Photo by Anne Graswinckel
Photo by Anne Graswinckel

Go with the Galway Flow

Anne Graswinckel (KEK2 - Keunstwurk, Leeuwarden) and Joanne Beirne (Branar Teatar do Phaisti, Galway) are focusing their Tandem collaboration on education and multilingualism. Anne has visited Joanne in Galway and shares insights from her placement.

In Rijeka, Joanne and I immediately had a click in our conversations about multilingualism, literature, theatre and the need for good, sustainable cultural education and how you can link cultural institutions, education and policy to each other. So inspiring!

After a very, very long wait, I could hardly hold it anymore, I was finally allowed to go to Galway to fantasize with Joanne about what great projects we all could not come up with for our Tandem-collaboration.
Very, very brave from Joanne and Branar teatar, to start a project just before Galway2020 with someone who has regained tons of energy after Leeuwarden2018. But yes, they will find out!

The bus from Dublin Airport to Galway gave me a nice space to reflect on all the joys of learning that we, in Friesland, would get inspired by the poetic and multilingual Irish space.
The weather app indicated that it would rain all week. So I brought a thick raincoat. And I really needed it once. But otherwise it was such a wonderfully warm weather. Unprecedented by Irish standards. I stayed in an apartment overlooking the Galway Bay, I enjoyed the beautiful seascapes more than I could have dreamed.

I would have almost forgotten that I came for work. Well, work …

Being the entire week at the Baboró international arts festival you can hardly say that was work.

On Tuesday night I went with Joanne and Rhona Matheson from the Scottish theater group Starcatchers to eat pizza at the Dough Brothers (recommended). We discussed the similarities and differences in how we approach young audiences: more sad deals than happy deals, especially the growing lack of imagination among young children and where it comes from. We discussed the one-sided view of creativity and its importance.

On Wednesday we went to the Carnival of the Animals show. The animals were presented by Helen, the actress who told wonderful stories about the animals, played the music, recognised the animals. Helen read poems that the students had made about this event. Is it really a poem from our school? Cheers. Which again underlines how important it is to have a stage for what you make.

Joanne and I then spoke extensively in the Branar building in Qatar with Sharon O’Gready, County Arts Officer, about our Tandem-plans, cultural education in Ireland, multilingualism. Here again, we recognised many similar experiences.

During that conversation, Branar’s artistic director Marc Mac Loichlainn dropped by. Joanne said that we could find it very well. We are both overwhelmed with an enormous imagination and the ability to see connections everywhere. And yes … when he told about their new show about the history of Irish, I became more than enthusiastic. So excited that all things started to bubble! And when I did not really have a “compulsory programme” on Friday, I immediately made a sketch for the educational opportunities that I saw. Joanne got back home, she had some important phone calls the next day because Branar goes to Philadelphia to play their show How to catch a star on the IPAY showcase. And of course even more Galway2020 things to arrange. I recognise the stress. All those signs in the air!

Photo by Anne Graswinckel
Photo by Anne Graswinckel

Thursday I went to a number of shows with Marc. Tiger tale from the Scottish dance company Barrowland (5 stars!) And Baba Yaga from Windmill Theater.
Then I was at a presentation of new work to be made by 3 other companies. Very fascinating how lovingly people speak. The advice is very warm. Nice to notice that. Marc is very generous anyway and introduces me to everyone. Interesting though! What nice people to meet. Relax in the evening with my sea view apartment.

On Friday I still have energy for a show. Stick by me by Andy Manlan from Scotland (seen many Scottish shows, perhaps a legacy of my Scotland love in 1985). Andy was almost blown away by the energy of 150 Irish children who wanted to help him so much but didn’t yet fully understand the theater code! Enjoying so much sentence in BEING. It is so fascinating to see the differences between the Dutch children and Irish children. And also how they see and admire the same things at the same time.

“In the afternoon I spent hours in Charlie Byrne’s bookstore. 100,000 books, new, older, first-hand, second-hand all mixed together. What a book party. With only hand luggage I had to restrain myself a lot!

I have so much admiration for Ireland, with its beautiful history and culture that they guard and celebrate very hard. Especially the love for books and the language is so important. We are going to get a lot of pleasure out of it. At least I was enormously inspired by it.

On Saturday I met Joanne again (after a visit to the famous Galway Market!) And we kept talking about all the things we could do. Yes! We know it … we also need to get practical. We will put it all on paper on Monday. But the conversation about it is so inspiring.

On Sunday I played all day (as a spectator !!) at Rockin Rhymes, Branar’s rock show inspired by children’s stories. What a buzzing audience! Blackbox Theatre was sold out twice.

And Monday was the last day of my placement which I spent with Joanne. To get a good overview of all our plans after a continuous week of talking.

In addition to knowledge exchange, many “new opportunities” have also been formed.
We are going to investigate with schools from Galway, Friesland and Veszprém (yes with Tamás) on how we can develop new stories (new narratives).

These stories are built around a cheat sheet with which you can develop larger projects with teachers and providers from the cultural education field. It is a connection between meaningful heritage education with future-oriented Maker education.

There are so many lines to investigate, also in the larger European context: around poetry and multilingualism, around the story of language, your own identity and how you can lay long-lasting lines to education in it. We do have inspiration for THREE years.

I will visit again in March 2020, as well as in October of that same year. And Joanne is coming to Leeuwarden next, to continue building.