Keep it simple I say to myself, keep it simple. Don’t write reams of information or answers to some people’s questions or try to analyse where we go from here too soon.
I see in my mind’s eye faces of people, at one point 112 people flowing around Srebrenica creating an energy the town lost many, many years ago. I see people I love and have known for years and new friends whom I hope to have in my life for much of my future. But there’s no time because the Motel closed and we have to find places for people to eat, spaces we thought we could use are no longer available, accommodation plans disrupted because of racism, someone cutting the electricity cable and a spattering of egos.
Confusion, then absolute clarity, reigns. I was lucky to be born into a theatre family. I saw my first musical at the age of 4, ballet at the age of 5, theatre performance after theatre performance, then Maria Callas at 10, Aretha Franklin at 12…yes the Beatles at the Apollo Theatre in London, great actors, singers, dancers and the cultural joy of being born in London and growing up in the 60’s.
Art made and changed my life. I was a confused teenager, education disrupted due to a bad eye accident, divorced parents, left school and home at 16… never went to college, was meant to be a singer, was a singer from childhood onwards… but struggled to find my place till I was nearly 30. Met Robert and my life changed.
Sang in concerts, festival opera and fringe theatre, voice overs, a couple of films and then Opera Circus, formed with other singers to travel the world, create work and not do traditional stuff. Instead, doing our own work, and to sing arias no one would pay you to sing…and to act. My home was theatre.
Physical theatre and mime with David Glass, clowning with Peta Lily. Ten years of bliss, Georgia, Peru, France, Lithuania, Ireland, Thailand and Central and Eastern Europe. Romania where I grew up as an artist and Georgia where I understood the meaning of art. Peter Brook teaching me about sensibility and quality and Federico Davia about truth and Monika Pagneux, movement inside and out. On and on…..and then illness. The heart of art is very fragile and cannot compete against the left side of the brain.
Many years and then injustice and outrage and what to do. Think about a world of equality, empathy and compassion, a learning process that happens in Europe and elsewhere in different places where we explore the purpose of art and begin to build something better. A safe cultural space where other things can grow. Democracy, tolerance and understanding of the other, transformation and empowerment; through art. It will be slow, with challenges and different views, but it can’t be helped with 100 people or more.
Yet such beauty comes out of this space…Billy and Giulia dancing together, Ellie’s poetry, Naomi’s photographs, Julia’s film, Besso’s puppets and laughter, Zoe’s dancing and the film about her father, shared with such dignity, the Višegrad song and Alex finding it within himself to embrace everyone. Seeing Dave doing static trapeze and giving a workshop at Leptir, Hugo brilliant at Parkour (get the plasters ready), Irina’s wonderful design and love, Sandra’s singing, Ljubiša growing into a Leader…and on and on and on. Too many people to name…
And the tougher stuff…the struggle, the revealing and the pain…. There were many I didn’t have time to speak to; working with Nevena, Nemanja, Mix, Merka, Rada, Hariz, Tony, Milena, Ado and many others to battle with the dysfunction and politics of those who didn’t want us there, who don’t want to see that many young people from all those different places, talking with each other.
And the generosity of all those who did. The care of Bato and his family, of Azemina and her family, of Avdo at the hotel, of Motel Alic – if only for a day or two – Ismar offering the Music House for free for our Setubal family, the taxi drivers watching Parkour and Circus with delight, protecting Dave’s ramp, Valentina and her excellent cakes, Nada and her women bringing fresh eggs and home made bread, Rada in her shop providing breakfasts, Anese with her big roomy house, even the Municipality who helped with free buses to Visegrad and Jelah and then the Cultural Centre, the Park and our own City Pub. Thank you Tomo. The police who made the registration process easier than it could be and actually walked into the City Pub with approval as Mix and his team prepared it for the music nights. Rare moments. And all of our landladies, with their big hearts and generosity.
Peter Brook* once said to me when discussing opera performances, that it is like knitting from the moment you hear the first note in the orchestra till the last note fades away, you never drop a stitch. You keep the thought going in one long line…..so we keep the thought going together, to the next small step and the one after that and after that and then….
Milena has just emailed me to say that people are saying how great and alive Srebra was and that “they needed just 100 young people to make it a happier and better town”.
Thank you to all of us for what we did together…...
* Read The Empty Space by Peter Brook