Clowns Without Borders Ireland go to Jordan April 2015!
16 performances, 4 workshops over 12 days 3 – 16th April 2015
reaching over 1,000 children
3rd April: The Zaha Centre
Four fools and their boss make their way across the seven rolling hills of Amman to The Zaha Centre, where children with intellectual and physical difficulties come with their parents and siblings for support – and fun today. Shy timid smiles soon become contagious giggles as the four fools throw invisible balls high in the sky, fall up, across and over ladders and get a hard earned strike in human Habibi bowling. The mothers smile and clap to the groovy arabic funk music and the crowds pile in around the edge of the grounds with curious faces both big and small peering in through the railings. As more and more things on stage go UP, some little ones can’t resist the urge to join the fun on stage and help the fools with their props – with one very enthusiastic boy launching a juggling club right over the roof of the stage in pure delight. A large amount of gentle post show hugs and heartfelt thank yous and whooosh! the fools tumble on….
5th April: Madaba
We arrived at the girls secondary school where we found half of our audience already seated in eager anticipation – these being a combination of Syrian and Sudanese children and their mothers – the other half being pupils of the school.
After overcoming our shock at this and the reaction of the teenage pupils to the male clowns trying to locate a toilet we kicked off the show to a crowded hall who helped us raise the roof. We had a rockin’ show and felt like we are really clicking and finding new play every time we play.
We followed up the show with a workshop for the teenage girls which also brought us a great deal of joy, watching the participants overcoming their initial timidity and by wholeheartedly engaging with us, leaving their comfort zones and surprising themselves.
Whilst not on the front line of refugee work, we were supporting the IRD in their focus on integrating existing refugees with mainstream Jordanian society.
Upon finishing we packed up and it being Easter Sunday we took a trip to nearby Mt Nebo where Moses glimpsed his promised land…..but that’s another story. …..
Lovely letter of thanks from DAY, a volunteer organisation which helps Syrian refugees in Jordan:
“The volunteer-led initiative DAY – Dar Al Yasmin and the Municipality of Zaatari would like to thank Clowns Without Borders Ireland for their spectacular performance and workshop, which took place in Zaatari Village on Saturday 4th April.
Children from both Jordanian and Syrian communities were brought together to see the performance, which was highly entertaining and amusing throughout the entire show. This is undoubtedly as a result of not only the hard work and dedication of your organisation, but it is also a token of the fantastic rapport that each of your performers has with children. The additional workshop was also a great success, as it allowed the children to work on a more intimate basis with the performers. In doing so, it gave the children the opportunity to work towards new skills, build up self-confidence and above all, gain a sense of optimism about the future. Bringing both nationalities together also had the highly positive effect of fostering greater social relations and overall social cohesion.
DAY – Dar Al Yasmin hopes that in light of this highly successful event that your organisation will continue to work with us in the future, and that we can maintain the positive relations that currently exist between our two organisations.”
6th April: Karak
Today was an early start, heading to Karak to put on a workshop first for some children and then a performance. Our audience was mainly Jordanian Bedouins, and some of them had never seen anything like our show or the clowns performing it. The young children sat with mouths wide open and couldn’t take their eyes off what was happening on stage. The bluff throwing of plates into the audience got the biggest scream and laugh.
The stage was re-set for the second performance and the audience of older children, mainly girls started to file in. They were with us from the very beginning and were fascinated by Kim’s unique interpretation of Irish tap dancing.
After we had packed very quickly and changed even quicker as the school had closed, we were rushed off to our hosts’ offices were they had provided some lunch for us. They told us how beneficial it is to the children we had performed for, how they had never seen anything like our show before. The children have little if no money and it means so much to the children, their families and the school that we had taken the time to come and perform for them. We all thanked them for organising the day and how much it meant to us to have the opportunity to come and perform for them. A really great day, filled with smiles that will be hard to forget.
7th April: Queen Aliah Centre
Another early start – we were on the road by 5:30am, and mostly asleep again by 5:35, our steadfast driver Isam keeping at least one eye on the road most of the time. The Queen Aliah Centre is a school for 250 young boys and girls aged 4 and 5, 50 of whom are from Syrian families in the area. Our partners IRD are focusing on strengthening relations between Syrians and Jordanians here, a relationship which can often be tense. But five clowns arriving and getting everyone laughing together seemed a pretty good place to start. We were greeted by Bassam, from the International Medical Corps, who explained that NGOs in the area are working more with this younger age group, the logic being that building relations between communities needs to start as early as possible in order to be effective. And the good humour and laughter we experienced here certainly pays testimony to this approach.
We started the show a little more gently than normal, so as not to scare the younger audience who were in awe of these five colourful characters traipsing through their playground. Small faces stared in amazement as ping pong balls appeared and disappeared and juggling balls were thrown in the air; but in no time at all we had them clapping, laughing, cheering and jostling each other for the best view. By the time we got to the 8-foot unicycle and ladder balance finale, the sense of joy and noise from all the cheering and laughing was overwhelming.
After a quick round of coffee (the Irish clowns fuel of choice), we ran a workshop with 25 of the young audience members. Scarf juggling and rhythm games, led into animal walks and finger gymnastics.
Sat 9th April: One Love
We had two shows today, the first show taking place in the Middle Eastern University just outside Amman in partnership with an NGO called One Love. We set the stage area, which was not really a stage but half of a large room, with a lowish ceiling and a really slippy floor. The children were mainly Iraqi orphans and some single mothers and their children. Straight away the difference between them and our previous audiences was very obvious, they were really shy and quiet, even walking in to the room, the trauma in their faces was plain to see, and some of the older children were reassuring the younger children. The children and adults loved the show and laughed and giggled the whole way through.
One volunteer told us that his highlight of the day, although seeing the children laugh was good, it was a rare occurrence to see the adults in the room laugh and enjoy themselves, which he had done today and that made him happy.
At our next show we were performing for about 35 Syrian refugees who are orphans but live in an SOS village which has several mothers who each look after about nine children, and 20 Syrian refugee boys who live in some of the camps. Before the show had even started Hillas and Nick were in the middle of the children getting lunch, teasing and joking with the children playing and having fun. For us these moments before and after the show are nearly as important as the show itself. The show was great, the kids and adults loved it and really belly laughed at so many moments, really letting themselves get carried away and caught up in the moments.
Sunday 12th April:
Hard to believe but here we are. Suitably fortified we joined our driver Isam for another pleasant jaunt through the Amman traffic. As soon as the families of predominantly Somalian refugees arrived we were off – making as much use of our situation to make as comical an entrance as possible. We need not have worried about winning our audience over – they were one of the most enthusiastic; showering us with applause and particularly enjoying Con’s forays in amongst them during his Superman routine. It was a delight to see several of the smaller children subsequently leaving their chairs to come to the front. And once again we had the pleasure of leading our audience in chants of “Up, up, up” in addition to clapping us on to the climax of a number of routines.
After the show we were once more inundated with children, and in this instance their parents, coming to have their pictures taken with us, marvel at finger magic – and want it explained – a lovely parting gift.
As we eventually packed up after our audience’s buses had arrived to take them away into the ongoing deluge, we were once again provided with lunch and of course some great coffee!
Our journey has further opened our eyes to the great warmth of the Jordanian people and every day makes more difficult our impending departure.
Monday 13th April:
The coffee is hot, the tea is sweet, the shows are rocking and the audience’s faces stream with tears of laughter. We are mobbed again, hands are shaken, high fives slapped, hugs from the men and women who are bursting with pride at seeing their children laugh together. ‘What’s your name? What’s your name? What’s your name?’ ‘Thank you very much, thank you very much’ ‘Welcome, welcome, welcome’
And on we roll, again.
Wednesday 15th April: Zarqua
The clowns had an early wake up call due to listening to the first and second movements of the car honking orchestra of Amman composed by Kia, Hyundai and Toyota.
We arrived to the performance venue to find our most challenging space of the tour to date. Our last show and our most challenging! But it was also beautiful, as the organisers, due to the sandstorm, had hastily arranged the erection of a large local tent. It had a carpeted floor, so it felt like we got to perform in a Bedouin tent for our last show! It was tiny, had lots of audience crammed in and was really low ceilinged. But it proved no problem to our ability to adapt and with a few tweaks, the show went off as scheduled. It was my favorite show to date, our two weeks and 16 shows-worth of experience coming to the fore. As we went out to perform, the last strains of the call to prayer was ringing out from the local mosque. This sound rapidly became the sound of giggles from the audience, then uncontrolled laughter. This sound, mingled with our joy and pleasure of playing for this audience created a series of special moments that this lucky clown will never forget.
Afterwards, we did a workshop for 25 children and adults and the embarrassment and bravery of a giggling group of Syrian teenage refugee girls was wonderful. Then a hasty pack, a quick shower and off to the airport to return home, each of us back to our lives, but all of us touched and forever blessed by the magic of this last two weeks together.
Thursday 16th April:
Well that’s it, tour over, just waiting in the airport in Amman for our flight. We have had an amazing tour, met and performed for some fantastic people. We can hardly believe that two weeks have passed and that sixteen shows have been performed, four workshops taught and new contacts made.
We have been made to feel really, really welcome everywhere that we have gone. Lots of people have stopped these five strange looking people in matching green hoodies, to share their stories, find out what we are up to, thank us for the work that we do, ask where we are from and have some fun with us.
We will never forget the children that we performed for, who shook our hands, laughed with and at us, overcame their fears, stared in astonishment at the magic tricks and laughed from their bellies. We hope that we have made them smile and that they will remember the mad Irish clowns.
Just a few thank you’s, Margot and Teresa, for your support and sharing our news and spreading the laughter. Isam our driver, who got us everywhere in one place. To our partners in Jordan for helping us organise everything and their kind hospitality and friendship. To our families and loved ones for letting us come. The Board for their support, good wishes and letting us come. To the other leaders for their invaluable advice and support and tips. Colm for coming to Belfast, for directing an amazing show, support, Skype calls, unlimited knowledge and advice and for having the faith and belief in all of us. Lastly to four crazy amaze balls clowns, who pulled together, supported each other, looked after each other, laughed a lot together, and kept each other sane, performed their asses off, professional no matter what scenario or venue was thrown at them. It has been quite a journey and a pleasure to have each and all of you on it. Shukrun Bookara
So long and thanks for all the Hummus.
Without partners, both local and international, Clowns Without Borders Ireland could not have undertaken this project.
Our partners/supporters in Ireland:
Morton Community Centre Belfast
Stacy Teague (costumes)
Paul Taylor (Bucky) and support from Dave Powel, Clare Hickey and Nat Crieghton, the Creativity HUB.
Thanks to Paul Quate for helping find rehearsal space. c
To Morton Community Centre, Lagan Village Community Centre, Donegal Pass Community Centre and LORAG for letting us rehearse and meet in their spaces.
International Relief and Development (IRD)
SANA Parent Support Group
See photos of the Jordan project here
See Kim’s interview with the Anglo-Celt here