‘Didi, didi, are you taking us for a picnic? Are we going to perform on stage? Will people be there to see us?’ Questions, laughter and palpable excitement marked the days right before Golpo Mela.
The Share Stories Open Minds project, entirely volunteer based, in its fourth year now, aims to develop and nurture creativity, open up a space for dialogue and inculcate within children the importance of learning how to live with difference, all through the fascinating medium of storytelling…and what better way to celebrate Children’s Day than with a day long story telling festival!
PeaceWorks celebrated Children’s Day with the 3rd annual Golpo Mela in collaboration with The Victoria Memorial hall, Kolkata and in association with the Kolkata police, on the 15th of November 2014.
The two months prior saw the volunteers brainstorm about ideas for the Mela, pick stories and poems that could be presented on stage keeping in mind themes that they have worked with, and plan out the art and craft material for display in the My Corner section. Preparation also included asking the children at the various centres to develop and present their own skits, stimulating creativity and confidence, a challenge that they took up readily!
With the utterly gorgeous and imposing backdrop of the Victoria Memorial building itself, a sunny and warm afternoon, colourful banners and umbrellas, and trees festooned with brightly coloured cloth marking the spot for the open air arts workshop, the setting for the PeaceWorks storytelling festival could not have been more ideal.
Children from the Tollygunge, Jorasanko, Chetla and Alipore centres (all Nabadisha centres), the Kalighat burning ghat, Hamari Muskan, Childcare centre, Disha Foundation and Bikramgarh High School and Kailash Vidyamandir school (both a part of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan scheme) and the Orient Girls Madhyamik Shiksha Kendra were seated under the colourful shamiana with time to spare for some mike tests and stage rehearsals. Our young guests from “Aanandan”, a centre in South End Park were also there.
The comperes Subhadrika and Anushka opened the Mela at 12 in the afternoon, with a puppet show by Doll’s Theatre, presented by Think Arts, an organisation based in Kolkata which aims to bring imaginative, out-of-the-box experiences for children, through performing arts. The puppets, made entirely of balloons, were used to narrate a story about the importance of conservation. Told in a fun way, the show was punctuated with laughter and claps from the audience.
After a few words from Dr Sengupta, Secretary and Curator of Victoria Memorial Hall, the on stage programs began with poetry recitation by the children of the Alipore Nabadisha centre. ‘Dosti ki kahaani, Bholu aur ped ki Zubaani’ a skit by the children from the Tollygunge Nabadisha centre was about the connection between a boy and a tree, highlighting the importance of friendship. The children from the Kalighat centre narrated two stories, ‘Lalchi Seth Dhaniram’ and ‘Raju ka Lal Chata’ with the help of props. The children from the Hamari Muskan centre acted out a skit, which showed us the importance of being honest. ‘Mampi Bandor’, a skit by the girls from the Child Care centre, developed by the children themselves highlighted the need for kindness.
The Bikramgarh High School students acted out a skit in Bengali, ‘Hobu Chandra Raja, Gobu Chandra Mantri’ and the students from Kailash Vidyamandir acted out a skit about friendship. Disha Foundation presented ‘Swacchata Abhiyan’, telling us about the necessity of keeping the environment clean. Older girls from the Hamari Muskan centre presented a powerful, well-choreographed dance drama depicting women’s empowerment.
Varying themes, varying programmes, all presented with such enthusiasm and confidence!
The culmination of the on stage programme was a poem, written and narrated by a middle school student from Kailash Vidyamandir.
Food packets were distributed as soon as the on stage events finished and the festival took on a picnic atmosphere, with the children enjoying their meal under the blue skies. The games stalls and the arts workshop were opened soon after.
Schools from across the city including La Martiniere for Boys, Lakshmipat Singhania Academy, Modern High School for girls, Apeejay School, Chowringhee High School, Shri Shikshayatan, Mahadevi Birla World Academy and The Heritage school put up games stalls for the children. Developed and managed by the children themselves, the games included Knock the Can, Bottle Walk, Pin the Donkeys tail, Feed Chota Bheem and Kaalia and Khelo Kolkata Khelo. Volunteers from PeaceWorks also put up a stall, with a game called Golper Khoje, designed to help children build stories.
Excitement knew no bounds with the children forming serpentine queues in front of the stalls, rushing to inform their teachers what they had won, and then running off to play more games. With prizes for everyone, high fives and hugs, the smiles on the faces of the children was a delight to witness.
The arts workshop, conducted by Nabendu Sengupta, Arunima Choudhary and Romi Majumdar saw children drawing what they wished and how they wished! It resulted in some lovely artwork, and some interesting stories about the young artists themselves. One student said that his drawings were ‘magic’, because he did not use colours on the paper directly, instead rubbing the colours off from pieces of paper, creating the magical effect of shades.
On display in the My Corner section were art, wall hangings, painted clay pots, bookmarks, and colourful paper bags, all made by the children who participate in the Share Stories Open Minds project. Also on display was the beautiful collage and artwork done by the children from the four centres that take part in the PeaceWorks Arts education project.
The mela drew to a close at 4 p.m., with beaming children carrying their bags of prizes and the thrill of presenting their stories to a very appreciative audience, and teachers and coordinators equally happy and proud of their students. Hugs from the volunteers, promises for next year, and the joy of taking part in a truly special day.