Earlier in the year I was selected to be part of Assitej’s Next Generation Programme for their Artistic Gathering in Beijing. I entered the programme with so much excitement and anticipation. The team of people who I met were quite extraordinary and I feel connected to artists around the world. However, the programme itself over worked us all and was not rewarding. It felt sad to know that many aspects of the programme were fuelled by exploitation. As one example, our translators worked over 12 hour days and were volunteers.
I was asked to give this speech late on Thursday night for the Friday morning. I wrote it extremely late and delivered it very nervously in the morning. I wanted to read it again and publish the speech here so that I can remind myself of the promises I made. I will strive to adhere to them and fulfil them whenever and where ever I can.
Hello, thank you for giving me this time to speak. Thank you very much to Assitej China for hosting us. And by ASSITEJ CHINA, I want to make sure that this thank you extends to everyone throughout the festival.
Many many people have worked tirelessly this week to support us in our journey. Rainbow and Albert, our translators, our guides, our friends have been with us every step of the way, looking after us. You are the beating heart of this group and without you this encounter would not have been at all possible.
The camera crews who have documented us so closely. Every tiniest detail has been captured. They have followed us, working incredibly hard to ensure this experience can be remembered for a long time to come. The volunteers, bus drivers, performers, stage crew, workshop leaders and theatre staff.
Mao Ernan, Ken Jiro, Yin Xiaodong the President of Asstiej China, the entire Assitej EC and everyone who put this programme together. You served us with good hearts and good intentions. And while at points many of us struggled and at points suffered, we know the intention was heartfelt and we ask that you, like us will learn from this experience.
I am writing this speech very early in the morning and speaking it on very little sleep please accept my deepest apologies as I know I will have left someone out. I extend our thanks to them.
I also want to extend a special thank you to our Chinese collaborators, you have welcomed us with the most open of arms and been willing to play and come on this journey with us.
I know that China has a bright future in TYA. I did not learn this in shows or workshops. I learnt it from you, the next generation of artistic leaders from theatres all over China. Your passion to reach children from the biggest of cities to the tiniest of villages with work that comes from the heart is breathtaking.
I mean this from the bottom of my heart. You are all absolutely Sasha!
I arrived only a week ago and already so much has changed. This group arrived with red eyes and messy hair to a room full of strangers.
Our eyes have got redder and our hair has gotten messier but now I am in a room full of friends who I will love forever.
The moments I will treasure are those we made as a group of young leaders taking control and making our own future together.
In a room full of artists from all over the world, we heard about our passions and what drives us to become who we are. Tears were shed because the art of honestly speaking and honestly listening across the world is a powerful, beautiful and cathartic experience. That we made happen.
In the evenings we took the pressure off us for 10-15 minutes and we played games together. We had fun. We laughed. We shared simple exercises, and, in this time, we learnt so much about what ignites us.
‘I’m Falling’ – No I’m only kidding.
That is true cross-cultural exchange. No performance, no speech, no ceremony can capture those moments.
But all of this, the good memories and the bad will soon be in the past. At this festival we were asked to work closely with our fellow artists from around the world and imagine a future together.
As we move forward from being the next generation to The Generation of artistic leaders. I promise to you all I will never forget this experience. I am making a promise to you all now. And I hope you can join me in this promise:
I promise to treat artists with the utmost of respect, care and compassion. Whether they are young or old or somewhere in between, they are my equals and their experience is as valuable as my own. I will listen to them.
Just as importantly, I will respect, care and treat well everyone who supports artists. This applies to, translators, guides, camera crews, ushers, those who work in the hotels. Those who we encounter once or many many times. We have a duty to protect them and treasure them. We should never let them be exploited. Without other people we cannot do what we do.
I will listen. I will watch. I will treat other cultures with respect but l I will never abandon my values and I will ensure they are heard when they need to be heard.
I promise to look after the next generation, no matter where they are from. I will support them, and I will never abandon them.
This promise is an immense responsibility and I do not take it lightly. I offer this promise to you all and I hope you can join me in this.