‘EXCITING’, ‘transformative’ and ‘great fun’ is how the young members of County Limerick Youth Theatre described their recent intercultural experience with Loimaa Youth Theatre from Finland.
The great adventure which happened over 10 days saw members of Co Limerick Youth Theatre and Loimaa Youth Theatre meeting up at the holiday village of Carne, Wexford, for an exciting programme of theatre, music and dance.
The exchange which was organised by both youth theatres was funded by the Léargas’ Youth in Action Programme, with support funding from Limerick County Council and Loimaa Youth Theatre.
The exchange was initiated by Lisa Cahill, dance facilitator with the Co Limerick Youth Theatre when she met with Sari Aikaa-Torkkeli of Loimaa Youth Theatre at a forging European connections day run by the National Association of Youth Drama.
“A lot of preparation went into the Youth Theatre Exchange,” said Lisa Cahill, “there was a planning meeting held in Carne in April and then there were a number of meetings held with Limerick County Council Arts Office to ensure that aspects such as a full programme and all aspects of health and safety were covered,” she added.
A journal was prepared by Bríd Bradshaw of Limerick County Council which was given to each participant. This journal included information on Finland and Ireland, also the activities that would be engaged in over the exchange and the possible learning outcomes.
“This journal,” continued Lisa, “also allowed the young people exchange contact information to build future friendships and network opportunities.”
An application for funding for young people from both countries to engage in an in-depth intercultural programme was successfully made to Léargas Youth in Action Programme. The holiday resort of Carne in Wexford was chosen as the location as it was decided early on in the preparations to give the Limerick participants the experience of time away in the exchange and give them the sense of being on holiday just like their Finnish counterparts.
Eighteen members of Co Limerick Youth Theatre which is based at the Honey Fitz Theatre, Lough Gur and eighteen Finnish young people took the musical Grease as their inspiration to explore cultural difference, peer pressure, teenage pregnancy, smoking, alcohol use, AIDS, education and youth unemployment. These quite serious themes were all explored in a safe fun learning environment where the development of understanding and friendships were key. The Co Limerick Youth Theatre exchange was lead by arts facilitators Lisa Cahill and Fiona Quinn with youth leaders Marcus Quane, Sarah O’Shea and Laurence Kirby drawn from the youth theatre members. The Finnish youth theatre was lead by Sari Aikaa-Torkkeli and Lida Vanhanen.
“I absolutely loved the experience,” said Laurence Kirby of Holycross, “for many of us - both the Finnish young people and the Irish young people - it was our first time away from our families and there was a great sense of us working as a team and also the opportunity to engage in a wide variety of activities.”