Kent hosts cross-Channel arts project on the human response to climate change

The School of Arts recently hosted 12 young people from the Lille-based L’Onde Théâtrale – a company and publishing house run by Rémi Laverseyn – for a unique cross-Channel dance-theatre project supported by Kent’s partnership with the University of Lille.

Funded by the Straits Committee Small Project Initiative, a voluntary partnership between Kent County Council (KCC) and neighbouring local authorities in France, Belgium and the Netherlands, the project also involves students from the University’s MA Theatre-Making and MA Physical Acting programmes, and London-based writer/director Arne Pohlmeier and movement director Yukiko Masui.

For the project, titled Can We Change?, L’Onde Théâtrale challenged the young participants, students and workshop facilitators to create a 40 minute piece of theatre in a week, then film, transcribe and publish it as a book for others to pick up and recreate. The project’s brief was to create a performance together, and the students decided to address climate change and the human response to it.

Kent’s project lead, Dr Margherita Laera, Senior Lecturer in Drama and Theatre in the School of Arts, said: ‘We are delighted to have been awarded funding by Kent County Council’s Straits Committee Small Projects Initiative for this wonderful intercultural and multilingual Drama workshop. Collaborative theatre-making can have a huge impact on young people’s perceptions and mental wellbeing. Together, the students are exploring their feelings of loss, anxiety and hope around climate change, and are making what we hope will be long-lasting connections. Our 14 student performers from Kent and Lille speak nine different mother tongues and each is represented in the final performance. Today, more than ever, we believe in cross-cultural collaboration, empathy and understanding.’

Kent County Council Cabinet Member for Economic Development Derek Murphy said: ‘We are very proud to support this first Straits Committee project and I congratulate the students from the universities of Kent and Lille for their inspiring example of cross-Channel cooperation. We hope to see many more projects come forward, bringing neighbours from across the Straits together to improve lives, create opportunities and build friendships.’

Jayne Thompson, Senior Lecturer in Drama and Theatre and Head of the School of Arts, added: ‘This is a wonderful learning opportunity for our students and we were pleased to offer on-campus rehearsal facilities for this fantastic international collaboration. We are grateful to all the funders for providing such generous support to enable our MA Theatre-Making and Physical Acting students to collaborate with French students and professionals on this piece about climate change. We were also delighted to host Arne Pohlmeier and Yukiko Masui with us here in Canterbury. Making theatre together, across all borders and divides, in the most professional and socially engaged way, is what Drama at Kent is all about.’

The project funding stems from two Straits Committee authorities: KCC to the University of Kent; and the Département du Nord to La Compaignie 8, the Université de Lille’s student arts association.

A group of students standing closely together facing the camera holding a clapper board.
Group shot of Kent-based and Lille-based students
A shot of three people on stage. One stands to the left in an orange boiler suit. To their left another is slumped over a table. To the right of the table another quickly moves a metal object.
Kent MA Theatre-Making students Laura Davidson, Laura Nickson and Harry Negus-Ross in a scene from ‘Can We Change?’