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By Norman Warwick

Live performances would have been the natural culmination of the second edition of the Festival de Teatro Escolar de Lanzarote, an initiative promoted by the area of Culture of the Cabildo of Lanzarote and the company Cuerpo Teatro, who have agreed on this  solution to the closure of scenic spaces This meant teachers and students were able to celebrate the closing ceremony via a digital alternative.

The closing ceremony, including performances, was screened live on-line on Monday, May 25th and included Primary, ESO and Baccalaureate schools have participated from different parts of the island

Faced with the impossibility of performing theatrical performances, students and teachers have produced from home videos in which they explain the arguments and stories they had developed, interpret fragments of the work, describe the process of creative that they have followed or display the homemade sets they have created. And all this can be enjoyed from this Monday, May 25, and until next June 25, on the website of the Festival de Teatro Escolar de Lanzarote.

The videos include  220 people, among them both teachers and students, belonging to the 10 schools that this year were enrolled in this 2nd edition of the Festival, among which are students of unitary schools, 1st, 3rd and 6th in Primary, 1st, 2nd and 4th esote and 1st Baccalaureate.

The School Theatre Festival of Lanzarote is offered to all educational institutions of the island, at the beginning of the academic year, through Mesa de Vice-Directors of Primary and the Bureau of Vice Principals of Secondary who co-ordinates the area of Education of the Cabildo of Lanzarote.

The peculiarity of this situation, and the fact that teachers and students were locked in the house, saw their families also become involved in the elaboration of the videos, and that support has been greatly appreciated and valued by Culture Lanzarote and by Cuerpo Teatro.

“Students and their tutors have adapted to the situation. They have not been able to make the plays that all of them had planned, but they have made a titanic effort and have given their best to offer us another product in return. They should be proud,” said Lanzarote’s Cabildo Culture Advisor Alberto Aguiar.

For his part, Siscu Ruz, director of Teatro Corps and coordinator of the Festival, has also had words of praise for the more than 200 people involved in the project. “From home, everyone has put the best effort into continuing to work and offer, even in a different, different format, a product that was entertaining and of interest,” said Ruz. “In addition, the fact that it necessarily took place inside the houses has caused the families to join the creative process, so the number of people involved has been much higher than the 220 initially planned between teachers and students,” added the Festival coordinator.

The videos that can be viewed on the website of the Festival de Teatro Escolar de Lanzarote from Monday 25 correspond to the assembly processes of 

The screenings represent a cultural, artistic and educational meeting, of a non-competitive nature, where students from all schools are for several days protagonists, references and agitators of the culture and performing arts on the island.

It is, says the combined voice of Cuerpo Teatro and Culture Lanzarote, joint facilitators of the event, ´a festival made by and for schoolchildren, where the theatrical act becomes a cry and a living exhibition of their concerns, fears, illusions, dreams… and in short, a latent action of its reality”,

It was in November 2019 that the theatrical advice course for teachers was held with twenty people from the field of education receiving a comprehensive 20-hour training, including from content of collective creation and more technical aspects such as lighting or scenic space

The course identified the tools needed to make a theatrical montage whilst working with the students through their search for what they will eventually take to be stage. The students worked from spontaneous creation, body expression, moving images and voice to deliver the main objective of the Festival by creating stage montages that reflect their listening to te reality, concerns and motivations, of students and teachers alike.

scholars visit El Salinero Theare, Arrecife

This training was complemented by a visit to the Víctor Fernández Gopar Theater to put into practice as a performance group everything they had learned and they also attended the thearte as an audience to enjoy the show “Arturo y Clementina”, by the company Titiritrán Teatro, which was performed on November 14, 2019 organized by Cultura Lanzarote.

From the end of the course to the day of the premiere, teachers from the ten selected centres receive personal and individualized advice to address any doubts arising during the creative process.

Subsequently, between 10 and 13 February 2020, guided tours were made to the Teatro Víctor Fernández Gopar, on an occasion when the students involved in the Festival could enjoy the exclusivity of the facilities to discover all the ins and outs of a theatrical building: The patio of armchairs, the stage box, the dressing room, the lighting Etc.

Drama students take on the challenge

Everybody concerned in the Festival has met, head on, a series of major obstacles that Cornoavirus and lockdown had inflicted not only upon them but on all the professionals in their field. It is a major credit to all concerned that their studies have not been in vain and that there is now a permanent legacy of all they learned and achieved.

For more information, check out the web for Festival de Teatro Escolar de Lanzarote or at  Cultura Lanzarote.

We have also noticed this week that the organisers of the Hay On Wye Literary Festival 2020 in the UK have created a thank you page on line to recognise their thousands of supporters not only for very kind and deeply moving messages of encouragement, but also for a generous lifeline of financial support.

President Bill Clinton

This means, there is, after all, Hay On Wye Literary Festival this year, though perhaps not as we know it. It will, instead, feature around eighty live events and broadcasts which those who usually populate the tented villages and the big marquees will be able to watch from the comfort of their arm chairs at home. These will be available to all who would like to virtually experience what President Bill Clinton, visiting as an author, once described as ´a Woodstock of the mind.´

According to a recent article by Emma Powell, in The Daily Mail, the vast crowds and huge marquees of previous years may not be synonymous with this years event, which, like so much of life, has been affected by Covid 19. Nevertheless, The Daily Mail correspondent revealed how the festival and its fans are fighting the coronavirus. Forced to abandon its hard earned place of privilege in the real world the Hay On Wye Literature Festival has instead embraced the ´virtual´ world.

Vanessa Redgrave

In this new format the Hay Festival will add to its lone list of star-studded events, and this year will introduce Margaret Attwood, the award winning author, activist and actress Vanessa Redgrave and comedian and popular guerst in previous years, Stepehn Fry. Events from the Festival 2020 are being shown on line until May 31st. This makes it a busy time for Miss Attwood and Miss Redgrave who recently were in attendance with poet laureate Simon Armitage to mark William Wordsworth´s two hundredth and fiftieth anniversary of his birth with a mass reading of his work earlier in the week in an event we previewed on these pages. Also in attendance were actors Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hollander, Jonathan Pryce and Helen McCrory.

Writers of both fiction and non-fiction joined the readers and at the Hay on Wye Festival there are also scheduled readings from authors of both fiction and non-fiction such as Hilary Mantell, Maggie O´Farrell, Philippe Sands and Steve Silberman.

Peter Florence
Hay Director

Festival director Peter Florence, who founded the Hay Festival with his father Norman in 1988, says taking the event online has opened up ‘some extraordinary opportunities’ and the audience was much more diverse.

Mr Florence explains: ‘Instead of watching a main stage production in a theatrical sense you’re actually getting writers talking direct from their desks and armchairs and that makes it feel really intimate… it’s like having a one-to-one with these writers.’

Prince Charles urges support for the arts

Notwithstanding such uplifting stories as those above, however, Prince Charles recently expressed his worries about the long term economic impacts of Covid 19 on the arts in the UK and of his deep personal concern for arts battling for survival in the pandemic.

The heir to the throne movingly described a ‘desperate’ national silence as orchestras and opera houses cease to operate in the lockdown. He fears that many will struggle to start playing again after the crisis is over.

Alan Titchmarsh
receiving Royal recognition

Speaking with presenter Alan Titchmarsh in an interview for Classic FM*, Charles agreed the situation is ‘devastating.’

‘Well yes, this is the desperate thing,´ he said. ‘At the moment, of course, they are completely silent and unable to operate, unable to work, and … from the point of view of their livelihoods and their futures, what on Earth are we going to do – let alone trying to find a way of keeping  these orchestras and other organisations , arts bodies, going?’

The prince said he had been a Royal Opera House patron for 45 years  and has ´loved going there more than anything since I was seven years old’.  He added: ‘They’re in terrible difficulties, of course, because how are they going to be able to restart?’

‘It is a very expensive art form, but it’s crucial because it has such a worldwide impact and our reputation in this country with music… is very high.  So we have to find a way to make sure these marvellous  people and organisations can survive through all this.´

Charles, who is president or patron of a large number of arts bodies including the Royal Ballet, described their contribution to ‘culture and diplomacy’ as ‘utterly vital’.

The prince is concerned not only for the institutions but also for the livelihoods of musicians and other staff. 

the Royal Opera House

The art sector, he stressed, plays a huge role in attracting people to Britain.  He spoke as the National Theatres, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal Opera House admitted they are facing financial collapse and called on the Government for a lifeline.

They have drawn up an urgent appeal to MPs, asking for measures including a major cash injection or loan.

As we reported recently in Sidetracks & Detours, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has already admitted that the pandemic had dealt a ‘knockout blow’ and last week created a cultural renewal task-force to look at crisis measures for the sector.

*A Royal Appointment was broadcast on Classic FM, Monday, 25 May 2020 at 8.00 pm, with Charles presenting a show himself on 26 May 2020, at the same time. You can apply to Classic FM to receive their free newsletters and you can also hear their programmes on line.

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