Clowns Without Borders Ireland (Cork Branch) in Kosovo
18th November – 2nd December 2014
18 performances, 2,700 mostly children through the performances
and 600 children and youths through the workshops.
This tour was a new departure for Clowns Without Borders (CWB) Ireland as it was the first tour largely organised by the new Cork branch and with all four participating clowns being based in the same locality, being…. Cork….. although there was considerable assistance from outside ‘the real capital’ – initial contact and background string pulling by Colm O’Grady, CWB Director, show devising and directing by Jonathan Gunning, CWB Co-founder, and the nitty gritty logistics by Margot Doherty, CWB administrator.
Our whole schedule of shows in Kosovo, how we were to get to them all and where we were to live were all organised by our Kosovo partners Sports Sans Frontiers (SSF) now called Play International. They did an amazing job.
This was a tour of firsts – first tour for professional artists Cian Kinsella, Michaela Heyer and Sara Cwojdzinski, and first leading role for Arran Towers (CWB Ireland project veteran!). First CWB Ireland show directed by Jonathan Gunning and first time our Kosovo partners SSF programmed a clown tour, what could go wrong…….? As it turns out very little! Every show is performed, workshops are a great success and lots of requests for the clowns to return very soon. As well as invites to tour Serbia! Maybe next time!
All the local organizations with whom we partnered have been amazed by the level of commitment of the artists and are very excited at the idea to be included in the next tours. (Report from SSF)
The clowns arrived into Pristina, the capital city, late on a wet evening on the 18th of November. We were welcomed by, our soon to be best friend, Bajran – expert fixer, linguist, driver, photographer and finder of cheap food! His first job was to safely negociate the flooded roads from the airport into the city. We passed a number of minor accidents including one with an armoured vehicle! Army vehicles would be a regular sight as we criss-crossed the country over the next two weeks. UN peacekeepers from many nations have been present in Kosovo since the conflict in 1998/99. Clowns have been visiting the region since then also. So we are treading a well worn path forged by clowns from Spain, France and others. That said we could be sure that a majority of our audiences will have seen little or no live performance and never anything like us!
So as a flavour of the tour here is a ‘day in the life’ of our two weeks. We hope it gives an insight into the work.
Kosovo meets the clowns.
I wouldn’t say we were nervous on our first day of shows. But we didn’t know what was around the next corner and were anxious to get a show under our belts. Into the mountains we went, this was far away from the city; tractors, fire wood and cabbages, always cabbages and huge ones!
We arrived at our mountain village, it felt quiet and remote on a damp cold morning, everything seemed steep. When we parked the car it was on an angle. In front of us was a huge public building with broken windows and a caving-in roof. This was not the school. The school was behind what was probably the old school. The new school wasn’t so new, in fact it was an old three story concrete mass. We were greeted by the caretaker who was very glad to see us or maybe has a happy disposition. He brought us into the school, wide tiled corridors with thirty pairs of little shoes outside each classroom.
Our show was in a kind of hall/landing, class after of class of wide eyed children were led out. From the moment they saw us we had their undivided attention. Not that we had any way of telling, but this was a mixed school of Albanian, Roma and Croatian children. It was lovely to have a first show like this. Our show is lots of fun. There are definite high moments and for something made in fiveish days is good. With such an enthusiastic audience you feel like you are doing the greatest show on earth and in some ways you are.
After the show we played with some of the children. Teachers and children wanted pictures, hand shakes, hugs and chats in our very poor Albanian and their better English. Some of the teachers had perfect English.
We headed to our second show of the tour feeling pretty happy with how the first show had gone but had no real idea of where we were going next.
Back down from the mountains our next show wasn’t in a school but in an arts centre. The arts centre is a huge building that had seen better days, there was a good musty scent in the air and it didn’t seem like it got a whole lot of use. We had had to rush because our show was moved from 4pm – 3pm. As far as we could understand it had been moved because the local T.V were coming. Sometimes its simpler to just go along with the rush rather than understand it.
The arts centre didn’t seem to know we were coming and although the theatre space had lights and a sound system no one could turn anything on. So we used our own sound system and didn’t have lights, well a couple, but one main light and that was a fluorescent light in the middle of the stage. The lighting really wasn’t ideal, on 60% of the stage you were in perfect silhouette. While we tried to figure out how to alter our movements during the show and quickly get ready for the 3pm start people started to arrive.
By 3pm (starting) there were about 30 children, in a 350 seater theatre. One of the hopes of the tour is to perform shows that are an opportunity for the segregated ethnicities to mix. At this show we were expecting Albanians mostly and a Serbian school to turn up. But it was hard to know if they knew the show was on. More children were arriving but we heard the Serb school would be late. We would wait. While waiting I wandered around this huge building and walked into a conference room that had the familiar ‘no smoking’ sign and also a ‘no hand guns’ sign, that was a new one for me!
Eventually 180 children turned up, minus the Serb school we were hoping for – and the T.V. never turned up.
Our show was a bit all over the place, the lighting didn’t help but it’s only ‘all over the place’ for us. The children and the adults were mad for the show. More pictures and playing with the kids. They were happy and so we forgot about all the confusion before the show and saw the effect of it. They screamed at every acrobatic move, good screams, lots of smiles and our first day of shows under our belt. Now we knew the lay of the land, kind of…..
With this number of children reached on this project the total number of children reached by CWB Ireland since its inception in 2007 is 76,800 children through 232 performances and 53 workshops in 11 different countries.
CWB Ireland is very grateful for all those who donated to the cost of this project in Kosovo through the Cork fundraisers and other donations which were received during the course of the year.