New York(shire) – Equal Players on Tour

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By Susan Burns, Creative Producer / CEO at Chol

We were recently given the opportunity, as part of our ‘Equal Players’ programme, to travel to New York City to share practice and to experience amazing connections with artists and educators there. Back in 2018, the idea came about that we wanted to go far away from home and out in the world with ‘Imaginary Communities’. This inspiring city came instantly to mind. The idea grew and grew until Chol’s ‘New Yorkshire’ trip became a reality.

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Our programme included a series of meetings with inspiring people and organisations, including at New York University, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the Educational Video Centre. We also visited the Ford Foundation, the United Nations, the City As School and walked the High Line. Yes, at times it felt like a holiday and at times it felt like home. But we were there to work and the work part was by far and away the most exciting part.*

(*maybe except for the bit in the Liverpool Supporter’s Club in the East Village, watching LFC thrash Barcelona 4-0 in the Champions League Semi Final. That definitely was a highlight!)

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The highlight of our trip has to be 8th May. That day, we shared our Imaginary Communities (IC) practice in two workshops with 6th and 8th graders (young people aged 11-14) at Middle School 51 in Brooklyn. Later, we shared practice with Piper Theatre’s young company in rehearsals at the Old Stone House. Teacher and artistic director John McEneny was extraordinarily generous to us and we spent an amazing day with him.

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Like New York City, Chol is always a work in progress; under construction. In that spirit, Vicky led the young people at MS 51 through several stages of IC into creating improvised worlds through drama. They loved it, playing around with the form and technique of our work. We learned a lot through them as they quickly offered an expansive vision of IC’s potential and surprised us by articulating this so quickly. They made many useful observations, and we take our hats off to them.

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It’s been wonderful to remind ourselves, while taking in the street art of Bushwick, jostling on the subway, or people-watching in Washington Square Park, that we are part of a bigger world. Evocative experiences in the city, eavesdropping on conversations in many languages, talking with complete strangers. Everything conspires and combines to make this an unforgettable experience. Old worlds, new worlds and imaginary worlds. Always a world of possibility. Our ‘New Yorkshire’ trip has reminded us of that, and the best news is we’ve been invited back to Brooklyn. So watch this space.

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PS: We were chuffed to catch up with our mentor Nicole Kidston, from the DeVos Institute of Arts Management, who lives in the city!

An extra shout out to our digital marketer Alistair Flood, who was along on the trip to document our activity and film our work at Middle School 51 in Brooklyn. Watch the video below to see what the young people thought!


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