Curtain closes on Aladdin
Once Upon a Time, the Final Conference for Aladdin and the Intergenerational Lamp was a long long way away. Way off at the end of June 2017, in Amsterdam. And then, it was gone!
That’s how I thought when I was asked to take on this amazing Erasmus+ funded Intergenerational Storytelling project. The week started, shortly after arriving in Amsterdam, by being met by my storytelling brother, lovely Arjen Barel. Arjen founded and is Director of, the Storytelling Centre in Amsterdam. He is a Dramaturg and breathes and eats storytelling, both Theatrical Storytelling and Applied Storytelling. People can’t believe that we have known each other for only one and a half years. We finish off each other’s sentences. He looks SO much taller when he is not on Skype!
All five partners, from Élan in Paris, Képes in Budapest, DEMÀ in Barcelona, the Storytelling Centre in Amsterdam and, of course, Superact down in the West Country, are gathered for the meeting on Monday 26th June. You might be excused for thinking that we don’t take things seriously… When together, we behave like old friends! That is how I feel actually. Even when serious topics and events are being discussed, there is a light air of banter which gives rise to a cool creativity from the heart. I love these people. They have become my friends.
The Week in Amsterdam
Our evening meals are at The Beach. The Beach is a truly fabulous Social Enterprise supporting marginalized people who are kick-ass designers. Here, they have a kitchen and prepare food from the angels. Whilst we were there, beautiful Dalia Mortada, from Savouring Syria, introduced us to Syrian food. Oh, blissful. My heart poured out its thanks to our 27-year-old chef. He had fled Syria 2 years previously and is now serving delicious food to those with open minds and hearts. His demeanor is humble and I sense that his smile is returning after fleeing his home. May peace come to his heart and to his homeland.
My belly was made fuller every evening in Amsterdam! The Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were made full with Storytelling Training. Superact brought four lovely participants along with us. Gorgeous smiley Julia, lovely curious Rowen, open-hearted Jenny and worldly wise Karin. Alongside all the participants from the other countries, we dived in.
Aladdin and Intergenerational Storytelling
Aladdin has three main streams from the central concept of Intergenerational Storytelling workshops. All partners had trained Older People who were 55 or over to become Storytelling Workshop facilitators for Young Adults deemed at risk. The three streams are Language Skills, Motivational Skills and Entrepreneurial Skills. I decided to leave our participants to experience this without me.
I was right to do so, their bright eyes, faces, and feedback were enough once we had reconvened. They had gone through quite deep, connecting, even cathartic experiences. Meanwhile, my storytelling brother, Arjen, had asked me to lead some Storytelling Workshops for a parallel project hosted by Storytelling Centre with over 60 young people from so many diverse European countries. What a privilege and such great fun to influence and guide these eager young souls in fab fun storytelling workshops. Arjen and I, we were hatching a plan.
Arjen works roughly the same way that I do. We have enough knowledge and enough experience to let go, almost entirely, of the need to plan a workshop. Aims with focus and waiting to meet the people are all that we need. This is exciting. This is necessary!
We hatched our plan. As part of the Entrepreneurial Skills morning on Thursday 29th June, Arjen lead all the Aladdin participants in an Entrepreneurial Skills workshop and discussion. Meanwhile, I lead the parallel project’s younger people in a Storytelling Skills warm-up workshop. Each and every one of the young people told a story (in pairs to their partner). Then, we brought them together. A simple instruction from Arjen did the trick,”You will walk into the big room. You will find lots of Seniors seated on the floor! Go to one of them, and start sharing your story with them.”
This exercise usually takes 10–15 minutes with 8 participants. There were around 100 people in a dance studio in New West Amsterdam. Young were sharing with Old(er)! Older were listening. Older told stories to their Youngers. Intergenerational Storytelling (it sounds so dry!) was happening before our eyes. We couldn’t stop it, we wouldn’t stop it! It took on its own shape, and more than connection happened on that sunny morning. Magic was present, fizzing almost. For time reasons, we did eventually ask for an ending. Tears. Hugs. Faces were changed. Hugs. Embraces. Selfies. Swapping of contact details. Hugs. Big long gorgeous hugs. This is what Applied Storytelling was all about: a connection at a deep level, a transformation and experience, powerfully cathartic. This healed.
Tears. Hugs. Faces were changed. Hugs. Embraces. Selfies. Swapping of contact details. Hugs. Big long gorgeous hugs. This is what Applied Storytelling was all about: a connection at a deep level, a transformation and experience, powerfully cathartic. This healed.
At least 10 different countries were present, yet I sensed no borders. The youngest was 17 whilst the oldest was 79, yet I sensed only connection. These people were from different lands and yet we sensed that we were of the same tribe. In these times of European, World and Human separation, we are needed. We are important.
The Final Conference
The Final Conference on Friday 30th June was somewhat similar. People doing what people have always done, sharing and telling their stories. It strikes me every time how powerful these experiences are. Then it struck me anew, but this is what we do. We set up these workshops to take people through amazing experiences so that they become more confident, richer, their lives are improved, their lives are lifted. People leave, more confident in telling their story, speaking their truth.
This is what occurred to me, whilst witnessing the merging of people from different generations and cultures. At least 10 different countries were present, yet I sensed no borders. The youngest was 17 whilst the oldest was 79, yet I sensed only connection. These people were from different lands and yet we sensed that we were of the same tribe. In these times of European, World and Human separation, we are needed. We are important. We will shine this light of connection, of smiling, of love, across the lands that we hail from.
There is no 3-2-1 ‘back in the room’. This work is funded, kindly, by the EU Erasmus+ programme. This work brings people together to be the best that they can. That we can. That I can. I now know why this is called Aladdin. We’re out of the lamp now. And we’re not going back in!
Aladdin and the Intergenerational Lamp
Find out more about Aladdin at aladdinproject.eu. Resources available include Superact’s Training to Seniors film and publications including Guide for Seniors, an intergenerational workshop training guide and, coming soon, Stories of Us – A Collection of Intercultural Stories