Day three of my time in Leon, Nicaragua

26 Feb

It has been a very eventful three days, visiting projects supported by the Oxford Leon Association in this University town of Nicaragua. Here is a summary of what I have seen:

Medical Post

I have visited a run-down medical post in La Sabre, in need of running water to improve its cleanliness. (It was very dirty, with medical waste incinerated in open air at the rear of the property.) Oxford may be able to help fund a water pipe to supply water across the community.

Mini Biblioteca

In the afternoon I saw a Mini-library funded to help children´s literacy and enjoyment of books. Also, a performance by children including a “Hegontona” (a traditional puppet of a giant woman) was given.

Women´s Rights

Nicaragua is a machismo country; it places value on macho attitudes and behaviors which I´m told is common in Latin-America. We visited a feminist group, who are researching peoples´ attitude to sexual harassment towards women. We heard of a controversial case of a University lecturer being let off of a rape allegation despite strong supporting evidence.

Schools, nurseries, educational projects

We helped to serve at a breakfast/lunch club run by Mums´ at a local school, played with children at a nursery and saw the Mini-biblioteca deliver an educational volcano firework display to another school.

Theatre performance 

As you may know this is the area of my interest! I was able to see a Taiwanese production of music, dance and knife-play. Women were figures of grace and beauty and the men as roosters. Once these strong gender types were established they gave way to dances depicting “guy gets girl.” The performance standard was fantastic.


The Oxford-Leon Delegation, to Nicaragua

24 Feb

I´m currently in a hotel in Managua, Nicaragua central America. Myself and Cllr. Mike Rowley have gotten to stay a night here (before moving on to Leon) due to the rest of the team being delayed!

Our journey is to visit Oxford´s twin town of Leon. Town twinning is a common phenomena existing all over the world, and is simply a relationship of friendship and support established between two towns. (Further info on twin town scheme found here). I have come with the Oxford Leon Association, who are an active fundraising group for sustainable development/social projects in Leon. The purpose of the trip is to visit our friends in Leon, re-establishing those partnerships and building new ones. It´s going to be an exciting time, visiting projects from Nuevas Esperanzas and other NGOs and seeing the difference that Oxford´s fundraising has made on this developing nation.

I shall keep you posted on my experiences. Also with me on the delegation are Jan Marshall, Cllr. Mike Rowley, Cllr John Tanner and Pete Fryer from Unison.

Oxage returns!

21 Sep

One year ago, to this month we first performed the epic of Oxage on the streets of Oxford.

Oxage is a walking tour, guiding participants around Oxford’s best landmarks whilst foretelling the tale of a parallel world (Oxage), a utopia corrupted, a queen under siege, a run-away princess, and a rebellion gang fighting for justice. The audience follow their mysterious guide through the porthole, into this world finding clues that will lead them to the missing Princess.

Oxage has been dormant for a year now, giving local writers the chance to hone the script; deepening the details and experience of this parallel Kingdom. We actors (see above, left) are beginning to twitch with anticipation as things begin to fall into place for the Oxage revival!

One thing stands in our way, it’s the same old story of funding. Untill we raise the funds Oxage will stay in her sleepy box. We have a dream of taking her up to Edinburgh, and are applying for funding for this. This was the cause of the BBQ fundraiser that you saw earlier in my blog, but this event sadly hasn’t really touched the sides! We will keep trying, and applying. If you have any fundraising ideas or can help at all, please do comment on this post. 🙂

Photos by Vincent Grieve


Fairy Dust Arts BBQ Fundraiser

21 Sep

Fairy Dust Arts BBQ Fundraiser

My time with the Youth Development Team for World Horizons

21 Sep

There I was again, I took another risky decision. I left my stable job, supporting children at a school, for the more challenging, more freedom, more SCOPE role of community support worker for Spurgeons. It was the same Kids that I knew from the school, just outside of the school gate I knew I would be able to use my creativity and interests more to help them! Maybe I would set up another Drama group, a community play, experiment with Drama therapy at last? The possibilities were exciting to me! But the waiting…had I of Known! I went through months of reference checks…. then my manager went on leave and I had to wait for him. The good thing about waiting is that it tests your desires and how much you want a thing.

It was during this time that I came across the Youth Development Team for World Horizons. Quite plainly, however mad it might sound, I love them.I love what they are doing. Their team is FANTASTIC!

I was with them one week, and I felt so welcome, engaged and part of their cause. I was captivated by the unity, and importance of the task. The YDT use outdoor activities to inspire young people, with a focus of those not in education. We worked with young people to do problem solving exercises, with a view to get them switched on about something. At the end of the day we discussed any emotions they had felt over the day, ask what had engaged them, and looked at setting targets for things they would like to do in the future.

It was a week of firsts for me! The first time I wore a wet suit, sailed a two-man boat, coasteered. I was challenged and happy about it, I love to be challenged! It has encouraged me to set new fitness goals for myself regarding my arm strength. I just hope that if it can inspire me to have goals, it will begin move the young people I met too. I am confident that over time, the difference will be made.

My most recent event with Fairy Dust Arts

9 May


And here it is… Merry Christmas! What have I been up to these 3 last months?

24 Dec

Christmas has sneaked up on me again like a theif in the night, I’m still in preparation mainly due to being knocked out by flu for much of last week! I cannot believe I had the flu (I never get ill). I can only conclude it is my long working hours that have finally caught up with me, resulting in what I needed to do: absolutly nothing! The last week has been a reluctant sort-of surrender into the bliss of not meeting the expectations of friends and family to just, well,  be there. I’ve been in my bed!

I have not blogged in a while here is what I have been up to Creativly:

  • I’m been exploring improvisational drama, mime and physical theatre as part of a Drama training course I am doing.
  • Appeared in my First Physcial Theatre genre performance. -“If You Look Away From Me…” at the Old Fire Station in Oxford.
  • Delivered my First ever exclusive to Jazz singing set for a Fairy Dust Arts Caberet.
  • At the School where I work I have delivered song-writting workshops, dance and drama workshops with other LSA’s. (I work at a fantastic School.)
  • Painted some teapots as a Christmas Present!

Wow, two firsts three months! Hooray!

I’m quite happy with how things are going, apart from my long hours which do take their toll. The long hours are to suppliment the payment for the Drama course, but the Drama course is a time demand too, thus the both together is tiring! This is needed for now though, I shall push through gaining those skills untill next year when I can tie up lose ends, and complete my Arts Award at last!

Right now, however, it is Christmas! Meaning the three R’s rest, respite and reindeer 😉

I love Christmas; wishing you a Merry one!!

How will the closing down of Youth Centres effect the next generations’ creativity?

21 Sep

Due to the government spending cuts Youth Centres have been closing across the country. This is because local councils are no longer getting the funds to pay for these centres.

This action concerns me since Youth Centres are a key place where young people feel able to express themselves. Closing them could result in a lapse in artistic expression within the generation(s) affected. I believe this is integral to their emotional well-being.

Young people need to have an outlet to express themselves and discover who they are away from the regimes and expectations placed on them. Youth Centres provide this safe and free environment for expression (often outletted by creativity), where young people are made to feel like they matter and have a voice. Sadly, it is often the case that at home and school that they are not given this chance for self-expression.

We are already seeing what an impact ‘feeling voiceless’ is having on our youth: campaigns and marches (some with violence), looting of shops and an increase in vandalism. How much safer it would be for all, if this was all expressed by pen and paper or by a theatrical performance! I think we are truly going to see in this generation how important the creative arts are; (and how they are worthy of funding – Mr Cameron)!

This generation is in strong danger of being without any strong creative outlet at all. Schools, although they teach Art, Drama and sometimes Dance, do not promote creative thinking. We are taught instead to value facts and tried-and-tested methods over unconventionality, but how else can a person be creative without first being told  in is OK to think for themselves? Art always involves stepping out of the box and examining what you see inside, and Youth Centres provide this ‘out of the box’ space. A place where youth can think for themselves. I highly suspect that there will be a decrease in art created by those under 20, due to these centres closing.

I would like to now make a point about creative expression as linked to mental well-being, using the following senario…

Dionne is 15 and has difficulties at home. She is a young carer for her  brother who has autism and finds it hard to relate to her new step father. Dionne tells me that she loves to dance! She tells me that it is her form of escapism from home and school life, and she goes to practice at the Youth Centre, where she feels welcome.

Dionne’s Youth Centre is closing down. When it re-opens it will become a referral centre for young people who are deemed anti-social. When this happens, who is to say if Dionne will be able to find another safe space to live out her passion? If her creative outlet is gone, her mental wellbeing could be effected since self-expression in her own home is secondary to her caring role.

in conclusion, the closing down of Youth Centres is likely to mean the following:

  • Reduced art production by young people
  • Further Anti-social behaviors from young people as already seen in the news
  • Further campaigns from young people due to their sence of not having a voice
  • A stunt in the development of creative/visionary thinking in future generations

So, remind me again why the government is cutting their funding?

Please leave your opinions,

Jo 🙂

Cambodian Creativity

25 Aug

I have just returned form Cambodia, where my eyes have further been opened. Opened to the amazing things people are doing over there to rebuild the society; children’s homes for orphans, work opportunities for ex-sex industry workers, hugely improved roads, Arts therapy, teaching programmes for youth living in slums.

I saw all of these things, and my heart is defenatly changed! It’s brimming with ideas, and asking “What part do I play in helping others?”

Whilst over there I built an opinion based on the Creative things that I saw. In Cambodia you see whole streets devoted to the same products, electronics, baby clothes… you name it.  There is a street devoted to paintings, and walking down that street I saw the same paintings repeated again and again and it is a long row! These paintings are created by different artists but they look the same. Mimics. Replicas. Each painted by hand by a devoted and skilled painter, but seemly each a painter who was not open to trying something new…

I went to see a performance. Live drumming with tribal dance. All I can say for this performance is that it was lacking something that you might see in the West… emotion. The dance pieces were based on mimicking animals (seemingly monkeys and meerkats) they were rituals of grooming, hunting and survival showing excellent physicality and stamina. When coupled with what I saw on the painting row, I just started to wonder how far has the oppression of the Khmer Rouge affected mind-sets towards creative expression? You may say that what I saw is tradition, but personally, I am thinking that the “mimicking” I saw in the art is a natural response to the fear of a nation which has been oppressed for years. If so, this ‘cap on creativity’ in the mind of individuals needs to be lifted of Cambodia!

I am applauding any Arts therapists in Cambodia. Creativity holds the key to releasing trapped emotion in a nation severely wounded.

Wounded, but not beyond repair.

Mountview…. We Will Rock You!

16 Jun

Well, if you are following my life, I can report that I was not one of the fortunate to get into Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts.

I can also report that I had an amazing day, was in complete peace about the rejection, and got to see We Will Rock You with the most supportive young man a girl can ask for. Hooray!

Yes I wanted badly to get in, but I also recognise that they know what they want. They let only 4 people into round two, each appearing distinctly different to the other. This suggested to me (and the new friends I had made), that they had already filled most of the places that year, and were (in one way) casting for a production that would be happening within the year. We saw each other audition, and I can tell you that many talented people left disheartened. These people were no ‘worse’ than the other four, but the panel clearly know who they are looking for.

…and as for We Will Rock You? Fantasic! It’s at the Dominion Theatre, and I recommend it.