When I was first invited to Srebrenica in 2007, not arriving till May 2008, I would never have thought that the relationship with this town and its people, in particular the young people, would have led to this ever expanding cultural home that is TCFT.

 Performance with the children’s music theatre at the Dom Kultura, Srebrenica 2009.

Performance with the children’s music theatre at the Dom Kultura, Srebrenica 2009.

 The work with Filip, Alexandra, Verica, Maja, Jana and others that began with the development of their Children’s Music Theatre, slowly grew to involve so many other inspiring young people, their families and local NGO’s. It grew into youth exchange programmes between Bridport and Srebrenica, teacher exchanges from Zvornik, cultural events, residencies and the development of partners. Now we are from 9 countries in wider Europe and a total of 14 organisations. Last year nearly 3 million people became aware of our work.

 Simply Human project Lyme Regis beach, Dorset 2012.

Simply Human project Lyme Regis beach, Dorset 2012.

We have created the opportunity for a number of young people to go to University in BiH.  We have raised funding for Leptir (for disabled children and young people) and other organisations, as well as the Youth Centre/Youth Council.  We have continually tried to fundraise for the Balkan Summer Music Camp, run by Nigel Osborne and his volunteers from the UK and BiH. 

 Nela Antonovic of Teater Mimart working with the youth theatre group at Srebrenica Youth Centre as part of Cultural Pump Up Festival, September 2013.

Nela Antonovic of Teater Mimart working with the youth theatre group at Srebrenica Youth Centre as part of Cultural Pump Up Festival, September 2013.

 Flash Mob in Srebrenica directed by Nela Antonovic for 'Like a film in my Mind' youth project, Srebrenica 2013.

Flash Mob in Srebrenica directed by Nela Antonovic for 'Like a film in my Mind' youth project, Srebrenica 2013.

We have become involved in other local projects and Robert Golden has made several films both about the town, TCFT and a beautiful documentary about the local food and culture. 

 Having coffee and rakje with Bato and his family in his village outside Srebrenica.

Having coffee and rakje with Bato and his family in his village outside Srebrenica.

With the music and art work of Tony Pesikan, John Moonen and Mladen Kojic, we did a series of workshops with eight elementary schools in Srebrenica, Skelani, Zvornik, Milici, Vlasenica and Bratunac.  This was for a research project partly funded by Unicef BiH in 2014.

 Tony Pesikan with children from Vlacenica Elementary school.

Tony Pesikan with children from Vlacenica Elementary school.

Advocacy has always been a priority as has equality, inclusion and human rights. Meeting with people who make policy and those who can effect change, and speaking with them about our experiences and other people’s truths, is vital.  Often the people on the ground, who matter most, are not asked what they need, but often have international policy and programmes imposed upon them.  Not the best way to either build confidence or revive a post conflict society.

 Young people from Srebrenica and Bratunac presenting the film 'Candles Against the Night', about their lives to UK politicians at the House of Commons, London 2012.

Young people from Srebrenica and Bratunac presenting the film 'Candles Against the Night', about their lives to UK politicians at the House of Commons, London 2012.

A couple of years ago I went to Brussels to take part in a workshop on the need for Culture and Arts in conflict and post-conflict countries.  I asked a friend in Srebrenica to comment on my talk and he said the following about his town and country:

"Two things I think you maybe could consider including. One thing is consistency. And when I say that, I mean consistency of people who come to post-conflict communities to work. People survived violence, refugee camps, corruption and lies. Years of lies. The reason why people trust you and a small number of others is that you come back. You always come back. That is the only way to make a change. To stay here, or to keep coming back.

Otherwise, we are just talking about people and projects that you mention in your text, and that are offending people who live in those communities. It is important to note that consistency doesn't mean consistency of EU. EU is consistent with Srebrenica. Even now they give money away for Srebrenica. I mean consistency of people who come to work to those places. You, as a person, as an organization need to show that you care. 

Other thing is working with disabled. After war societies, countries even, are having thousands of problems to deal with. Even if we suppose that they have best intentions (and they often don't), they just don't have the capacity to answer all the questions. Disabled children and youth will be low on the list of priorities. So the help for them probably will have to come from outside.”

Most of us who have worked in Bosnia do our best to keep coming back, mostly because it is a very easy country to fall in love with, and also because we learn so much from our connection with its history and people.  It has also helped me to reflect and act on the concerns I have for my own community in Dorset, UK.

It also teaches humility and the concept of usefulness in our own lives.  Another friend in Srebrenica, who works for the Municipality, asked me if I did similar work where I lived. I said yes and he said that it was rare to find a foreigner who was working in their own communities as well as coming to Srebrenica to run projects.  People seemed to come to Srebrenica often for their own reasons, seeking something that they were unable to satisfy in their own society. 

There have been two further major TCFT events at Bryanston School, Dorset in 2014 and in Srebrenica in 2015.  There is plenty of information about these on this web site.

 TCFT, Srebrenica 2015

TCFT, Srebrenica 2015

Since last August, many developments, projects and ideas have surfaced:  

  • Domino Youth Network was formed and is developing rapidly. It is really tough to develop an open organisation like Domino but they have grown in strength and now represent 40 members. The OSCE in Bosnia has been very supportive.

    They have an open Facebook page, and are aiming to raise funding for their next meeting and mini-festival in Srebrenica in May through their online crowd-funding platform:

  • In February, a mini-TCFT ran in Bridport, Dorset from 14 – 20th of the month.  The film of the final sharing and participants can be found here
 Part of the sharing at Bridport Arts Centre with Remix West and Susan Bisatt, February 2016.

Part of the sharing at Bridport Arts Centre with Remix West and Susan Bisatt, February 2016.

  • Rory Newbery has applied to the Anna Lindh Foundation for funding to bring a new partner to Bournemouth this August: the Mahatat Collective from Cairo, Egypt.  We will know sometime in April whether this has been successful. 

  • Amy Wisenfeld has applied to the EU Charlemagne Youth Prize to support the work of Domino.

  • A group representing TCFT are working towards a performance and workshop as part of an EU European Youth Event at Strasbourg in late May.  Their subject will be Apathy or Participation.  Full details will be added soon. 

  • Last year, Jaffer Hussain was awarded the European Citizen’s Prize in the UK. Jaffer is 27 and runs a vibrant youth organisation called SLYNCS in Doncaster, Northern England, which is primarily Muslim.  We have agreed to partner on some interesting inter-cultural meetings between Doncaster and West Dorset.  The first meeting will be on June 10th and 11th when a group of young people from West Dorset will visit Slyncs and present TCFT to their members.  If all goes well, a group from Slyncs will visit TCFT during August in Bournemouth. 

  • Nina Petrov from Serbia, along with Irinia Ganescu (Romania) and Marko Stankovic (BiH) are designing a survey for all the TCFT participants to see what has happened since the Srebrenica residency. Many of you have achieved a great deal and we hope that the survey can let us know about all the successes and growth.

  • Rory Newbery, Lora Krasteva and Amy Wisenfeld are developing an internal forum for communication and ideas within TCFT and will be in contact with everyone soon.

  • One of the interns who works at The Arts Development Company will be contacting you all shortly to find out who is coming in August from the partner organisations and asking if you will fill in a questionnaire. There will be a deadline. 

  • We all continue to be deeply concerned about the fate of the refugees in our countries.  We have joined with a number of artists and organisations to offer our skills and support to the Red Cross in Dorset and to The Verne Detention Centre on Portland, where 150 young men from the age of 18 – 21 are being held indefinitely while they hope someone deals with their asylum cases.  We have suggested a group of TCFT people bring some of the project to the Centre during the middle weekend in August.  The Home Office is delaying in its decision as long as they can. We have a second meeting on April 5th and will update you via the FB page. 

There are a number of opportunities available through TCFT which we need to deliver by the end of April 2017: 

  • TCFT Bournemouth 1 – 14 August 2016
  • Europe for Citizens – Art and Culture and Democracy in the EU Bridport, February 2017 (tbc depending on success with the fund raising)
  • TCFT Sarteano, Italy 2 – 15 April 2017 – this to include the Youth Arts and Culture event, a three day EU Policy Makers Seminar and the second part of Europe for Citizens (BC)

In addition we have funding for work/cultural exchanges between the 12 Erasmus + partners.  We would like to talk to each partner in greater depth about this, as this is an opportunity that could be taken up by four young people – two have to be old enough to be responsible, to travel to another partner country to learn new skills, develop work, exchange ideas, learn language, develop their own art form, capacity build etc. 

It does not need to be any of the lead artist/facilitators. It just needs the host partner to provide the programme in collaboration with the partner sending the participants.  We believe the funding is adequate to cover all costs, unless you are actually planning on creating a production.

At present:

  • VBC in Romania are discussing with Agencia in Manchester for four young people to go to Manchester for 14 days at the end of August to help deliver two festivals, an artists residency and a studio recording. 

  • Arts Development Company is working with Teater Mimart to travel to Serbia to run a two week dance and movement workshop, either in June or late August.  Dancer, teacher and choreographer, Massimo Andoloro, has offered to be involved.

  • Opera Circus has spoken with Besso in Tbilisi about a 14 day visit to develop TCFT ideas in Georgia and linked with some work that Besso developed a number of years ago in Armenia and Azerbajan.  Dates yet to be agreed.

  • Young trainers from Urban Playground Team will be visiting Srebrenica from 15th August to work with the Srebrenica Wave festival and teach. 

  • Setubal and Diverse City are in discussion.

  • We are hoping that the work with our partners in Sarteano can be further developed with the University of Bournemouth towards the events in Italy next year.

There are opportunities for three more return visits.  If we don’t organize these exchanges we will just have to give the money back at the end of the project.  This seems a shame and I am sure we can all be much more creative about giving opportunities for a number of young people to make these visits.

And then what do we do? Where do we go? What’s next? Who are we and what can we achieve? How do we become more useful? How do we advocate more for the world we really want to live in and how do we support this growing force for change? Are there other youth organisations in the world aiming to do the same…do we link to each other?  Is the idea of a powerful virtual youth network for change possible? NESTA has offered some ideas which we need to find the time to take up. 

Last year Deloitte’s staff in London voted us as their charity of choice.  At the moment this doesn’t mean sponsorship but advice, consultancy and technical support. We need to develop this further, but a great start. 

Opera Circus has been invited to partner with two other Creative Europe and Erasmus + programmes in Timisoara, Romania and in Matera, Italy. There could be opportunities for involvement here.

There is a meeting on May 18th at the University of Bournemouth and the University of Arts, for all the UK production team, some partners and facilitators to look at how August might run and then come back to everyone with the structural ideas, some content for comment and the practical plans.  We hope that by May 20 we will have all the names of all the participants and leaders and can purchase flights by the end of May. This is August, so travel costs will be high.  We also have to arrange visas for all those from BiH, Georgia and Serbia and hopefully for the Mahatat Collective from Egypt.

Opera Circus, which is the lead partner with TCFT is still a very, very small organisation and we need to build our virtual capacity, project leaders and management, as well as our income.

TCFT could become anything you want it to be, a social enterprise, a community interest company, a company, a virtual hot bed of ideas and connectivity, a force for advocating change in society, a workshop, a series of hubs in each country choosing to deliver change where it’s needed but supported by all of us!!!!!  There is momentum. What do we do with it?

See many of you in August, during the year or next April.

 Sarteano. Italy. TCFT April 2017.

Sarteano. Italy. TCFT April 2017.