In 2009 Oldham Theatre Workshop, Oldham Youth Council and Oldham’s Children in Care Council came together to create a performance project called 22nd Century Citizens.
The project was an exploration of the violation of human rights with specific reference to the labour camps of World War II. The young people from these groups felt the project was important as we live in a society where there is clear divides between communities and where cultural intolerance is still leading to violations of Human Rights.
In January 2010 the project involved an 8 day trip to Poland with a visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau where the young people explored the story of the holocaust and learnt about how cultural intolerance lead to horrendous crimes against human beings. It was here talking with Sister Mary the project name changed to Listen to the Earth: It’s enough to keep us awake till the end of time.
Whilst in Poland the group met camp survivors and their descendents; they visited the Jewish Quarter in Krakow; they had privileged access to an exhibition of artwork by camp inmates. Throughout their stay they worked closely alongside a group of young people from Wejherow in Poland and took part in regular workshops to express their feelings in words, music and pictures. On their return a special exhibition of their poems, paintings, thoughts and impressions was shown in a specially created Oldham gallery space.
One of the project aims was to create an experience for the young people that would enable them as young leaders to promote cohesion, tolerance and understanding, to bridge cultural divides and to share and educate others. This is still ongoing, with the project aiming to build leadership capacity within the young participants so that they can stand against bigotry, discrimination and those that would see us divided by race or culture and inspire other young people to do the same. We want young people to be able to draw the lessons from the past to create a better future.
We hope that young people will learn that we are all citizens of the world and as such have a global responsibility to respect human rights, and to promote peace not just in Oldham, the North West or the UK but globally.
The second phase of the project was the creation and delivery of a piece of theatre. Working alongside students from a school in Krakow, XXI LICEUM OGOLNOKSZTALCACE, the group created a sensitive theatre performance using drama, dance and music in both Polish and English language. The piece addressed the issues and messages that arose from the research and site visits as well as personal testimony.
Through using various performing arts and creative techniques, young people will produce a performance, leaving a permanent display of their work at the Centre of Dialogue and Prayer in Oswieciem, in Poland. To see the performance for yourself we also filmed it and can be seen below.