Now I’m daring to do things.”

Sura, 22 years old, a participant in the Hakaya residency.

Fourteen Jordanian youth from Amman, Karak, Aqaba, Salt and Ghour Al Mazra’a came together to be part of the Hakaya Residency workshop that happened in Ajloun Governorate, a hilly town in the north of Jordan, between 11 and 16 June 2015. The Residency comes as part of the British Council Hakaya Storytelling project, ran and implemented in partnership with Al Balad Theatre and Hakaya Festival. Through this project, we encouraged young people between 20 and 30 years old to find their voice to tell stories they want to share artistically and expressively and to present them to a variety of audiences. We aimed to give young people a chance and a platform where they can express themselves and have their voices reach all parts of the Kingdom.

The aim of the workshop was to help the participants find their voice and style, look at how they find and integrate stories and resources into performances, work with voice and body language to improve their delivery and learn about audiences and how to draw them in and engage them. The workshop included creative ways to allow the participants to get to know each other such as evening storytelling sessions and story thread activities where participants were asked to bring with them a piece of fabric and use it as an object through which they can relay an anecdote that represents a special moment in the their life.

Participants were also motivated to build up their self-confidence and were provided with the opportunity to share different types of stories and experiences that people from all kinds of communities can relate to and benefit from. This has helped them to express their feelings and thoughts openly with others, with no constraints or boundaries whatsoever. “I developed in storytelling drastically and through the workshop I was able to express myself better”, one of the residency participants commented.

All members of the group were asked to build up stories, then review and reconstruct them, use body languages and different tones of voices and facial expressions as well as improve their theatre performances and performing in front of an audience. This was particularly challenging to some of the participants, as performing on stage in front of an audience was a first; an experience they have never been through before. Hosam Omran, participant at the workshop, said: “I've always had stage fright and the trainers in the residency supported me and made me feel completely safe to explore all of my capabilities. They also helped me find a better approach to connecting to stories and thus performing them in a better manner. I'm very thankful for the residency, truly”.

On the last day of the Residency workshop, the participants delivered a performance at the Community Development Centre in Gaza Camp-Jerash for more than 80 children. Every child was listening curiously to the stories and repeating songs that were incorporated. Children were also asking questions and continuing with the storytellers with passion. Exceptionally, this residency gave the participants the confidence of telling a story. It was admirable to see the confidence of the 14 participants and their ability to go up there and present to an audience of small children, the most difficult type of audience some may argue!

This residency was not the end of the journey, rather the beginning of it. These young people will work in the next three months and will start developing their own stories. They will get the chance to present their stories along with the UK storytellers as part of the well-acclaimed Hakaya Storytelling Festival in September 2015. Not only that but we came to know that some of these young storytellers have already started sharing the joy of storytelling with children in Zaatari camp as part of Al Balad Theatre’s wider activities.