The past few weeks have been intensely challenging for whole swaths of the population. Who knew that ‘lockdown blues’ would have been a thing back in 2019? Social media has been awash with different activities to keep yourself and any children trapped at home occupied whilst on furlough… who knew what that word meant before Covid-19 entered our lives?
As someone who was fortunate enough to be furloughed it fell upon me to ensure all meals, kids school work, cleaning and washing was done as Sarah beavered away in the corner of the house, still working hard for Highly Sprung.
One of the projects Sarah was working on was ‘Amplify’ with Core Education. Many of you will remember us posting details of our different projects with Core Education’s Echoe Eternal as we delivered workshops, residencies and performances in schools;
- RISE, which looked at the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, using the testimony of survivor Eric Murangwa MBE.
- HORIZONS, an exhibition and performance, directed and dramaturged by Sarah (Highly Sprung) for Holocaust memorial day in January 2020.
- ECHO ETERNAL, an educational project currently being delivered in many schools across the region.
ECHO ETERNAL gifts a holocaust survivor’s testimony to a school. It also links different types of artists with schools to help the young people make sense of the testimony, understand the atrocities of the Holocaust and to form an artistic response to those events.
As with many activities, projects and events, Lockdown completely put a stop to Core Education’s program, including Emily and I travelling to Rwanda to learn more of the 1994 Genocide and the subsequent healing that the country has undergone.
However as with most of the world, Core Education and Highly Sprung have turned to the internet and the possibility of remote learning.
AMPLIFY is a new project, utilizing the powerful testimony of Holocaust survivors Mady Gerrard and Maurice Blik; it asks the young participants to listen to the words spoken by the survivors of Bergen Belsen and try to identify elements of courage and kindness within what can only be considered the most atrocious of conditions. The four-week program that was created by Highly Sprung then asks the young adults taking part, to think about how they can show Kindness and Courage in their everyday life. How they as young people can influence the world around them; to inspire change and reject hate.
We, at Highly Sprung, believe it is vital that we enable our young people to be vocal and speak about the issues that concern them. For them, as our younger members of society, to be the catalyst for change and not sleepwalk into the footsteps of previous generations. We strongly believe that if it were to happen, we, as a society, will continue to make the same mistakes of the past; continuing to build walls and destroy bridges within our communities.
Last year’s performance of SEEN BUT NEVER HEARD by the Sprungsters was a perfect example of our young people vocalizing some of the issues they felt compelled to talk about. The migrant crisis; children, unable to swim, placed on small, over populated dingys to cross sea and ocean. The response of our twenty plus teenagers aged between 13 and 19 wasn’t just to make ‘a show’ but to also raise over £2000 for the Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre’s destitution fund by sleeping rough in Coventry during the middle of a very cold winter and half starving themselves by living off the rations of a refugee camp inhabitant. An experience that had an incredible impact them as they realized their potential and discovered their own voice.
It seems ridiculous to think that during a world pandemic, we, as humans, can’t all find room in our hearts for tolerance, never mind kindness. Many underrate the act of kindness, but it is powerful; a smile to a neighbour, a supportive hand on a student’s shoulder telling them that ‘they’ve got this’, even holding the door open for someone. These small, effortless gestures echo. They make the person receiving them think, makes them realise that they are not an island, that they are noticed and that they matter and in an ever increasing self-isolating world these moments of kindness are imperative. Don’t get me wrong, it takes an awful amount of courage to smile sometimes, the bravery to ask the cashier how their day has been can be immense, but if you are responsible for starting a smile, you’re already winning and we as a community win.
Whilst teaching as part of Core Education’s program I found myself at a school I had never taught at before (a rare occurrence these days!). I had just finished a whole mornings activity where students had been working really hard, as had I, when a student approached me;
- “Mark, why do you smile all the time man?”
… a brilliant question to which I could only think of one reply;
“How does it make you feel when I smile?”
- “I dunno, happy? Like we’re having a good time?”
“..and how does that feel?”
- “It feels good.”
“So that’s why I smile, cos it makes you feel happy and good.”
- “Really? Cool!”
That’s it, it sounds completely insignificant to many, I get that, but in the darkest of times even a match burns brightly.
So, go and spread the happy disease, show kindness to someone today and drive out hate, there is no place for hate in this world.