The mission of Tandem and its team
The Tandem Theatre Association was founded in 2019. Its main activities are to strengthen social dialogue and solidarity through the organisation of cultural and community events and to address social problems through the artistic means of theatre through creative processes and performances. Its aim is to reflect and sensitise minority or disadvantaged social groups, to reduce prejudices and, where possible, to involve these groups and other civil society organisations working with them in its artistic activities.
The team currently consists of 5 members, of which three people (two actors and one organiser) have been involved in a large percentage of the action. Our creative specialist and the colleague who handled the contracts and collected the accounting material were only involved at one point in the process.
The call for action: target group and their needs
The target group of our action is disadvantaged students from schools in Baranya County who are deprived of theatre experiences. The other disadvantage is that in the domestic educational system they do not have the opportunity to acquire the skills of debate and dialogue, they do not learn to argue and represent themselves effectively, while in the virtual spaces that are increasingly common in children's everyday lives, there is no focus on compassionate communication and the risk of injury is higher.
It is in response to these spiritual and emotional needs that Tandem artists, who are themselves practising parents, arrive at a school. They understand and feel children's emotions, regardless of age, gender, nationality or status. The theatrical means, the creative activity and the personal touch of the actors may also have therapeutic qualities, which indirectly contribute to desegregation and to the reduction of disadvantage from a pedagogical, psychological and sociological point of view.
The other target group of our action is teachers working with disadvantaged children, whose overload and lack of capacity was already clear to us from our experience so far. We wanted them to feel that, working with us, we could help them in their work and mission. These teachers are extremely overburdened with the task of catching up children in difficult circumstances, and they need to improve their communication, their grades and their motivation to learn, and to make the intellectual work that is much harder for them attractive for their future. With our action, we have taken another step towards making our relationship with these teachers as systematic as possible.
Content of the action - our response to the shortage
We have planned to present the students with two performances from the Tandem Theatre repertoire. Our production of The Curse of the Leper is a story that develops debating skills and argumentation techniques and creativity, which the students themselves can write at some point during the performance, while The Stray Shelter is a play about the acceptance of a homeless man, in which compassion and diversity are experienced in a playful way.
In order to deliver the performances and to involve the stakeholders, we implemented a double action in the framework of the Local Action competition: we announced a drawing competition in four educational institutions of Baranya County, and organized an exhibition of the material, and at the same time we conducted an online fundraising campaign to give a gift to the participating artists/creative groups for a new Tandem performance.
The steps of cooperation
The process started with the launch of a drawing competition and the involvement of the institutions. The arguments in favour of the competition were:
children have art lessons anyway, so no extra effort is needed from schools to motivate children
drawing is a creative art form, so this activity is a good preparation for their involvement in our joint theatre-making process
a tangible result: we also planned to show the finished works in an exhibition, giving them a sense of achievement.
The drawing competition was invitation-based: we approached 9 institutions (schools, schools) with which we could further develop our existing relationships. The experience from previous years was that teachers generally saw an opportunity to meet. However, it was also clear that the amount of time that could be devoted to the preparation of the meetings and the follow-up work, which involves processing the experiences together, varied from teacher to teacher. We expected that at least 7-8 of the 9 institutions visited during the winter would be partners for continuing cooperation, but not all of the management teams contacted replied, even after repeated requests. We had calculated some risks in the design of the application, and we knew that the case could be hampered by apathy, apathy or a lack of communication due to teacher overload and lack of capacity, but it was difficult to live this in reality.
As a result, the final list of partners was drawn up a little later than planned and with fewer institutions: by the end of March 2023, four institutions had committed to the effective and liaison work of the cooperation.
During the weeks when the drawings for the competition were being created, Tandem representatives (actor, organiser, volunteer) visited the venues in person to talk to the children, collect memories of the previous Tandem performance and give the children simple motivational gifts (Tandem stickers, creative tools, sweets).
The collection of entries from schools and meeting deadlines was sometimes slow. This was a lesson for us: a detailed email or even a long phone call is not always enough - it is worth asking where the process is at, even on a weekly basis - in a diplomatic way, of course, because teachers (as mentioned above) are overworked and have taken on extra work to cooperate.
In the meantime, we were able to launch our online fundraising campaign with a video of the drawings and an audio recording of the children's past Tandem experiences. When we were already the drawings from all four institutions had arrived at , the next step was to sort and organise the exhibition material. In total, 150 entries from 50 children from 4 institutions were submitted.
We were lucky with the exhibition venue: the originally planned venue was closed for technical reasons, so we had to choose another way, which was ultimately a good thing, because the works were displayed in a more familiar, impressive space, visited by many people - on the ground floor of the Pécs Knowledge Centre - so there were many more people to see the works. The exhibition was open to the public for over a month. So the Knowledge Centre is an institution visited by hundreds of people every day - a fact that served our cause very well. Since two of the institutions were unable to attend in person, their reward books, commemorative cards and gifts were personally delivered (actors, organiser) to the municipalities in May.
However, we could not devote enough time and energy to our parallel online fundraising campaign - for several reasons (overload, lack of rescheduling, personal problems), so instead of the 592.000 HUF we had hoped for (which is the price of four performances of The Stray Inn), we have so far raised 218.000 HUF through various channels. The campaign has been extended until the end of the school year. With the donations so far, we are now able to deliver 1 gift performance in 1 school, but we plan to restart the collection in the new school year to bring the story to the other 3 locations. We will take the 1 gift performance to the school that is the most disadvantaged of the partner schools, where children are least likely to have access to similar experiences, and where the Mayor has given his support to the process - so there is a clear need for further joint partnership building.
The process was evaluated in a staff meeting immediately after the closure of the action.
The implementation of the call for proposals has helped us to rethink the division of labour within the organisation and to try to define our roles more precisely. This was partly due to the fact that certain activities were being carried out for the first time - as they had previously only involved performing - and partly to the fact that we found ourselves in communication situations that showed strongly that the division of tasks between members was not entirely clear.
We were greatly helped by the presence of a mentor provided by the competition, who was able to constructively point out the points we need to address here and now for the benefit of the organisation and all of us. Our tasks are to list and raise awareness of our existing values, to group our resources and to redesign.
The relationship with all four institutions has definitely been strengthened: they know us well and we know who to go to with ideas. It is also clear from the way teachers and heads of institutions communicate that they rely on us: they welcome our ideas and have taken us into their confidence.
In total, 50 children submitted 150 drawings to the competition, and we received dozens of written and verbal responses. As participation in the drawing competition was not compulsory, we consider these rates to be very good for the number of groups contacted.
The dramaturgical basis of the Leprikónok performance is a discussion game developed by members of the Foundation for Democratic Youth. This is woven into the story of Daniel Varro - so that during the performance the children not only get to choose a direction, but also have to argue at certain key dramaturgical points why they choose the way they do. Experience has shown that once the children have picked up the thread, they really enjoy this kind of methodology.
Our aim was to give children and their teachers the opportunity to experience the benefits of regular cultural and awareness-raising events:
socialising with a familiar community in an unusual situation
increase students' activity and initiative in new situations
new stimuli and alternative cultural opportunities: actors go to children's homes and are keen to hear what the children have to say
skills development: through playful presentations, they can try out reasoning and consensus building in practice
We have had a clear success in this, based on the feedback, and they are looking forward to the continuation.
One of the difficulties was that the period of implementation overlapped with the Live Giving project, which was specifically a fundraising opportunity for us. The idea of Live Giving is that three NGOs can present their activities to companies and other sponsors in one evening. We were delighted to have raised several hundred thousand HUF on this evening. At the same time, of course, our human resources were stretched, and our preparations for this and the process of applying for the action were partly simultaneous.
The challenges and challenges of this process have highlighted the need to streamline the whole operation of the Association in order to make better use of our resources. While we consider our action to have been successful in terms of the level of involvement and the results, we have made ourselves aware that the organisation is facing these challenges in order to plan the way forward:
lack of capacity,
roles not fully clarified
During the years of the Covid epidemic, freelance actors were unable to work, and the preferential tax regime was abolished. Forced to take up new, less viable forms of business, supporting families, paying rent, and spending time on other work not necessarily in the arts, have all taken their toll on both recent years and the present. Yet, in the face of all this, we decided to take action and we don't regret it!
Our key message for organisations thinking about action plans is to design the process embedded in their core business, without forgetting other tasks, and to take into account available capacity as precisely as possible. Don't forget to define the successes for yourselves at the end of the action!