Reena Jaisiah ran the Belgrade’s theatre’s first ever Asian Youth theatre now names The Dark Youth! It was important for the Belgrade Theatre’s Community and Education to collaborate with stakeholders in the Asian community to celebrate the diverse voices of the Asian communities that Coventry gives host to…because were not all the same! In this mix we had young people from various backgrounds, such as Tamil, Mongolian, Afghani, Gujarati, Punjabi, Slovakian, Caribbean, African, Mixed races like French and Indian etc.
This project began in January and was led by myself and Leon Philips to young people across Coventry. Sessions were always fun packed and we explored theatre making techniques such as movement, voice and improvisation and then did what I do best at…stirring up a reaction and creating dialogue. I put forward stereotypical statements about the Asian community and the group discussed and explored these and devised a number sketches from them which became ‘Fresh Tales’-An exciting cocktail of sketches that presented and then challenged stereotypes and myths attached to Asian communities. The piece was also a chance to celebrate not only the young people’s identity but honour well known and illustrious Asian role models such as Dr Ambedkar, Zain Malik from 1D, Jackie Chan, Goddess Lakshmi etc.
The group whom consisted of young people from 5 schools were fantastic and they took away a valuable lesson in theatre making and knowledge and experience about their own identity and others around them. Well done guys we are so proud of you! See you for next phases devising for Positive Images Festival and Belgrade’s outdoor Theatre in July!!!!
After the triumph success of Women on Top 2012, this project could not be left to rest. We kick started summer 2013 with Women on Canvas, led by Jen Bakewell. This project used inner-self-portraits created Kairo’s services users (marginalised women) to depict their inner beauty. These canvases were used as inspiration to devise drama sketches and monologues celebrating the voices of women. WOT has been a wonderful journey of discovery, sharing and sisterhood. Issues that were raised in the prices performed were organically sprung from workshops that incorporated the portraits as a talking point and then the ideas just poured out.
Women on Top Monologues was performed at Ego Arts, Coventry on Sunday 22nd September to a full house with an exhibition of Women on Canvas!
I cannot express how proud I am of these ladies. It takes so much courage not only to perform but to perform about something you are passionate about or something you are afraid to speak out about. Some of the issues raised in this performance were about Domestic violence, Puberty, Pros and Cons of Sex work, Sexual abuse, Grandma –Granddaughter relationship, Confusion, Life before the NHS, Bra’s and we women can just carry on and on…
We are also joined by Women’s Drama Group, Poplar a project led by Rena Dipti Annobil who returned to the stage after a maternal break. WOT 2012 inspired her to re-create this spirit in East London. Thank you for your contribution.
Here are a few reviews:
‘’Great to hear real women’s stories and feminist voice live-and-kicking on stage.’’ Justine Themen – The Belgrade Theatre
‘’I would just like to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the production. I was ‘blown away’ by the standard of acting. The sensitive topics evoked in me some harsh realities of what it is like to be a woman, and worse still, what it was like years ago. Well done to you all. Looking forward to the next performance’’. Elaine O’ Neil
‘’This was the very first time I went to theatre. All I can say the show was amazing. It really touched my heart and has made me think in a different was. Everyone was amazing!” Imran Khan
Thousands of Cyclists took part in the Sky Ride festival in Leicester. The cast of cyclists were expected to ride miles and miles into the city in a circuit which included through the heart of Leicester ‘s Curve theatre.
The festival included theatre performance that showed the; Evolution of Cycling. This is where Caste Away Arts youth came into the scene and relived the flower power age. Super stars actors Mario, Vaisshalay, Rita and Leshanth who got a blast from the past and performed solid as ‘hippy’
cool dude characters from the past for hours as the cyclists rode bye. They soon got into character chanting ‘Vegetarians live longer’ and ‘Give peace a chance’! We sang, danced and encouraged all those sky riders. Lovely day and excellent acting and improvisation skills from our young people who continue to represent Caste Away Arts to the fullest! Thanks dudes. Peace Reena Jaisiah
The young Caste Away Arts community are always up for an experience and Sunday 11th of August was defiantly one to remember.
We offered to volunteer at a charity event for Vista; an organisation that supports people with visual impairments and those who are losing their sight. This Jazz Garden party event was held at Belviour Lodge which is the residence of the Dowager Duchess of Rutland! Seeing it was in Leicestershire we thought we’d have a pop at it and give back to the community…it’s not too far! Well the ride there was nothing short of a drama which is the least to expect when you’re Caste Away Arts. So I had Mario, Anupriya, Leshanth and Vaisshaly in the car and where is this place. We were been directed at all these windy country rounds and then an hour and 15 min into the journey I took at look at my petrol gage and it was almost empty. Arrgggh! What a plava trying to find a petrol station but we did in the end only to have the Sat Nav conk our on us. Glad these guys saw the real funny side to my mellow drama. But nonetheless we made it though we were tired, cold and a little hungry. The lodge was one of the most beautiful scenic places we had ever seen, dressed in black and white and ready to serve along with the other volunteers organised by a friend in the arts Anand Bhatt.
All praise to the young people who not only worked relentlessly as a team but as one family like they had been doing this all their lives. They took real pride in serving, cleaning and washing up. We took charge of serving cream tea and the barbecue as well as guide guest around the gardens. Their social skills and interaction between visitors was amazing. Wonderful day indeed and very proud of the young people who represent caste away arts with this selfless service and they truly took away not only valuable experience but life’s skills. The previous week to this all these young people had completed their CRP training which really surprised the older volunteers who probably would not have known what to do in a crisis. Caste Away Arts youth as always left and lasting impression and can’t wait to find out how much money was raised for Vista. We will be back next year and hopefully take a mini bus of young people.
It was high time that Caste Away Arts put down some artistic roots in the big smoke. What better way to do it than to launch Women On Top London! We will be beginning a 6 week course of women only drama classes in April. These will take place in Tower Hamlets with the aim of bring together women from different faiths and walksof life. We are being backed by the funding body Near Neighbours.
After our successful WOT Monologues in Coventry last March, we are sure that WOT London will be equally fabulous.
More details to folllow soon…..
On Saturday 15th 2012 at the Coventry’s Railway club, Caste Away Arts’ Release UK group performed another epic sketch for a charity function in order to help raise money for building school in Punjab.
This piece called ‘Children are what they live’ challenged the view that education is all about grades, competition and being a book worm but actually about getting out and experiencing the world and being a citizen of the world and applying the knowledge that you know. I guess everyone was expecting a cheesy performance about how good it is to study … a sentiment we echo but Caste Away Arts always takes it one step further as we embraces a holistic approach to education.
The short comedy was about a dictator teacher who treats his students badly and runs off leaving his students when it starts to thunder. Mrs Pupinder a supply teacher comes to the rescue and is shocked at the austere conditions that the kids study in so she decides to adds a bit of fun (the forbidden F word). The kids try and rebel against the teacher but give her a chance when she orders them to step outside into the real world. When they return the truth hurts such as there is such thing as readymade roti’s and you could have cheated all this time instead of ensure years of nagging. There is also such thing as rain…remember these kids are very sheltered and for one the experience was just too much.
A great reception and the sketch really livened up the place. A huge well done to Anypriya’s gripping performance as the super supply teacher. Vishahan stole the audiences attention with his dictator like teaching character who has a long name that I cannot spell. ‘Vaishallay your character was cool and singing brilliant because I couldn’t contain my laughter- How professional of me! Leshanth didn’t have to say much, your stage presence sure won some hearts. Plus if at least we found a way to get that hiden voice out (Getting Vishahan to tickle you) and a massive well don’t to the fab Villashine who returned to Release UK to help us. Thanks you so much guys and I just want to say how wonderful it was to perform with you and actually I have learned so much from you Fam!
On 28 July 2012, Imagineer Productions 21st Century fronted a massive carnival called Godiva Awakes. This spectacular performance involved dancers, actors, aerialists, musicians and pyrotechnicians and US!
Caste Away Arts working with the Belgrade theatres team represented freedom and peace – Sunita, Anupriya, Kavin, Jem, Ann, Vaishalay, Vishahan, Vithyan and me Reena.Godiva Awakes is about Artists taking the lead, a series of 12 public art commissions across the UK to celebrate the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, funded by Arts Council England.
This event was nothing short of wonderful. The colour, the costumes, the diversity and yes Vishahan’s mad antics are always amusing. Some of our reluctant dancers (Anupriya) had a few reservations about dance but truly conquered her fears and home on a high dancing all the way. The beauty of this event was the reception from the people of Coventry. We were one community united and that’s important. This event has surely inspired us and left a lasting impression myself and our young people. Watch this pace were out to do more. Reena J
Release UK finally got their first shot at the stage on the 14th July at Civic Hall in Bedworth town centre with the Tamil Welfare Association whom hosts their annual celebrations and put on a variety show of Tamil Arts and literature. This lasts pretty much all day till the early hours of the morning but hey it’s all fantastic stuff!
Release UK performed their devised drama called ‘Breaking the Silence’ inspired by the groups own writing that tackled injustice to communities that suffer human rights abuses. The sketch was a black comedy which was daring for the first time but here there apart of Caste Away Arts so what else would you expect. There was a song, sound scapes, mini sketches and mime. A real winner with the audience whom were drawn in from beginning to end despite the group only having 5 hours to devise the piece in a space of 6 weeks they nailed it beautifully. They had no choice really as I have been threatened to throw them in the wheelie bin since day one.
It was a real honour to receive my golden robe by the Tamil welfare Association but the real honour has been working with the young people. A Huge shoat out to Anupriya – you were amazing and have held this performance together! Umai- you were excellent and loved the quick costume change. Kavin- you have a big mouth and it helped with tonight’s show well done. Vaishaly you are exceptionally talented and don’t know how you do show after show, your amazing. Chowmia your story was the pinnacle to this show thank you for speaking out you are so brave. Nothiga- I know you were ill but you did great anyway you trooper. Abilan- a huge well done and great voice and improvisation tonight. Melanie you were super star and had great projection. Thavin despite chasing you up 100 times you were really good. Rensil- great work, remember me please…. Anna thank you for joining in good work, Mary great stuff once again, Leshanth-excellent effort as always to the power of 59! Vishahan- I could have killed you tonight as you got on my nerves but the stage brings out the best in you so well done. Nithisa- your poems were the inspiration, thanks. Niveetha -well done you have worked so hard and Jem- you killed it tonight! You’re a very dedicated member. And an EXTRA thanks to Jese who more or less did my job but better. This show would not have been a success without your support. Thank you and much love…zzzzzzz
Young members of Caste Away Arts’ Release UK Programme have been taking part in accelerated learning that this involves trips and experiences that promote social skills and learning to network. Leshanth (12), Gem (13) and Vaishali (13) attended a conference for the first time did the initial meet and greet which was praised by members of BOPA (British Organisation for people of Asian Origin). This Coventry held conference covered the promotion of community cohesion, solidarity and integrations with a celebration of the achievements made by people of oh Asian origin. One of those achievers is Apache Indian a childhood here of mine hero-Apache Indian who stormed into the charts during the early 90’s and had a huge success with his Bhangramuffin style and singing in patosis and bits of Punjabi. What we appreciate about Apache is his ability to create catchy tunes while making social criticism- something that resonates with the Caste Away Arts ethos e.g – ‘Arranged Marriages’ and ‘The caste system’ are some of few song that Apache has made an enormous patch on. Well done to his recent award for It was a pleasure for me and our young members to meet him. Chak de!
Saturday June 30th brought caste away arts and Ekatva together at the end of their amazing journey after their sell-out UK tour. A special workshop took place at Sai community school, in London with local students led by Reena and Rena; and special appearances by the youth of our programme Release UK. Anupriya, Vaishalli, Jese and Leshanth whom helped us lead the workshop.
The objective of the workshop was to build a group bond but explore identity and getting to know each other. It was fun packed and lively as always. We split the whole group into the two sub groups and they were given word stimulus that had to be recreated physically as a whole group. At first both groups devised something very similar but then as a group jelled their competitive streak kicked in and they created their version of freedom, a waterfall and the Olympics. Really excellent outcome and we just let them flourish with creativity without us intervening and that’s always works. We had the opportunity to work in pairs and get to know each other and present whet we learned about each another which was very insightful and interesting to see how similar we all are despite our social and geographical circumstances. There were some language barriers but a bridge of unity and friendship was built and communication isn’t just about words. We then made a montage of out hand prints and had a mess around with the paint and created a piece of art that will be cherished.
The local young people stayed to have a chat with the youth from Ekatva and observing over lunch a kinship had already developed. Vicky called his new friend ‘Bhai’ and beckoned him over to sit with him. There was an exchange of hugs and the last touch to this workshop was the presentation of handmade gifts that Release UK had made after watching the show in Birmingham. Anupriya kindly gave and tied each friendship bracelet (that she lovingly made) on the young people from Ekatva and Leshanth presented everyone with his origami birds inspired by the birds in their production. This was a real talking point and no body went home empty and everyone took away something positive.
Leshanth from Caste Away Arts Release UK group says ‘’ the origami is a token of friendship and I will never forget this experience and how much I’ve learned from Ekatva. ”
Vaishalli sacrificed a Bharatanatyam performance just to see her new friends again and said it was well worth it.
Reena Jaisiah says “Giving does not have to be a commodity but a smile, a bit of warmth, exchange of handmade gifts rather that flashing your cash as we do in our materialistic society. Though we are all different in many ways, but strip us from our ego, individuality, culture fame and fortune and the remainder of all this difference is essentially the same. I have learned from this whole project is that we do not ever feel the need to feel sorry for people because we may think they are poor. We were the poor ones that have now become enriched with this experience. “ Just want to say a HUGE Thank you to our good friends who have left us with a lasting impression of inspiration. Vicky, Payal, Gaurang, Bharti, Krishana, Vishal, Sanjay, Devram, Niktia, Chandani, Dharmaji, Priyanka, Bhavnik, Nitesh, Dipmala and Asha. See you again ONE day.
Young people from Coventry Youth service, Caste Away Arts’ Release UK, Members of BOPA got the rare opportunity to experience Ekatva at Leicester Peepul Centre and the Drum Theatre in Birmingham.
The production by the young protégées of India conveyed the message One-ness with the universal language of dance-drama. There were no fancy sets and backdrops just pure talent and professionalism from the amazing performers. They used physical theatre to perfection and their choreography was flawless! Inspired by Gandhi and Martin Luther king’s teachings of equality and snippets of inspiring people that had one thought that one thought made a change in the word. We were in total awe of the message and fell in love with each and every performer who kindly gave us garlands on arrival and small broaches that were made by their mothers that they had left in India to be with us. Meeting them at the end was a real privilege. They feel like our extended family. Krishana’s cute laugh, Asha’s sincere hug, Sanjay’s exchange of teaching us Gurarai for Tamil and Vicky’s not so inncoent cheeky smile.
At the end of the show the audience and cast connecting with each other by holding hands, seemed a little weird because we have become desensitised and accustomed to putting up barriers that it all felt a little unreal. But it was touching experience. The one thing I would change is for the young people themselves to have had an input into the creative process as opposed to been taught it. Would have added so much to the experience if they had an input into the writing and ideas but they are all equipped for next time. Thank you a million x
Internationals Women’s week 2012 went out with a BANG. With a candid, moving and heart filled performance from WOMEN on Top – WOT Monologues!-Inspired by the eminent Vagina Monologues. WOT Monologues is a collection of women’s voices in Community Theatre. Voices united with 11 women of diverse backgrounds and diverse bra sizes converged in a journey of self-discovery, uncovering hidden talents, building confidence and most importantly reviving SISTERHOOD in the 21st century. The show was performed on 8th March at Warwick University to a packed and lively audience who heard our voices LOUD and CLEAR. The Monologues performed were written by the women involved and for some this was their first brush with stage. It does indeed take real ‘ovaries’ as opposed to ‘ball’s to do this, so a huge well done to WOT. You had to be there! I felt these women deserved recognition for their commitment, enthusiasm and support so I announced that they had been awarded a Women’s Achievement Award as individuals by Coventry Women’s Forum. What a fabulous way to end the night! “One of the aims of this project was to elicit truthful narratives from the women through storytelling and improvisation workshops. The thought of getting unadulterated narratives into the form of theatre I thought was going to be a massive challenge but this happened organically, there was little need for direction because you can never superpose the real life voices of women! Eventually we spill! A wonderful journeys that was truly cathartic” Reena Jaisiah Reena Jaisiah
Get ready for WOT Monologues! – a creative project which brings together women from diverse background and celebrates their unique voices. As with previous Women On Top projects it’s a collaboration between Caste Away Arts and Kairos WWT and it is our offerring for International Womens Week 2012.
As Women On Top launched last year for International Womens Week 2011, this project is a celebration to mark our progress.
You can come and see WOT Monologues on 8th March 2012 at Warwick University. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for ticket information.
Just as you thought Women on TOP was over for another year… TAKE THREE has already began with a BANG!. Hillz FM are collaborating with us which equals –Women on TOP of the Hillz! This pioneering project will take the art form of a radio play that will be broadcast over the second week in November which is indeed Peace Week!
Life in Peaces explores the theme of Peace and War through the experiences of Women. Women on Top will have the opportunity to work with Dj’s Kate Hills and Mandy Devit and learn about the world of radio and sound engineering in Radio Plays. We are going places and on top of the Hillz the view doesn’t get any better.
Nominated by former Head Teacher Andy Summers in the arts and Culture Category
‘’Reena is an inspiration to many young people across the cultural and artistic world contributing at a West midland, a national and an international level with her infectious enthusiasm and constant work for her Arts initiative –Caste Away Arts. As its name implies, this theatrically based organisation has focussed on the global issues raised by Caste Discrimination and Reena has carried her positive international perspective through performance art and activity to diverse groups within the West Midlands and to challenged communities in South-east Asia. A few words here cannot do justice to the value of her work or the key reasons why she would be a worthy torch bearer, embodying the true Olympic spirit and inspiring so many young people across the world. Reena also works with vulnerable women. Her contribution to the 2012 vision would enhance the whole’’
Reena Jaisiah says:
”Carrying the Olymoic torch for Britain would be a honour and set a very good example for the young people and who knows I might be able to motivate more people to be involved in sports. I am touched not only by Andy’s nominations but others too. I had the privilege to work with Andy when he managed a PRU and I know from experience how engaging sports are and how they can impact the lives of young people in a very constructive and positive way. Thank you so much. So hope I get through but would really have to start working hard to build up my stamina”
The Challenge (www.the-challenge.org) are a registered charity that work with young people- 15-16 year olds offering them opportunities to give back to communities like Release UK. A few months ago I met the wonderful buzzing team of young people from the challenge who faced with the ultimate challenge. To take on Release UK’s our creative enrichment learners. I know how difficult it has been getting Release UK out of their comfort zones. It’s taken me almost a year to get a noise about of them. The young people at The Challenge planned a session built around this. Dance was what they chose in order to build this bridge. They planned a session of various popular western music to get Release to release their inhibitions. Did this work? YES IT DID. The session was an absolute success even the Mums joined in- how embarrassing! No wonder Karthik wanted run away! Nindan busted some groovey, Umai nailed it and Leshanth broke a world record of not mentioning science once! Release wants you back real soon. We did some musical statues and chairs (Yeah The GIRLS won) had a good prance around to the Macarena and good old YMCA! Loved it! Thank you so much to those who lead this session. You have inspired us so much and hope we have taught you a few moves or two.
We just wanted to share with you about a discussion on Asian Network yesterday. Bhangra artist Jazzy B performed at London Mela on sunday, wearing a jacket that had this embroidered on the back – ‘Guns and Guts are Made for Jatts’. Asian Network were asking if it was right of him to wear this at the family event. Jazzy B was on the show defending himself. He says he is Sikh and doesn’t believe in caste but is proud to be jatt. (Confused??!) There were obviously people who totally opposed this but an alarming number of people phoning in to support him and the slogan on his jacket! It is sad to see a talented artist like jazzy B polluting the Sikh Religion with caste. Sikhism is widely known for promoting peace and harmony which was demonstrated so valiantly by Sikhs during the riots. What we also find very disturbing that his jacket slogan is promoting guns! Bad move when so many of our youth look up to him as a role model
Hey you’re tuning back into the world of Release UK. It’s been a long time but the Release UK is still at it! Even in the summer holidays! Three members of our cohort, Leshanth, Nivetha and Nithisa got the opportunity to visit Hillz FM radio! They were super on air and said such inspiring things about their club Release UK. A special thanks for all the nice worlds they said about me leading the group. It had me and DJ Kate Hills on the brink of tears.
They were so fab good on air that Kate Hills has invited them for another slot to give them a real insight into the radio world. Coventry DJ Asha Banton has also been mentoring this group and will shortly be delivering one-to-one be DJ sessions and inviting the best back onto his show with some air time! Rock n’ Roll!
A friend from Coventry, Vijay Begraj, and his wife Amardeep experienced caste discrimination in the solicitors firm where they both worked. Their case has now gone to Tribunal and has been picked up by media across the world. Please click the link to read more information on this case.