Four Theatretrain students from Chester and the Isle of Wight have just returned from a Drama Encounter in Debrecen in Hungary. This was organised by European Drama Encounters (EDERED) a European organisation that each year gathers together young people interested in drama and theatre from different European countries and brings them together to stay and work, ending up with a piece of theatre usually taken out on the streets as well as a performance at a theatre. The host country pays for the food and accommodation and the young people find the travel costs there and back. They sometimes raise that money themselves by various means.
It’s a fantastic experience – especially for those from Great Britain, partly because the common language used is English. Over the course of the week, they get to know each other, find and similarities and differences and because another common language is their shared love of theatre, they quickly get to put their feelings into the work. For many of them, this is the first big taste of adventure away from home and they often make friends that they stay in touch with for a long time. You can imagine the communal sadness when the time comes to say goodbye.
My own connection with EDERED goes back to 1990 when I took the British group to Luxembourg. I later became the British representative for the organisation and then had the honour to be the President from 2007 through to 2013. I had many adventures along the way including a group of us dining with the President of Croatia. I also attended quarterly meetings at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. I got to see up close how the non-governmental bodies operated across Europe and while they talked a lot, they got things done. I was sad when we lost a lot of these connections – but EDERED remains.
I bowed out by hosting an Encounter in Ipswich. We got funding from the British Council and made a great connection with the mayor’s office in Ipswich. We created an Encounter called Tribes and used the young people’s own ideas to create stories about different kinds of human ways of living. I’ll never forget the enthusiasm and energy they brought to their work, it was truly inspiring.
I think EDERED is a wonderful organisation. It’s not widely known but it does great work. The idea of young people coming together across Europe is great in itself – it helps them feel part of the bigger world around them and they usually remember it all their lives.