Diversity, equality and inclusion are at core of our work at British Council Jamaica. One of the most notable examples is the Run Free project; which is being jointly implemented British Council, Manifesto Jamaica and National Theatre of Scotland.
Run Free project fuses physical theatre, storytelling and the movement discipline of Parkour into a fluid and freshly devised theatrical production. Run Free is more than a traditional theatre piece; as the youth share their journey through music choices, personal stories and discoveries of self. It tracks the journey of these youths, where they were, where they are and their hopes for the future. Using the grace, flow and style of Parkour, the Run Free companies explore the challenges and obstacles they face growing up in an age of unprecedented change.
The communities selected to be a part of the project are characterize as disadvantage marginalized and vulnerable; they feature high unemployment, high crime rate, and high illiteracy rate. At the community level, high rates of neighbourhood violence virtually guarantee that most youth will be exposed to some type of violence before they reach adulthood. Children growing up in these communities often struggle to feel respected and included in the social order, with secondary schools unable to accommodate all youth.
The inclusive approach of Run Free has attracted the attention of the Jamaica Defence Force – Upon hearing about the project the Head of the Jamaica Defence Force, Major General Antony Anderson indicated that he wanted the army to participate in the project as it work with youths in marginalize communities. Jamaica Defence Force for some time has ambitions of developing a community outreach arm, however, there were challenged with how to go about the process, no experience or skills set in the community outreach. Run Free was cited as the best opportunity to learn about these communities and its people in which they operate. The army showed its commitment but donating its facilities for the training sessions, its press office to generate exposure and its physical activity trainers learn Parkour as well as become trainers of the art form.
The British Council is known across the globe for its innovation, leadership and acuteness towards the art world, scene and artist. Run Free is one example of cultural relations and it is defining factor creating a conversation, engagement, or making a statement in expressive form. The key principle is that Art is passive and open to interpretation. Run Free is carried out in Kingston, Jamaica with youths from the 13 most volatile communities; Denham Town, Tivoli Gardens, Parade Gardens, Angola, Arnett Gardens, Hannah Town, Allman Town, August Town, Nannyville, Waterhouse, Trench Town, Fletchers Land, and Drewsland. These communities are known for their frequent clashes with each other, strong military and police present and warring fractions. Run Free and it grace, style and discipline of parkour, allows these youths to explore the challenges and obstacles they face growing up in an age of unprecedented change.
The inclusive nature of our Arts work can be said to be a journey with these youths, where they are and their aspiration, dreams and hopes for the future is express through the arts. The project is also a platform for restorative justice, building bridges and understanding between these youth and their communities.
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