Creativity, Community and the Arts – seminar

Part of Birmingham City University’s contribution to Sonia Sabri Company’s visit to Abu Dhabi and Dubai was to put together a seminar that would highlight examples of creativity and community in the arts.

I chaired the event which took place at Abu Dhabi Women’s college on 24th February. I was joined on the panel by Amanda Roberts, Arts Development Director at Midlands Arts Centre (MAC), Hannah Henderson, Head of Arts, Middle East, British Council and Sonia Sabri herself.

I’ve put mine and Amanda’s contributions online below. I looked at how digital is supporting community cohesion and used Bournville as an example whilst Amanda highlighted MAC’s many arts projects and their outreach work:

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Abu Dhabi Day 1 – Sunday

Following three fantastic shows to the home audience in Birmingham, the Kathakbox team jetted off to Abu Dhabi for our much anticipated international residency supported by the British Council and ADACH.  Set, lighting, suitcases, passports, travel sweets, and off… Most of the team spent the flight catching up on zzzzs or watching The Social Network (consensus: top movie) while the two-man PR team of Shan and Nathan busied themselves promoting the performances to fellow passengers and air hostesses.  We may well see some fellow travellers later in the week!  At Dubai airport we sang a rousing ‘happy birthday’ to Marcina who joined us after her flight from London.  Coach to Abu Dhabi, reaching our hotel around 4 in the morning, so the whole team are running on jet lag and three hours sleep today.

We kicked off the residency with a press conference and reception at HCT Women’s College, which is a lovely creative campus, with students’ art work decorating each wall.  We met again with friends and partners from ADACH, the British Council and HCT.  Everyone has been extremely supportive and enthusiastic and we have very much appreciated their hard work in putting things together.

Following the press conference, some of the students joined us for a demonstration and talk about Kathakbox and the work that we are doing in UAE.  It’s great to have the opportunity to meet and talk with young people here, begin to get to know them, hear their opinions and inspirations.  Across different cultures, there are differing opinions about arts, and people draw their lines and ‘boxes’ at different points particularly when it comes to performing arts.  Kathakbox is all about communicating across those lines and between those boxes, spreading the word that artistic expression is another form of self expression, a way to make connections with others that go beyond words, borders and cultures.  We’ll be back to meet the same students again for some creative sessions later in the week to carry on the conversation.

Later in the afternoon the whole team tried bravely not to succumb to sleep, as we need to re-set our clocks to Abu Dhabi time.  We indulged in the popular Abu Dhabi pastime of a trip to the mall… and the food court!  Much joking around and excitement for the week ahead.

Hopefully we’ll have photos uploaded soon, at the moment the hotel’s wi-fi isn’t quite co-operating!

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