Daniela lives in Caluire-et-Cuire, a peaceful town of the Métropole de Lyon. She is the mother of two young actresses that are taking part in the workshops and performances of Image Aiguë theatre company. In a conversation this summer, Daniela was telling me about her neighborhood, Cuire-le-Bas, and about the changes brought by theater activities with children in this neighborhood.
Cuire-le-Bas is a small neighborhood enclosed between the river Saône and the Caluire hill-top. The population is a mix of well-off families, only moving from home by car, and families which are living in social housing, spending their time outside at the foot of their buildings, as temperature are too high in summer time. And then there are the ‘common, middle-class, people’.
The public school is the only meeting point of the neighborhood, Daniela says, “but it has a bad reputation that I do not explain”. She estimates that about 60% of the hundred pupils are benefitting from specific support programs lead by teachers. Migrant families are invisible at school, observes Daniela, particularly those in a state of social insecurity, such as asylum-seekers that live in a residency close to the school. Pupils are used to see the children in their class living from day to day
Daniela’s youngest daughter attends this primary school, where the theatre company Image Aiguë started implementing theatre workshops four years ago. First, step-by-step, activities were developed after school-time. Then, performances were set up in cooperation with a retirement house and an institution caring for disabled persons. Lately, children were participating in workshops, rehearsals and were giving public performances in various districts of the Lyon metropolis.
Introducing those activities had an effect on the community, says Daniela. Children were offered to participate in a complex but accessible process of training and creation, which was based on their individual skills (languages, cultural knowledge, physical capacities, experiences, etc.). Among other effects, she mentions the new status of migrant children among other pupils (for example, due to their language skills or family’s story), the newly created feeling of being capable of inventing and solving difficulties, the involvement of “invisible” parents in the creative process (by accompanying children to activities, coming to audiences, participating in meetings with other parents, giving support).
The story Daniela shared is about a local cultural process that can transform a divided community and can lead to the creation of a common vision. The implementation of a “complex but accessible” process calls upon artistic practices, education and families. It encourages the formation of a new metaphoric language, common values and common actions. The common thought, that is the result of this cultural process, helps going beyond the division of inhabitants in a given territory and fosters the management of such a territory
I believe cultural organizations should lead those cultural processes that transform inhabitants into active citizens.
This article was first published by A soul for Europe’s Wir sind Europa! project