Review of Activities 2000-2001 (Part Five)

K. Evaluation and Project Integration: A New Old Story
By gathering stories in Brno and presenting and discussing them in Prague, Terezin, Usti nad Labem, London and Vienna the organizers of the Drom recording studio learned to cooperate with diverse communities.
But it was the frank and honest presentation in EastWest Institute workshops of misunderstandings among Project participants from Brno and Usti nad Labem that enabled them to learn from the international experience and translate it into benefits for their local constituencies. Like many of the stories now available for discussion at this Web site, the story of this phase of the Project itself is about the development of understanding and skill through clear acknowledgment and shared exploration of failures in communication.
It is also a story of continual interplay between live events and responses to them on the Internet.
An immediate result of the discussion transcribed in Stories and Responses: Working “If we had a real table, real food” was the much more effective live presentation of Web-site stories in the café-tent erected in the main square of Usti nad Labem in August.
This in turn led to the further development of workshops at the EDS-donated computer installation in the Usti Library and in a school workshop documented on video in November for presentation here and in a television documentary.
Also, as recounted earlier, after the workshop at the EastWest Institute in Prague explored the tension between the Project groups from Brno and Usti, the re-structured Project management teamwent to Brno for the first in a series of conversations at Drom.
We asked how it might be possible to use storytelling—- the Project’s stock-in-trade – to improve relationships between Drom management and clients.
Identifying the recording studio project as one of its priorities, the Drom staff mirrored the Project’s other strategy of using advanced technology to develop cultural resources.
Why not, we thought, respond to the problems brought to light in our presentations of the Web-site stories and our workshops by helping develop and promote Drom’s vision of giving its clients technical training which would allow them to demonstrate that Romany culture is an economic resource?
So in London we told and performed the story of Drom’s dream of a state-of-the art recording studio in the context of Eva Bajgerova’s story about working together with her son, his teachers, schoolmates and their parents.
[See “We all worked together” in the Learning menu under Stories and Responses at this Web-site.]
This was one way of beginning to put that broken mirror, Romany culture, together again—- in the face of the British government’s decision to send back to the Czech Republic most of the Roms who had applied for political asylum because of daily experience that we were telling about every day, as we had at Drom in June.
We told about Drom’s vision of a high-tech future not only in a presentation at Czech Embassy, introduced by a BBC commentator, but also at a social and cultural center in North London which could have been a larger version of Drom in Brno: a social and cultural center created by more than twenty immigrant communities.
And what should we find at the heart of the Selby Centre but a state-of-the-art recording studio?
And what should Selby offer but training in language, management and technology for whatever representatives of the Drom project the British Foreign Ministry could be persuaded to fund for a three-week stay in London.
So in 2001 a representative of the Selby Centre will be coming to Brno to work with the local Stories Exchange Education Project coordinator and Drom to prepare a residency in London for Roms and Czechs involved in the recording studio project.
And the Stories Exchange Project has been invited in turn by the Selby Centre to work with them and the London Arts Board on developing versions of our Website-based work for ethnically mixed schools in London, and eventually elsewhere in the UK.
We are especially proud of this reciprocity because it grew directly out of our keeping our faith in the possibility of practical and creative dialogue between the oldest and the newest technologies: between the oral traditions of a wandering people and the latest information technology, the medium of globalization.
We are proud that in cooperation with Drom we have helped open a lively conversation between tradition and technology. By respecting the genius for reciprocity and transformation which lives and breathes at the heart of storytelling, we are finding in our stories opportunities for practical cooperation which the pressures of globalization most often hide from all of us.