The Paper Birds is a multi-award winning devising theatre company with a political and social agenda and a vision to provoke change, one encounter at a time. Following the successful tour of Ask Me Anything in 2020 – cut short by the global pandemic – The Paper Birds continue to engage with young people through The School of Hope (TSoH), a digital arts and global citizenship project for young creatives, aged 13-25.
Taking place between June and autumn 2021, the project is based on the theme of empathy and uses art to address the isolation people under 25 have experienced during the pandemic, increasing the young creatives’ wellbeing, sense of purpose and levels of empathy, as well as encouraging them to be socially and politically engaged. The Paper Birds is connecting young artists from 9 organisations around the world to creatively discover who they are, how they understand themselves in relation to others and how they might use art to provoke change. It is hoped that TSoH will increase participants’ empathy levels and general wellbeing.
Through a series of creative tutorials and digital workshops The Paper Birds will use the arts to engage young people, exploring empathy both from emotive and academic perspectives. At the heart of each workshop is a bespoke commissioned film, of varying artforms, created by The Paper Birds and 4 exceptional artists from the UK to inspire the young creatives to create their own artworks in response.
The 4 artists commissioned for The School of Hope are: Akeim Toussaint Buck, an interdisciplinary performer who creates thought provoking, accessible and free-spirited work, which is embodied in his commissioned piece for TSoH, using his unique combination of poetry, dance and beatboxing.
Arwa Aburawa, a documentary filmmaker and writer with an interest in social and environmental issues, will be inspiring the young creatives around the notion of identity. She has produced documentaries on a range of issues including the water crisis in Iran, the lives of sugarcane workers in El Salvador, and the legacies of colonialism in Guatemala, and is an IWMF and One World Media fellow.
Sonny Green is a spoken word artist and will be encouraging the young creatives to ‘Widen the Lens’. He was the first ever rap artist to perform at the House of Commons supporting Fatboy Slim and consistently delivers confident and original live performances. Sonny calls it as he sees it, and his angry lyrical tirades are a completely uncompromising, calling out of everyone from politicians to his peers without fear.
Finally, the multi-talented Jade Anouka, who recently appeared on our screens as Ruta Skadi in the BBC adaptation of His Dark Materials, will be the final artist rallying a call to action from the young creatives to produce their Manifestos of Hope. Jade performs regularly as a poet, including featured spots at The Southbank Centre, The Roundhouse and Sofar Sounds. She also wrote, directed and co-starred in the short film, Her & Her for BBC’s Culture In Quarantine series.
The project culminates in the creation of a short film by Naomi Waring where the participants’ voices and Manifestos of Hope for today and tomorrow will be platformed. The film will premiere at an exclusive event this autumn and offer a collective vision of how art can be used to bring about change.
Documentary filmmaker Kee Lewis will be charting the progress of The School of Hope around the world and his documentary about the project will also premiere at the same event.
The Paper Birds will use the research and Manifestos of Hope created by the young artists to inform and inspire a highly visual and poetic touring show for young people currently planned for 2022-2023: Feel Me. The time spent on this phase of Research and Development is representative of The Paper Birds’ belief that the journey matters just as much as the destination when producing a show and that it is created by and for its audience.
The nine partner organisations delivering The School of Hope to over 200 young creatives from 5 countries are: Theatre Centre, London; The National Theatre’s Young People’s Programme; CAST, Doncaster; Sheffield Theatres; The Mercury, Colchester; Padepokan Seni Bagong Kussudiardja (PSBK) in Indonesia; Vancouver International Children’s Festival; Victoria Deluxe Arts Centre in Ghent, Belgium, and Boom Arts in Portland, Oregon (USA).