Matthew Hahn has developed a programme of cultural exchange between young people in the United Kingdom and young people in South Africa. He is a Senior Lecturer at St. Mary’s University College who teaches undergraduate Drama and Applied Theatre students. These students spend ten days in Durban, the South Coast and Harding, South Africa to deliver and participate in a range of community workshops and drama productions as part of an annual arts & cultural exchange programme with Headroom Productions, Durban.
The students use a range of interactive performances, games, songs and poetry to engage with local communities to explore the cultural differences and similarities between the attitudes of young people from both countries. The trip offers students the opportunity to take the last two years of learning and apply it in a completely different setting. As well as working with the local community, the group are able to showcase interactive forum theatre through a number of public events.

The students’ stay is programmed in advance with opportunities to be fully engaged & emerged within the community with visits to local schools, hospitals, community centres, etc. all with the possibility of using drama as a means of expression & debate within that particular community.

It is a vital part of the exchange programme that the British young people give as much as they receive. It needs to be more than a ‘voluntourism’ opportunity, but an opportunity to leave a sustainable legacy with others returning for future opportunities. It would be expected that the community be involved as an intrinsic part of the exchange as well. Debate, discussion & reflection within the community are critical.

The hope is to make this programme a sustainable and rewarding experience for both groups of young people as well as for the various communities with whom they work in South Africa.

Here is a link to a twenty minute film on the trip in May 2014:

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JgHj-Y_5oI] filmed in conjunction with Headroom Productions.

For more details about the research and development of the programme since its inception in 2011 at St. Mary’s University College, please visit this link to the blog [http://whatcanidodifferently.blogspot.co.uk/].

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