into the Forum
By Vidushi Senaviratne
[First Appeared in the Sunday Times]
Living in a multi-ethnic society, exploring methods of resolving such conflict is probably the most practical way of dealing with the issues that keep surfacing in our surroundings. And what better medium of exploration than the innovative and highly successful concept of forum theatre? “A day of workshops on Conflict Resolution through Forum Theatre,” organised by the Beyond Borders Project Team of the British Council, hopes to do precisely that.
Scheduled to be held at the British Council Hall on November 4, from 9.30am to 4pm, the event will feature a series of workshops on both conflict resolution and forum theatre, aimed at getting young people interested in both areas. While the age limit for participation is between 16-25 years, registration for the event is mandatory, and can be done by sending in your name and age to slbeyondborders [at] gmail.com or by collecting the registration forms from the reception of the British Council at 49, Alfred House Gardens, Colombo 03. While registration must be completed by November 2, you could contact the British Council on 4521510, for further details.
The event stems from the interest created in this medium, following the two forum theatre performances staged at the Beyond Borders’ Youth Festival held in April. Based on themes such as ‘HIV/AIDS and young people’ and ‘Reforming the prefect system at schools,’ the Beyond Borders team members were guided by facilitators knowledgeable on forum theatre and on using drama for social change.
Under the theme of conflict transformation, the project members believe that the process to dismantle the long-drawn-out nature of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, should involve concentrated advocacy for greater inclusion, recognition of diversity and promoting the need for greater critical analysis of our assumptions and prejudices relating to the conflict. Forum theatre, as they see it, is a perfect method to explore and understand these assumptions and prejudices more clearly, being a form of theatre where scenarios are designed to stimulate and encourage audience participation through discussion, interactive role-playing and shared experiences.
The sessions at the workshop will be conducted primarily by professionals in their respective fields including a session by John Martin, Artistic Director of Pan Centre for Inter-Cultural Arts, based in UK, with him also having worked on forum theatre performances, in countries such as India. The programme for the day will include a skills workshop on ‘Gaining competence in identifying and challenging assumptions,’ an introduction to forum theatre, a presentation of a model forum theatre and also a discussion on using forum theatre in different settings.
The Beyond Borders project is essentially a sharing, learning and networking project of the British Council, developed in consultation with young people for young people in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, UK and Sri Lanka. Designed to explore identity, diversity and to contribute positively towards an understanding of ‘active global citizenship,’ the project is in the hands of a small group of selected young people referred to as Core Group Members (CGMs).
Results of the Beyond Borders Project can be seen through the action projects being carried out by the CGMs, such as projects including teaching English through active citizenship for under privileged children living in the suburbs of Colombo, creating an action network among schools on Sexual Health Education and peer education, and conducting training on conflict transformation, active citizenship and prevention of HIV/AIDS. Another highlight of the project has been the youth festival held in April, witnessing the participation of over 1000 young people including representatives from other Beyond Border projects in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and UK.
The objectives of the programme according to the members of the Beyond Borders Project Team are two fold, the first being providing young people an opportunity to explore some aspects of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka through new mediums such as forum theatre. Secondly, the event is aimed at encouraging these young people who are mostly from educational institutions and others being young activists, to consider using forum theatres in their awareness raising, behavioural change and advocacy work.