ON THE BLOG: The Albany on teenage identity and the ID: BABYLON project

ID: BABYLON is a theatre project looking at teenagers and identity in Europe and is supported by Creative Europe’s Cooperation Projects strand. Kate Farrell, Head of Marketing and Communications at The Albany in London's Deptford, gives us the story so far.

What’s the story behind ID: BABYLON?

Led by Théâtre du Pélican in France, it explores the experiences of teenagers across Europe, with partners from Slovenia (Glej Theatre and SNG Nova Gorica), Italy (delleAli teatro), Germany (Das Letzte Kleinod) and the UK (the Albany). 

The project partners formed ID: BABYLON in response to issues reportedly impacting teenagers today, including the rise of extremism and nationalism and attitudes towards migration and the movement of people. Our hope is that by bringing young people together within the project, they’ll feel a greater sense of transnational identity and values and of European citizenship.  

What happens as part of the project?

It’s a two-year project and we’re just about to hit the peak of activity for year one! We started work in each partner country in 2018 with conversations and interviews with young people from a broad range of backgrounds, many with experiences of migration. The interests, hopes and fears they discussed are now beginning to form the basis of the work produced. 

"The questions were deep and searching, focusing around challenging issues such as identity, love, and being young and European." 

In the next few weeks, a group of young people in each of the partner countries will make a new performance piece. They’ll perform it in their ‘home’ country, an associated country (these are six additional countries to those the partners are based in), and then all the groups will come together for a Youth theatre festival at Théâtre du Pélican in Clermont-Ferrand, France in April 2019. They’ll spend time together, share the shows they’ve made, be part of discussions about youth culture and identity in Europe and share creative practice. 

Further down the line, in year two, a piece of documentary theatre will be written by professional playwright Nadège Prugnard, with six of the young people and will tour internationally. We’re also making a digital exhibition documenting and celebrating the whole project.  

Tell us where the UK group are up to?

We, the Albany, are the UK partner for the project and we held initial workshops here in January 2019, where young people were asked to interview each other using a set of questions devised by other young participants across the partner organisations.  

Despite most of them never having met each other before, the questions were deep and searching, focusing around challenging issues such as identity, love, and being young and European. The latter is a particularly emotive subject in the UK, with many young people contemplating what the UK’s future outside the European Union will mean for them. 

What did the young people say about the interviews? 

After the session, young people said that they found the deep conversations to be unusual and uplifting. We have reams of transcripts of the interviews which will feed in to the piece Nadège writes in year two of the project - along with the interviews from young people in all of the partner countries. 

A couple of quotes – selected at random as there was so much said that we found really arresting – follow: 

“Every time I leave the country it reminds me of where my life could have been if my mum didn’t come here. I look at the privilege I have, look at the access I have and then look at the responsibilities I have in the sense of -  there’s people working in the heat that feel the same way as me who are completely silenced and erased.”

“I just lack the right metaphors in Punjabi. If you’re raised in the village in Punjab then you were raised around the images these metaphors come from. I was raised in east London. I don’t see any of those metaphors. They don’t make sense to me. You can’t communicate jokes or the things most important in human communication. Jokes and metaphors. So I am lost. It hurts me endlessly that my grandma and grandad will never really know who I am cos all I can do in Punjabis is be nice, be polite, be a bit silly.”

What’s next for the group?

The young people worked with rapper and activist Potent Whisper at the workshops and four of them have subsequently been selected to be part of the project going forward.  They are now working together to produce a spoken word show that will tour in London, go to Likeminds in Amsterdam and then to the festival in France in April this year. We’ll let you know how it goes...

Learn more about the Cooperation Projects funding opportunity.

Image: Young Creative Event, courtesy of the Albany © Tangle Photography