The power of the youth is the power to change!
Moments from the Beyond Borders Festival India (Delhi, December 2005)
The Beyond Borders (BB) Festival held in India on the 29 and 30 November 2005 definitely seconds this. An amalgamation of films, theatre, music, workshops, exhibitions et al spreading the message of active citizenship was what the festival had to offer.
It all began with a team meeting durin g the life skills camp at the Society for Integrated development of the Himalayas (SIDH) in October 2005. SIDH works for developing and promoting a holistic education curriculum in the rural areas of Uttaranchal (a state in North India). This three day intensive training was an opportunity to understand internalise what Beyond Borders was, to get to know the BB team and prepare for the upcoming BB Festival. That is probably when we, the team of Beyond Borders India realized that we have an uphill task at hand. Organise a two day festival on active citizenship and reach out to hundreds of other young people in a little over a month’s time! How would we manage that?!
We began by reviewing the first Beyond Borders Festival held in February 2005 and discussed the lessons learnt from that experience. That is when tasks started getting cut out and blueprints were made … the ball set rolling! We divided ourselves into a number of groups depending on our interests and skills. Each group was in-charge of a particular responsibility such as publicity and promotion, merchandising, workshops, hospitality, monitoring and evaluation, theatre, film, stalls, exhibitions etc. We started to trash out ideas and all this was made easy with a little help from our very own resident tech wiz (a.k.a Ankur Kaul) who designed an online forum which became the backbone of Beyond Borders communication!
The first major task for us was to publicise the Beyond Borders Fest. After much deliberation the publicity team came up with the idea of taking help of the theatre group in this regard. And hence came up the Beyond Borders play which was a huge success. The actors in the Beyond Borders play underwent a month long training and workshops aimed at honing their theatre skills. The script of the play also came out as a result of discussions, interactions and the events, which the Beyond Borders group was a part of. The play was aimed at spreading the theme of Beyond Borders i.e. active citizenship and also making people aware of the four action projects the group is working on. Once the play was ready, we went around with banners and brochures to various places such as colleges and helped spread the word. Posters, invitation letters, e-invites and of course, word of mouth was used to inform young people about the Festival. Meanwhile the theatre practices, film script readings, orders for merchandising etc. were also going on in full swing. The merchandising included customised bags, mugs, t-shirts and badges.
Amidst all this hectic activity, before we could realize 29th November had arrived. The first day of our fest! For Artie, who was a part of the hospitality team, managing time was a real task. As she recalls, “the two days of the fest were wonderful; spending fun-filled moments together, attending events, stealing away from the festival to go for shopping or for lunch, or just hanging around meeting new people. It was not only at the festival but the fun we had at the hotel – gossiping till 3 am, having midnight snacks …now cribbing about how expensive it is and then discussing something serious the next minute!”
The Fest showcased not only the work done by all partner countries of Beyond Borders but also provided a platform to other organizations to talk about their cause. Some of these were Kriti – which undertakes research and training on a range of development issues including labour, violence, health, education, environment, law and human rights, gender concepts and practice; Cankids -an NGO under the Indian cancer society; We for Bhopal – dedicated to the task of spreading awareness about the Bhopal Gas tragedy; AIESEC- an international students’ organization; Nub Gon monastery and SIDH. All these organizations had put up their stalls which gave the crowd a chance to interact with them and understand their cause.
Stalls were also allotted to different participant countries- India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Each country had put up a variety of things from posters to greeting cards, from national flags to Junk art basically showcasing the work that they do back home. Core group members from across the borders were present at the stalls for general interaction with the visitors. This was vital in presenting the international character of the project.
Films by amateur directors and both stage and street plays by some of the colleges of Delhi were also presented at the festival. According to Priyanka, who managed all the presentations and performances in the Theatre, “ The BB India festival provided a platform to all young students from diverse fields to stage their plays which effectively communicated to the audience the themes Beyond Borders group is working on- identity, diversity, breaking stereotypes and active citizenship. The performances were also related to the themes of our action projects. With the help of pantomime theatre, we were also able to talk about other critical and socially relevant issues”. All these revolved around the theme of active citizenship and constituted the highlight of the fest. A lot of like minded people from schools, colleges and other walks of life came together through these activities. That is something that makes all the late nights and leg work worth at the end of the day!
Besides films and plays, a number of workshops on entrepreneurship, music and sexuality, sustainable development and homosexuality were also organised. A lot of school and college going students attended these and went home ‘thinking’!
A photo and art exhibition was also put up as a part of the Festival. According to Sushant, who was leading on the exhibition, “Although the exhibition was not a new feature, it was much appreciated. More than anything else it served the purpose of keeping the people engaged in the mood and theme of the festival. There were artworks by dynamic young people that were displayed as a part of the exhibition.”
The two day extravaganza finally came to an end with a musical concert which featured two local Delhi based bands of young people — Rudraaksh and One Night Band. Along with these a special performance by a group called ‘Manzil’ completely enthralled the audience.Manzil is a self sustaining organization working for the holistic development of young people through education , theater, music and art .
All in all it was a good show. However, the real work for us started post the festival. The work of analyzing whether the festival actually succeeded in achieving its objective i.e of reaching out to more young people. According to Aparna, a member of the monitoring and evaluation team, “Working as a member of the monitoring and evaluation team was an enriching experience, but more importantly it brought forth ( to me personally) the importance of evaluation and monitoring which at any time is an important and valuable indicator for a project / event etc.”
According to the feedback received through various means such as games, feedback
forms, graffiti, personal interaction etc. the event was successful in helping people realise the importance of active citizenship. For some it was done through the films screened, for some through the plays staged, while for others it was through participating in the workshops. Whatever it was, it made them proudly raise their heads up high and say “I want to be an active citizen!”
—- By Ankita Chaudhry (with inputs from Aparna Sareen, Artie Jhurani, Priyanka Rai and Sushant Arora) [Beyond Borders India]