‘Don’t look down at your feet. Look up at the stars. Be curious’
Professor Stephen Hawking
London 2012 Paralympics Opening Ceremony
I know I use this quote from Professor Stephen Hawking at every conceivable moment but it felt very apt to use it for my presentation to artists, academia, entrepreneurs and policy makers, the Ministry of Sport and British Council Brazil outlining a vision to build on the inclusion of Deaf and disabled people in the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Rio 2016.
I arrived in Rio with interpreter Jude Mahon and it was straight into the glorious fire and fury that is Junior Perim Director of Crescer e Viver (Rio’s leading social circus centre and school) and the calm and wisdom that is Co-Director Vinicius Daumas along with the creative strategy expertise of Paul Heritage and Raquel Dias from People’s Palace Projects.
Jenny with Artistic Directors of Crescer e Viver Junior Perim and Vinicius Daumas and Interpreter Jude Mahon
In a true Brazilian style meeting, we thrashed out the future with a no holds barred passion, determination and commitment. Nothing seemed impossible and suddenly we had the Director of the School of Communications on board and the Department of Creative Economy (SEBRAE) offering a free consultancy service to support the structuring of the programme for UFRJ/Ministry of Sport, and ongoing services through the establishment and development of the programme.
It was beyond exciting.
Stephen Bunce and Marcos Silva in Belonging 2014 (Photo credit: Patrick Baldwin)
Building on the steep learning curve of 2012 and the work we have already started with Belonging (a starter training and performance initiative between Graeae and Crescer e Viver) we have devised a new programme for which I wrote the following rational;
A year long social phenomena changing the way we think, behave, move and communicate.
It is a new school of thought, throwing caution into the wind and taking what might be perceived as risk – but what we see as a necessity – and placing 50 Deaf and disabled people from all walks of life into the world of circus to ignite their curiosity, investigate their creative souls and challenge their physicality, strength and grace. It also places 50 students from various disciplines including architecture, law, physical education, physiotherapy, theatre, media, film making and journalism, in and around the circus trainees to be inquisitive, to unearth their stories and to share visions of a fair, equal and just society.
Taster workshop in Circus Skills
Together they will map and document these journeys to utilise this within their discipline in order to dismantle the physical social and attitudinal barriers that surround Deaf and disabled people.
This unique union of minds will create a think tank to transform visible inclusion as an aesthetic, a human right, and work to ensure it permeates the landscape and the veins of Brazilian society.
The impact of this transformation goes way beyond the trainees becoming artists in 2016 Paralympics Opening Ceremony and the Cultural Olympiad, as it has to have the political and visceral clout to challenge and eradicate discrimination ensuring a world of inclusion for the next generation.
The approach, research and methodology and reach will evolve over time as we are learning what it is and what it can be as we embark on this voyage of discovery. It is essential it attracts attention from global media, commercial, academia and the arts world as nothing has ever been done on this scale, and it will become a model of the future not just in Brazil but worldwide.
Everyone is now forging ahead to get this up and running Summer 2015. I met with Carla Camurati who is Artistic Director of Theatro Municipal – The Royal Opera House and Director of the Cultural Olympiad. She is the most extraordinary woman and watching her operate in a meeting is a Pina Bausch dance piece. She is so clear that her Olympiad will have true representation of Deaf and disabled artists.
Practising aerial skills
Vinicius and I ran an aerial taster (my own aerial expertise is sadly lacking as I am too top heavy!) for a group Deaf and blind people. It was fantastic to see Marcos and Vivianne, who were in Belonging, taking the lead in the training. It was a great opportunity to carry on learning Lebras (Brazilian Sign Language) and a wonderful moment occurred when I was talking about English women and they asked why I was talking about naked Americans!
It was so fantastic to see the potential within the group and when I met with Paula Mello (Creative Development Manager) from Ceremônias Cariocas 2016, (the company responsible for producing the Opening Ceremony of the Paralympic Games) she became very excited about the possibilities of what the new programme will provide for the Director of the Paralympics Opening Ceremony.
Jenny and her angel-lifeguard
It was an action packed 4 days and we met so many people plus we joined a huge Deaf rally along Copacabana beach which was joyous. The only blip in our time there was we had an hour to kill so I insisted we went to the beach. I went in for a wee swim but got caught in a horrendous rip curl and I was dragged right out to sea. I seriously thought my time was up. I was terrified but kept thinking ‘No I am not ready go yet – I have too much to do – set up this school, direct Blood Wedding, fight ATW and ILF, see Jonah graduate from film school… sorry I simply cannot go yet…’ and then my angel – a ridiculously handsome life guard saved me.
So I am very much here and fired up, not only from my drowning experience, but from the glorious fire and passion of everyone I met. I am inspired by their total commitment and positivity and drive to make the impossible possible.