Happy New Year 2018!
Year of the Dog (February 16th)
The Fool steps into the New Year blowing a kiss to the past.
As a free spirit and as an archetype, the Fool enters the unknown and is often portrayed as stepping off the edge of a precipice which represents trust. In the human realm, there are choices to be made that the Year of the Dog highlights. A dog can represent the habituated life and the accompanying loyalty and devotion that can often be misplaced. While a cat will leave if it’s neglected, a dog tends to stay until the end.
The Year of the Dog offers an opportunity to review our loyalties and priorities. We can learn from the dog’s natural caution before making a commitment and then the risk of falling under the spell of complacency remains a challenge.
Happy New Year!
If you would be interested in getting involved with a new Playback Theatre group that i shall be leading in Stroud, there’ll be an opportunity in early 2018.
I was a founder member of Stroud Playback back in 2007 when I first came to Stroud and eventually left after I graduated from the school of Playback Theatre in 2008 and since then have worked freelance training Playback groups and offered workshops around the world and at various Gatherings.
You can read more about Playback Theatre elsewhere on this website and at www.iptn.info which is the website of the International Playback Theatre Network.I currently serve on the IPTN Board for membership and edit the IPTN Journal. You can also read more about Playback Theatre at www.playbacktheatre.co.uk
If you would like to know more about the Stroud project, then drop me an email or call (see the contact page) and I’ll happily answer any questions that you might have. It doesn’t matter, if you haven’t had any experience, as full training will be provided. So bring your curiosity and your stories and come and give it a go!
Looking forward to hearing from you…
*LEAP Before You Look!*
A One Day Workshop in Stroud on May 20th £40 (£35 early bird if you book before the end of March)
For Booking details contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Give yourself permission to play in a supportive and encouraging atmosphere
An opportunity to develop
SELF-AWARENESS, SPONTANEITY and IMAGINATION
Formerly of Festival of Fools 1993 – 2006
Touch & Go 2006 – 2013
Director of Somerset Storyfest from 2012-present
Play with the qualities of Breath, Movement and Voice through exercises and games to establish specific theatre skills through Improvisation, using feedback and reflection to ground this experience
*Step into your creativity, take more risks, make more mistakes!
Play with your habits, rather than them playing with you*
*Say YES quickly!*
*Move beyond assumption into the present moment of now-ing!*
Happy New Year 2017 The Year of the Rooster begins January 28th
The Year of the Rooster indicates it’s time to wake up and get going while being aware of the risks that the rooster characterises. The rooster’s purpose is to protect and serve and that’s often perceived as a need to dominate the immediate environment. Roosters protect hens from predators, act as peacekeepers in flock disputes and find food for the hens. Roosters are loyal and committed yet they lack the flexibility to avoid conflict, often being willing to fight to the death to keep their status. In these fragile times, a conflict–free human world remains elusive, so may your Year of the Rooster be flexible and free of conflict because it all adds up!
I visited India in May this year, the hottest month as I couldn’t go earlier or later and experienced temperatures up to 45 degrees which combined with being ill made the trip overly difficult. It was my twelfth visit to India since 1971 when I was 21 and now at the age of 67, I had to concede that extended travel on boneshaker buses was possibly something I was too old for. Nothing bad happened, the people were great but it looks like it might be my last visit. There was an element of nostalgia to my visit and India has changed so much during the intervening 45 years and even since my last visit in 2011.
I started out in Delhi where I ran a pre-arranged Playback Theatre workshop for the Yuva Ekta Foundation, an NGO that works with disadvantaged youth in the Delhi area. They were a lovely group to work with and were very pleased to have an opportunity to be introduced to Playback Theatre. I did two days at the outset and a third day at the end of my three week visit as a follow-up. In the interim period, the group offered a Playback Theatre performance to the staff at the offices where they were based as a trial run, which was much appreciated and they told me that the performance offered an opportunity for everyone to get to know each other in a new way through their stories: the Playback way!
You can see some more photos here:
and read a reflection on the Delhi workshop here:
Stepping Stones by Rijul Kataria of the Yuva ekta Foundation
Our method has always been our standout feature. No matter what we work on, we as a Foundation have always prided on our ability to use tools of Expressive Arts to bring a diverse set of individuals on one common platform. Theatre has not only been for us a medium to engage with people and communities, but also a tool for self exploration. Over the years, we have been able to expand its scope and practise, so as to be able to use Theatre in diverse socio-economic settings. Be it schools, Juvenile Observation Homes, Communities or Theatre Festivals, we have been able to carve out for ourselves a space, where Theatre and Expressive Arts are healing and therapeutic tools.
We have never worked with the intention of creating a theatre piece at the end of our workshops. The aim is always to open up a space for deliberation, dialogue and interaction. We hope that this platform is a space where individuals can open themselves up to the experiences of others and create an environment of mutual trust.
Playback Theatre has been a great boost and learning experience to fulfil our endeavours. As facilitators, we feel more confident and equipped to go into different settings and help people bring out their stories. We feel that it would help us immensely to connect with people at an affective level. Everything we have aspired for as a Foundation is closely related to how Playback Theatre functions. This is exactly why this particular experience has been so important for us. The learning has been immense.
Our introduction to Playback Theatre was overseen by Brian Tasker. On his visit to India, he brought with himself an irresistible recipe. It contained a hint of expertise, with a desire to engage and a will to impart knowledge. Seen by all as the perfect combination, it lasted for a special span of 3 days where Mr. Tasker was able to give us a part of his life, experiences and memories, in order to grow the Playback Network.
While working with Playback Theatre we discovered a new found coherence as a group. Since we were the actors, learners and the audience ourselves, we had to adjust to a growing personal space. Not only did we share our stories with each other, we also saw elements of our lives being portrayed by other facilitators. It was a part of our journey in Playback. Actors who were a part of the workshop felt that it gave them a chance to present emotions more clearly. It helped them nuance their own understanding of expressions. At a personal level, Playback is an intense exercise. All of us discovered something about ourselves. It also kept us on our toes constantly. To be able to improvise at the drop of a hat was dreading and endearing at the same time. But what it did to for sure, is add a lot to our repertoire of skills.
We also learnt new techniques of telling a story. One of the most critical aspects while working with communities and street theatre is the ability to tell people’s story to them. Playback is just the medium we needed to enhance our own capabilities as facilitators in order to do that. By the end of the 1st day that lasted close to 7 hours, the exercise seemed effortless. We couldn’t wait to practise Playback ourselves.
Although we couldn’t cover all Playback Techniques, whatever we did was a novel experience. Be it the tableaus, the stills, the 3 part story or the chorus, each of these forms taught us how to become careful observers. To be able to portray a single image or one emotion, or quite simply, one human being is more complex than it looks. The idea of working closer together even physically, gave us new dimensions of time and space as actors. While using basic props was allowed, one of the challenges during the initial phases of the workshop was to be able to blend the brand of theatre we practise, with the new form we were learning.
There was also a considerable stress laid to tuning in with beats and music. As an essential component of Playback, music was of utmost importance in being able to create a flow and process which everyone in the workshop could tune into.
The 2nd day was spent in developing the techniques we learnt and perfecting whatever we could. The most memorable part of this day was the sharing activity. We were told to write a kind of a short advertisement about ourselves which contains our strengths and weaknesses. We were then asked to present them in a prototype Playback introduction where one actor comes up and makes a statement about him/herself and the other actors have to portray that.
We also delved into the art of conducting Playback. Ms. Puneeta Roy (Managing Trustee, Yuva Ekta Foundation) took on for some parts, Brian’s role as he taught us how to conduct a session. All this was a part of a comprehensive training module which went a long way in bettering our workshop structures.
On the 3rd and final day of the workshop which was scheduled as a feedback session after a fortnight, we shared our own experiences of having conducted two Playback sessions in that time frame.
Community Theatre and Playback
Our first Playback performance as an organisation was in Jahangir Puri. An urban village in Delhi, Jahangir Puri has been our site for a Community Theatre Project. We have been working on creating a community network and addressing community concerns since the last year. As a part of our ongoing theatre workshops, we implemented a Playback Session to re-introduce ourselves as facilitators and actors, in order to hear the stories of our participants. The response was magical. Not only did we manage to share our intent with them, we also got requests from our workshops participants to get up and perform. Stories that emerged ranged from the feeling of loss to being let down by friends, to everyday troubles at home to being cheated by touts. Stories were personal and intimate.
The Playback session was categorically placed right in the middle of the Community Theatre workshops. These were conducted with 2 batches, i.e. with girls and boys separately. This session was tried with the boys’ batch due to time and space constraints.
Workshops at Jahangir Puri can be exhausting because of their length and the terrible weather in Delhi. That was possibly the first time, we as facilitators didn’t feel even an iota of exhaustion. At the end of that workshops, both us and our participants left feeling energised and confident about the activity they were engaged in. They came back the next day and reoriented their prepared work, which turned out to be better than ever.
It was a pleasure to read Rijul’s account and hear how powerful Playback Theatre can be.
Following the initial workshop, I made an overnight bus ride to Nanital in the Himalyan foothills (6087 ft.) as I wanted to find the hut where I lived in 1971 at a village called Jeolikote below Nanital at an altitude of about 4000 feet. Nanital is a Hill Station built around a lake from the time of the British Raj that served as an escape from the heat of the plains for the Colonial rulers. It’s now a holiday destination for Indians and serves the same purpose. It would be remiss not to mention the help of Rahul (very front of photo on the right) who drove me to the pick up point for my bus that evening which had moved to an obscure location.
My story, or at least part of it was that I ended up in Jeolikote back in 1971 having walked there barefoot (my money had run out and I was living on the street) and met an Indian school teacher called Ravi Chand who was about my age and visiting his mother who lived in the village and who was the local midwife. They very kindly let me stay for a few days and introduced me to an English writer and his wife who were living in a bungalow further along the valley. The writer was called Neil Smith (do get in touch if you ever read this) and they invited me to return and stay with them in September after the rains. It was July when I met them and I wanted to return to my search for my supposed Guru Hans Ji Maharaj (then 13 years -old) who was proving to be very elusive on his travels around the area, but that’s another story. I did return in September as arranged and they let me stay in the servant’s hut behind the bungalow. As I had no money, they gave me a smart suit to sell up in Nanital. So I duly walked up to Nanital via the goat path to hawk this suit around the local bazaar. I must have looked an odd sight, this barefoot long-haired hippy in ragged khurta and pyjama selling a very smart navy pinstripe double-breasted jacket and trousers. I did sell it and bought some provisions before walking back down the path to Jeolikote. I spent a delightful month in that valley post-monsoon
and while there wrote to my sister in England who sent me three one pound notes concealed in an envelope to get me back to Delhi where I had £40 waiting at the American Express to get me back to England overland; the way I had come. There was more money waiting at the American Express in Tehran to help me complete the journey and ensure that I came home. Except, I didn’t go straight home, I took a train to Bombay (as it was then known) then a boat down to Goa where some old friends were. I stayed on Anjuna and Calangute beaches for awhile just hanging out (there was hardly anything there in those days) before heading back to Delhi and beginning the trip home. I hitchhiked to Kabul leaving India on the day before the war started between India and Pakistan in early December. As I headed west across Pakistan on the top of trucks, military convoys were heading east towards the Indian border. I got back home on New Year’s Eve, the journey taking just under a month costing around £50.
I returned to Nanital 45 years later hoping to find the hut and see who might be living in the bungalow nowadays. I spent a few days hanging out in Nanital, getting my bag of repairs done by a very helpful Muslim tailor for 200 Rupees (£2) who wouldn’t accept any more money. I then rented a taxi for a couple of hours to drive down to Jeolikote, a village much expanded since I was last there. I asked the taxi driver to wait at a chai stall near where the goat path started, while I walked back towards the village. I did find the bungalow eventually, but it had been destroyed in a fire making it difficult to see from the road.
I climbed up to the ruins and saw that the hut had survived. But the debris surrounding the ruined bungalow that included a large number of discarded whisky bottles made me wary of approaching the hut any closer as it seemed unlikely that the current inhabitants would speak English or welcome my intrusion. I took a photograph before leaving,
then back on the road got waylaid by two groups of Indian tourists who wanted a photo opportunity with me and it was interesting to note that I still had novelty value. I walked back to the chai stall and my taxi driver asked around the people there, including an old man, but no one seemed to know what had happened to the bungalow or know of the midwife Mrs. Chand back in 1971.
Shortly after, I left Nanital and spent the entire day travelling to Rishikesh on boneshaker buses and spent a week there in a hotel with ‘Ganga View’ in Laxman Jhula, just out of town.
I had lived in Rishikesh in 1971 with the chillum Sadhus on the banks of the Ganges but couldn’t locate where they might although my chillum-smoking (Om Shankar!) days were long over. I was able to launch some puja boats (marigolds, incense and a candle on a leaf boat) down the Ganges for some friends before returning to Delhi to deliver the final day of the workshop.
Returning to my search for Hans Ji Maharaj back in 1971, I did eventually track down my Guru one rainy afternoon in a town called Ranikhet where he was giving Satsang in a private house. I filed through with all the other devotees, somehow and somewhat naively expecting to be blown away by his presence. Alas, when I saw him, I felt nothing, I wasn’t even disappointed, I just felt nothing. I went and sat down with some men in the corner and told them my story, they shrugged and said “For some men, there is no God.” I bummed a cigarette and left to continue my spiritual journey without a Guru.
To be continued…
I have a new blog at https://briantasker.wordpress.com/ do visit and have a look!
World Music DJ Baba Ganoush…
It’s later than you think, but never too late to dance!
Baba Ganoush: the DJ of choice for the discerning older generation!!! Available for parties and events (free for non-political charity fundraisers if the Baba likes the cause).
The idea of Baba Ganoush as a DJ stems from my long-standing interest in world music, a love of dancing and providing music for my own parties and events using my laptop and Fender Passport 150w PA system. The first LP that I ever bought was the Rolling Stones first album in 1964. Not long after, while browsing in the HMV store in Oxford Street, I bought an LP of Arabic music on a whim featuring artists like Oum Khulthum and Farid al-Atrash. I loved the atmospheric sound of the oud and the strangeness of the music compared to what I was used to listening to. Now in my mid 60s, I have been collecting music for more than 50 years and from that early experience with Arabic music, unafraid to take a risk in buying music that I suspect would be good even if I’m sometimes left with stuff that only gets played once, the gems that have been found are worth the effort and the expense.
My interest in world music is influenced by my travels around north Africa, the middle east and Asia and my training in Biodanza that introduced me to the music of Latin America and of course anything that is good to dance to.
So the Baba plays African soukous, hi-life and funk, Latin fusion, salsa, cumbia, bomba, merengue, boogaloo, Brazilian percussion and Samba and even some stuff that you might actually know! Also Nu-jazz, Swing, good old-fashioned R & B and Jazz classics with some early Stones, Chuck Berry and even the occasional jig and reel thrown in to shake up the mix!
Sorry no vinyl, the Baba is too old for that malarkey but your fave CD tracks can be incorporated into a playlist in advance.
By the way, there has been a rumour going round that the Baba has in the past smoked aubergines. Baba’s lawyers robustly refute this completely unfounded assertion and issued the following statement that even if it were true, he didn’t inhale.
email: email@example.com or call or text 07867848365 and the Baba will get back to you…
Happy New Year 2016
Year of the Monkey (February 8th)
When the gods reconcile… always an auspicious moment! Shiva the Destroyer of obstacles and his avatar the monkey god Hanuman as two aspects of the same god reuniting.
The Monkey can be mischevious, curious and clever witty able to solve problems working with their group while demonstrating an independence that gets things done. The nimble monkey is playful, cheeky and often likely to get the better of an encounter with humans. You don’t want one on your back and certainly not one in your mind, jumping around, screeching and chattering endlessly distracting from the task in hand. It’s said that the fear monkey is the loudest one of all.
The year of the monkey is an opportunity to befriend your inner monkey and put all that energy into the task in hand. Learn from the monkey, trust the monkey, take the leap and trust that the next branch of the tree will be there to receive you!
Glosnet: Gloucestershire Network of Counsellors and Psychotherapists is the local county-wide network that is open to any counsellor or psychotherapist living in Gloucestershire or nearby. Established in 2006, Glosnet offers networking opportunities between therapists and is a place where you can circulate news of any workshop or training that you may be offering. Occasional networking lunches and suppers are informal small gatherings hosted by members at home as opportunities to meet other members, sharing food, and discussion. In the past, Glosnet has offered day conferences and CPD workshops and may offer these again in the future.
Glosnet is not accessible to the general public and doesn’t offer any kind of “find a therapist’ facility. Those services are offered by BACP, the Counselling Directory and others. Members may at times, circulate requests for a particular therapist offering a specialism or local service.
Glosnet is free to join on request by qualified therapists and trainees may join at the point in their training when they are on placement.
Membership enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org – thanks.
Brian Tasker MBACP (Snr. Accred).