Get Close to Opera is going to run a training week in February 2019 about Opera through #multipleintelligences #womenrights #disabilities and #immigrantinclusion.
It will take place in the beautiful UNESCO city of Matera, in the south of Italy, that will be the European Capital of Culture in 2019. If you work in the field of Opera Education keep following us. We will launch the call soon.

Today, Opera Circus (UK) share with us its reflection on how to build an inclusive workshop process.

How to build an inclusive workshop process?

Social inclusion, social cohesion and social justice are all at the centre of informal arts education practice in the UK in one way or another. Everyone agrees we have a long way to go to get the balance right but the discussion is there and we have yet to resolve all of the questions, not find the answers.

Diversity and inclusion are very broad subjects covering so many cultures and differences in our human species. However somehow we have to find a way to understand, embrace, accept, respect and create access on every level for all. These were also suggested directly or indirectly through the initial research that Opera Circus carried out on UK informal arts education.

Access doesn’t just mean physical access but also intellectual, sensory and societal, in all areas of employment and culturally. The UK is still a society with an evident class system bringing advantage and disadvantage. There is much work to be done to create a level playing field for all members of society, no matter their background.

Our first research report of informal arts education in the UK, particularly as it relates to Opera, was carried out between October 2017 and March 2018. It covered a small fraction of organisations and professionals in the field. The findings showed that although our profession is very broad, and aims to encompass every possible area of disadvantage in the country and, compared to some countries is very well funded, yet it seems we feel we are only scratching the surface. This research programme asks us to look at whether opera can offer anything to our new citizens, the newly arrived migrant and refugee communities and those who are excluded. Can its multi art forms be used to open up not only its use as a genre to communicate on many levels but even as a possible profession for a variety of employment opportunities and as an art form that welcomes all strata of society?

More and more we acknowledge that our programmes must be thinking at least 10 years ahead, must be developed with everyone from the beginning, who might participate in the creation and collaboration and must find multifarious ways to acknowledge and support difference. Those participants who up until now have been labelled “stakeholders“ or “target groups”, have to be consulted on the design of the work and have to be in the room from the first discussion.

We also have to learn more about those with whom we will work, their cultures, beliefs, customs, societal and cultural expressions, restrictions, traumas, discomfort and in the process learn more about ourselves, become more understanding, respectful and useful.

This was a beginning, with the time only to research a small number of significant people in this field. As the project progresses we hope to have more time to talk to and to listen to more people. We found that there is quite a significant difference between the formal and informal approach to arts education and probably both sides have much to learn from each other. The first step is acknowledgement of the different approaches and the second is respecting the difference and the achievements that both sides of this learning/teaching spectrum have attained. Working together in an open collaborative way will benefit our broadening cultures immensely.

We are lucky that in the UK that informal arts education is a highly diverse profession that is well advanced and has been building itself for the past 60 years or more. The challenge is how to collaborate, share learning and build an inclusive practice of the highest quality of participation, recognising just how much more we have to learn.

We are beginning to design our suggested 1st draft training module for the Get Close to Opera project, exploring the first steps to how to build an inclusive workshop process. We look forward to sharing the learning and developing the work further. We welcome collaborations and the widest input.

Tina Ellen Lee/Foteini Galanopoulou


Photo credit:
‘The Complete Freedom of Truth’ project in Bryanston School in Dorset, UK
Photographer: Robert Golden