Fiona Helleur on the Kecskemét International Cultural Exchange Programme

Monday 17 September 2018

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It is impossible to tell what will happen at the NAYT conferences, always people to meet and things to do that serve to help us improve our own youth theatre groups. Making connections and networking with other theatre professionals is as important as the workshops, sharing experiences and having a good moan about the state of  theatre today and the exactly processes we put our groups through to give them even a fighting chance of making a living out an already overstocked profession where less than one percent succeed in making enough money not to have to have a second or even a third job to be able to maintain a  reasonable standard of living.

 A chance meeting at the bar meant that I was able to take twenty young people to Kecskemét in Hungary to take part in an International Cultural Exchange program  with 3000 young people aged 8 – 18 from 30 different countries all of who stayed with local families and performed in front of appreciative audiences from all over the world.

 We were tasked to create a fifteen-minute performance without words – this being important to allow people from all nations to understand what we were doing. Most brought music or dances from their countries and wore amazing traditional costumes – we brought a piece of contemporary drama and a rock band and wore basic black. The drama piece depicted a piece of Manx folklore, the arrival of our wizard, Manannin, from across the Irish Sea where he arrived in a thick sea mist and made our island his home, protecting us from invaders.  The band played a selection of self-penned and covers and had a great time rocking the town square.

 In September 1990 the Future of Europe Association was established with the aim of helping the children of Kecskemét become acquainted with children from Europe through Children's Meetings. The theme was simple: inviting children from the countries of the continent who would be hosted by Kecskemét schools. Foreign children would stay with families and in the following year the foreign groups would invite their hosts for an exchange visit. So far, they have hosted 8000 children from 80 towns in 27 countries. The task of the Association is exactly the same after the Millennium as it was at its birth: helping the citizens of Europe so that the children of today become a tolerant generation, free from all prejudices and accepting people and their differences. 

This year 20 young people from Kecskemét made their way to the Isle of Man and we almost killed them. We were so determined to show them as much of our lovely as we could in the time they were with us, we gave them something to do for virtually every second of every day, from 9 am in the morning until midnight every day, we took them on horse trams, electric railways, steam trains, ferry boats, rowing boats, up mountains, to the top of giant water wheels, to theatres, to beaches, to two castles, fed them fish and chips, barbecues and held discos, rock concerts, put on a production of Rent and taught them Manx dancing. They barely had time to breathe never mind eat the mountains of food or shop for souvenirs.  This year we can’t wait to go back and the next year we will understand that everyone needs a day off… 

Fiona Helleur

Head of Youth Arts

Youth Arts Centre

Kensington Road



Tel: 01624 682312

Mob: 07624 437339

Youth Office: 01624 686057