during the workshop. What topics will surface as we dive into Boal’s techniques of ‘Rainbow of Desire’, ‘Analytical Mirror’ & ‘Cop in the Head’. I’m aware of the power and depth that these processes hold. I meet an edge within myself of not wanting to experience the pain of other people’s suffering. I breathe and try to stay open to the sensation, not turn away or become numb. This practice of mindfulness sustains my engagement through my waves of nervousness, self doubt, rage.

I reflect that for me true power lies within finding compassion. Feeling the suffering of another (whether the oppressed or oppressor), whilst staying centred, present and grounded in myself. Not reaching in to catch nor running away.

This weekend I hope that we will touch on some real topics of concern for people in the group, and that the techniques we use in the afternoons not only help to reimagine their own situation, but to give people the confidence to take this methodology into the social work they do in Budapest. I hope that trainings like this help changemakers, theatre makers, activists better understand the complexity through which social transformation happens, arming ourselves with the tools and compassion that can forge the radical changes we see are needed in the world. I have come back to working with theatre after many years because I have experienced the potential of methods like Boal’s in creating the right conditions for the dance to begin between transforming oneself and the transformation of society.

Four hours and a considerable amount of dust later, the space is transformed. Still needing a second mop, but pretty much ready for the workshop. As am I.

Rainbow of Desire in Budapest – from George

Rainbow of Desire in Budapest – from George

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So it’s another 6 hours until I take my bus from Liverpool Street to Stansted. Have double-checked my passport and ticket and now just looking over the details on what’s planned for this weekend. This is the first time I’ve run a 3-day Rainbow of Desire course, though I’ve done the individual exercises innumerable times in different forms. I’m very excited to see how it feels to dedicate a whole weekend to this technique. We are planning to look at Cop-In-The-Head, the Multiple Mirror and of course, the Rainbow of Desire itself, but I’d also like to try out such techniques as the Multiple Images of Happiness (what joy) and some others. But time is always so short! Am really glad that Ruth Cross from the Ecodharma/Eroles project/COP21/Beeva change crew is along to co-facilitate. Will let you all know how it goes!

For any of you not so familiar with RoD, you can read more here. It’s a good resource with some nice break-downs of the techniques. I’ll also be sure to post my own notes and responses to what happens on the RtR resources page afterwards. It’s essentially a theatrical technique for examining internalised oppressions – what happens when the cop leaves the ideological barracks and moves directly into our heads. You can read about some of the previous experiences we had with this technique in Ecodharma in our report here and also in Cluj last year, but I’ve included an extract below …

The RoD Technique – a woman has dinner with a man, they are both happy to be reunited after so long. The man invites the woman to sit on his knee, which she does, and then he reveals a ring and proposes to her.

The participant was invited to make images of the emotions she felt at this time: Excited, Shock, Nervousness. The audience suggested two more – Suspicion and Contentment – which the participant accepted. The scene was then replayed with each of these images in the protagonists place. The participant then arranged them into an image, then an ideal image, then dialogued with each of them trying to convince them to become ideal. The images then battled each other.

Participant reported the experience ‘fascinating’ and ‘powerful’, and that it allowed her to reflect on how she was then, compared to how she is now, and what areas of her life she still needs to work on.

The Analytical Image – a mother and child ride home in a car from visiting a friend who hosts many children. A conversation ensues whereby we learn that there is domestic violence between the absent parent and the child, and that the mother does not wish to discuss it. The mother suggests that the only solution is to call social services, who will take the child away and not punish the abusive parent.

The audience made images of the protagonist and the antagonist, which were then pairred off together and the scene replayed. The participant whose scene is was also played the part of the mother, and reported that it helped her understand a good deal more about the dilemma of her mother. She also reported that it was encouraging for her to be able to analyse the images rationally without succombing to emotion.

 

Let’s see what happens in Budapest …

Totally Worth It – from Sierra Weppla

Totally Worth It – from Sierra Weppla

Sierra Weppla was sponsored by RtR to attend the Downstate Festival in Zurich to present her work … here’s a little note we received back …

“Festival went, I would say, incredibly well. I came back with empty bag. All the prints, stickers and copies went. Besides that, I met incredible artists and performers from across the Europe. It came out to be super international – people came from Greece, Germany, Netherlands and all around. A fellow tattoo artist who I met in the fest invited me to come to Tattoo Circus – a benefit for prisoners in Thessaloniki. Flights paid – accommodation sorted. Alongside exhibiting and selling, I made around 10 tattoos in the wagon which Festival organiser prepared for me. This will allow me to pay for my studio and start to work on new series of paintings. Thanks RtR!”

A Wild Weekend In Zurich – from George F

A Wild Weekend In Zurich – from George F

 

“The four books I brought I sold or swapped with other artists for their work, the 20 zines reduced to 3, and a pot full of donations and contacts from across Europe … In addition, we saw some amazing performers, and confused a room full of people with my own particular brand of rapid-fire poetry. Apparently, spoken word is not so big in Switzerland. 🙂 Highlights included seeing an old friend from squatting in a furniture store five years ago, meeting a member of the Mutoid Waste Company, and seeing a pair perform a song about orgasms whilst dressed as a penis and a vagina. We also made contacts with artists from Marseille, Lausanne and Berlin and discussed the possibility of future collaborations in those locations and in London, aswell as the potential to travel to Canada to work with indigenous communities as a solidarity project.

Thanks to everyone at Downstate Festival, and to RtR for all the support.”

Check out some photos here.

Escape From London – from Sierra Weppla

Escape From London – from Sierra Weppla

George F and Sierra Weppla were sponsored by RtR to attend the Downstate Festival at KochAreal in Zurich – one of the largest autonomous spaces in Europe …

 

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“I have been working every single day for a couple of weeks until late night in order to bring enough art pieces, zines, posters and other diy stuff to the festival. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, nor how will things go as it was organised for the first time. In my opinion it could have been a total fiasco or a super nice festival. But was worth it to risk.

RtR funding helped me to prepare for the fest – I had enough money to buy paper, printer toners and not to worry about not having enough copies for sale/swaps, in case the festival was going to go very well. In the end, because of the funding I was able to carry about 80 A3 posters, 10 A1 posters, about 50 copies of self-published zine, and help to print out about 30copies of George’s zines.”

 

Check out some photos here.

Heading To Downstate – from George F.

Heading To Downstate – from George F.

George F and Sierra Weppla were sponsored to attend the Downstate Festival in Zurich by RtR to present their works …

 

From George F.

 

“We lost in court the week before, and had spent a week running around trying to find a new place to live, with no success. Exhausted but determined, we spent the last day traipsing across London – attending an eviction resistance in the morning which drove the bailiffs off, before returning to Borough to collect our belongings, then delivering them to East Ham by bike to a safe storage space, before rushing back to collect the dog and take it to our friends’ place in Bow. In East Ham, the laptop we were going to use to print our flight tickets exploded, reducing us to panicky, stressed tears as we tried to find a 24-hour print shop. After delivering the dog, we marched to Liverpool Street, arriving just on time at 3am. There were two buses, and people in two-different coloured hi-viz vests were chatting in a relaxed fashion outside one, so I assumed this was for both coach companies. They made a joke about the cheaper one being crap, and as we scanned through our phone for the pdf of the ticket, our bus pulled away … Refusing to be cowed, we spent another £8 on tickets and made it to the airport … Without the extra funding from RtR we would never have been able to make it!”