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'An Exchange in Palestine' - A Blog on the 'Artivism' Project by Volunteer Will McGrath.

Will McGrath is a volunteer from Kildare. He helps with our international project You Mix It project. Will is rehearsing the part of Claudius in Hamlet. This blog post was written by Will and reflects upon his time spent in Ramallah, Palestine as part of the 'Artivism' project which we took part in last summer. The project, which ran from the 1st to the 11th of July 2022 was about sharing theatre methodologies and practices through Augusto Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed.

Also included is a Photo Essay of the Artivism project. You can read more about the Artivism project on our Past Projects Archive.

Photo Documentary of the Artivism Project Activity_20221206_081800
Download PDF • 1.71MB


July 2022 was an important time in my experience with Crooked House. From

Joining after Christmas 2021, I was still very much learning the ins and outs of

this beautiful establishment. In July we took part in an Erasmus+ funded project

bringing together young people from Ashtar Theatre, Palestine with our own

young people. It took place in Ramallah.

We departed Ireland on the 1st of July en route to accept the invitation from

Ashtar Theatre in Ramallah, Palestine. As bright eyed as I was going out there,

my eyes were really opened when I arrived. We were greeted by Iman, our host

in Ramallah, and after getting settled into our lodgings, A Christian-run

Vocational School, and having some food, we settled into our first night. The next

day we would get to know the other delegations from Sweden, Romania and the

UK. We awoke on our first day and were given a brief tour of Ramallah, the

highlight of which was Yasser Arafat’s Mausoleum. Amongst the things we saw

there were his grave, his famous Keffiyeh and his Nobel Peace Prize. Dinner that

night, for me personally, was another highlight: the chefs in the kitchen made four

types of hummus, which were displayed as the Palestinian flag!

Every day we had workshops and discussion groups where we explored ideas to

do with freedom. We learned from each other an immense amount, especially

about the different conditions experienced by young people in all of our


We got a tour of Ashtar Theatre and saw a production by Rasseel Theatre from

the Palestinian city of Nablus. We then went to a beautiful outdoor venue, behind

the Municipality Theatre to watch a show called The Elephant by the Freedom

Theatre from Jenin Refugee Camp (based in the northern part of the West Bank.)

This was one of my favourite performances. The show was about a dictator's

problematic elephant! The eruptions of laughter from the hundreds of people

lining the streets watching was music to my ears! We then rounded the day off

by watching our UK representatives, Mandala Theatre, do a show called

Rhinoceros in the beautiful Ramallah Municipality Theatre. This was lovely to

watch, as our colleagues from all different backgrounds in the UK, had the largest

delegation brought to Ramallah. The show was in English too, which served as a

welcome break to those that didn’t speak Arabic!

10.00am the next morning (Tuesday) we went to the Sakini Cultural Center for a

conference on Freedom of Expression. This was very informative, and

interesting. We had guest speakers, including our dearly loved Peter Hussey

(Ireland), Ioana Paum (Romania) Aisha Zia (UK), Iman Aoun (Palestine) amongst

others, speaking on a wide range of topics based around freedom of expression

and youth theatre. Topics included Policies (Law, Intellectual Property), Art and

Media (Methods and Approaches), Social Issues (Gender, Minority, Racism) and,

of course, Politics (Censorship, Occupation). We went to watch A Fate of a

Cockroach performed by the extremely talented Saraya Theatre from Jafa,

staged in Ashtar Theatre, a beautiful place on top of a hill in Ramallah that can

lend the spectator a breath-taking view for miles upon miles over the ancient

and historic landscape. The lights of Tel Aviv can even be seen in the distance in

the evening. We retired that night early, we were still acclimatising to the heat at

that stage, and had a full schedule to maintain at the halfway point.

We went and explored Ramallah the next morning, I went on a beautiful tour of

the Old City and tried a delicacy known to the fortunate as Kunefe. With my taste

buds still alight with yumminess, we went back to the Municipality to watch a

one man piece devised in lockdown by one of our hosts, Emile Saba, called 2077:

Who Wants to Survive. It was a brilliant piece.

In Crooked House we prepared a piece about freedom that we brought there. We

had been working on a piece devised from a poem called The Colonel by

Caroline Forche and Macbeth, we called it Adúntas. We performed to the crowd

in Ashtar Theatre and it was a fantastic success. We also saw a documentary

Sending Art to Gaza by the Romanian/British/Pakistani delegation. Meetoo, a

sweet, powerful and potent piece by our Swedish counterparts Teater Agrell.

Rounding off the day we went to the heart of Ramallah, Kasaba Theatre to see

Dead Body on the Sidewalk by Al-Mehbash Theatre.

The next day, we divided into new groups and had different workshops on

movement, dance and my personal favourite, Puppetry. We had the brilliant

Smoking Apples giving a masterclass on this ageless expression of theatre,

everything from creating the puppet, how to bring it to life, and even

constructing it. We had a tour the next day of Jerusalem, meeting at the gates of

Damascus, we were shown around the various worship sites by the British

Council Representatives, and brought to a wonderful café where we had

lunchtime tea on a rooftop that could see the whole of Jerusalem in a panoramic

view! It was also an amazing sound, hearing the bells of Jerusalem at the chime of

6pm. I was touched by the sheer talent, sweetness and heart of the people of

Palestine… would I go back there? Absolutely: Yellah Yellah!

William McGrath

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