Tea and coffee are often used as an anchor, when we can’t address a subject or hug someone we often offer a cup of tea or coffee. A simple but caring gesture as well as something we share with others as part of our daily routines. It can soothe and comfort or remind us of family and friends.
One Tribe are a group of refugees and asylum seekers from the Conversation Club at Balby in Doncaster, working with artists Janet Wood and Bob Adams at DARTS. Sharing A Brew was a performance project commissioned by Right Up Our Street to help integrate the group more into the local community. The overall aim was to bring members of the Conversation Club and the general public together and promote more interaction and integration between the diverse communities within Doncaster.
As Theatre Maker on the project my aims were: to give a voice to the community we were working with, build the confidence and skills of the participants involved, deal with any material created/given to us sensitively, and create an immersive shared experience for both performers and participants.
We decided upon a site specific performance subverting the idea of a traditional tea shop and using the space to: recount personal stories and experiences, explore our similarities and rituals around ‘sharing a brew’, make music and sing, and end with a celebratory afternoon tea in an informal setting.
One Tribe, Sharing A Brew performance 14 December 2015
With a street performer playing magic tricks and encouraging people in to the reception area, visitors were asked to place a marker on a map of the world to show where they were from. We had a sensory box with different types of tea/coffee/herbs/spices in for people to guess the contents, and pictures of people from around the world sharing a hot drink in different settings and ceremonies.
Participants were guided, in groups of 5-6, into one of two rooms where there was a performer, sharing stories and experiences based around tea or coffee in their own countries. Each performance lasted 10-15 minutes, with an invitation for audience members to share their own memories, before being invited into the second performance, and the large Garden Room to hear some music and share a drink of tea or coffee with other One Tribe members.
There was also a Reflection Room where some of the more intimate and thought-provoking experiences we were asked to share were transcribed onto scrolls of paper, along with a Red Cross leaflet with information on the refugee and asylum seeker process. It was important to us that we shared these without putting the words into someone else’s mouth, or editing them in any way. Presenting them on paper with an invitation to share them was a more sensory experience for the audience members, and the act of unfolding them added to their significance.
After the performances everyone gathered in the Garden Room to join Janet and Chad in making music, singing the One Tribe song and listening to performance poetry and rapping. This was followed by afternoon tea and cake, where all the guests, performers and others from the Conversation Club all sat together, chatted and talked about the performance.
‘Thank you for inviting me to attend the event yesterday. It was a very special, moving experience and I felt privileged to attend. The movement between the very harrowing stories shared on paper and, in the story that I heard, a very personal, humorous story, was sensitively handled. I came away thinking how it is the ordinary things in life that make us who we are, even if it is extraordinary ones that shape our lives.‘
Sharing a Brew artistic team: Hayley Alessi, Andrew Loretto, Janet Wood, Bob Adams and Chad Chavabonga, with One Tribe members and Lord Hurst
Venue: Lord Hursts Tearoom, Doncaster
Images by James Mulkeen 2015© and courtesy of Right Up Our Street
Supported by Arts Council England and the Lottery Fund