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Testimony in Practice: Working with Stories of the Self and Others

THE CREATIVE STRAND
The Creative Strand fosters greater reflection on the ethics and methods of using testimony and collaboration between different artistic forms. We explore how working with testimony between different media (theatre, art, literature) promotes creative reflexivity around issues of fiction, authenticity, appropriation and performance.

THE SOCIAL STRAND
The Social Strand promotes greater public understanding of the history of communism in Central and Eastern Europe, the revolutions of 1989 and the relationship between this part of Europe’s past and contemporary politics. It provides opportunities for Central and Eastern Europeans to voice their life experiences and to have these recognised and heard by diverse audiences.

The key outputs of the project were:

•    Creation and performance of an innovative piece of documentary theatre, A Land Full of Heroes. The play was co-produced by the Catalan theatre company La Conquesta del pol sud and the Romanian and German novelist, Carmen-Francesca Banciu. It interweaves life and literature in innovative ways and stars Carmen-Francesca herself, alongside her daughter Meda Gheorghiu Banciu, a professional actor. It premiered at the Birmingham European (BE) Festival in July 2019.

•    Testimonies campaign designed to gather the life stories of Central and Eastern Europeans living in the UK (March-July 2019)

•    An intermedial and interactive exhibition of the testimonies combining installation and sound art, commissioned by and displayed at Centrala (Sept.-Oct. 2019), and exhibited at the Romanian Cultural Institute in London (Nov. 2019). Two artists worked with the testimonies gathered through the project: Maciek Baczyk from kinoMANUAL focused on analogue sound art and visuals reflecting the nature of memories as voices from the past in the present while Emma Lockey created a physical structure to present the testimonies.

•    Clock Tower Projection. Linked to the exhibition, Centrala commissioned Maciek Baczyk to produce a piece of visual art for projection onto the University of Birmingham’s ‘Old Joe’ Clock Tower as part of the Green Heart Festival celebrations on the 11 October 2019.

•    Workshop on the use of testimony for theatre practitioners in Birmingham (July 2019) with La Conquesta del Pol Sud and Phil Holyman of the Little Earthquake theatre company. Participants examined different methods of putting life stories on stage. The workshop drew on the organisers’ experience of mixing journalistic investigation and working directly with eyewitnesses who perform their own stories (La Conquesta del Pol Sud) and of presenting and rethinking autobiographical theatre (Little Earthquake).

•    Two Youth Artists workshops in Centrala (Sept. 2019) and the Romanian Cultural Institute (Nov. 2019). Delivered by the creative practitioners in the Testimony in Practice team, this workshop was for young people between the ages of 18 and 25. Participants explored the histories of Central and Eastern Europe and how life stories can be a stimulus for art. Working with the testimonies created in the testimonies campaign, they created short theatre productions, visual art, and pieces of creative writing. The artworks produced at the Centrala workshop formed the basis of an exhibition at the University of Birmingham from the 8-11 October 2019, organised as part of the Green Heart Festival.

•    Two creative writing workshops with Carmen-Francesca Banciu and award-winning non-fiction author Emilie Pine in the Library of Birmingham (Sept. 2019) and the Romanian Cultural Institute (ICR) in London (Nov. 2019). This workshop was for new and emerging writers who wanted to explore methods and practices of writing personal stories: about themselves and/or about other people.

•    “Making Of” film (Oct. 2019) and practitioner guide (May 2020)

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