Teacher Becky Winstanley and Implicated Theatre Director Frances Rifkin discussed ACT ESOL, an ongoing theatre and language education project that combines Theatre of the Oppressed and Participatory ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages).
ACT ESOL is a project by the Serpentine Galleries Edgware Road Project, where participatory ESOL teachers and Implicated Theatre work with language learners to develop a more political ESOL approach that combines language with a focus on resistance.
Following the devastating impact that cuts and aggressive immigration policies have had on mainstream, government funded ESOL provision, political ESOL projects such as this are timely and much needed.
Implicated Theatre ran an eight-week pilot project in Spring 2015, which aimed to work with second language speakers to combine Boal-inspired Theatre of the Oppressed work with language development. Participants enrolled on the course to learn new performance skills and use the theatre as a context to develop their English language skills.
Experiences of migration in relation to language were not necessarily explored adequately in previous Implicated Theatre workshops. And although many teachers successfully use drama techniques in their ESOL work, few are familiar with the complexity and transformational potential of Theatre of the Oppressed.
The idea emerged to create a course specifically for Theatre of the Oppressed with English and to pilot a project with theatre and language experts working together to experiment with different ideas. Implicated Theatre worked with the Migrants Resources Centre and English for Action to establish the project which became ACT ESOL.
This discussion launched an interim report by English for Action’s Winstanley, which describes the work we did during the pilot of the ACT ESOL project but also hopes to inspire other teachers to try out and develop this work in their own contexts. The digital version of the report is available to download below.
Winstanley is an experienced ESOL teacher and teacher educator working in Tower Hamlets. Her particular areas of interest include participatory approaches to education, language and migration and language and literacy development for social change. She worked on Actionaid’s Reflect ESOL project, adapting the international Reflect model for language learning in the UK and trained with Reflect practitioners in Liberia. She has been an active trade unionist for many years and is interested in teachers’ and students’ struggles in education and beyond
English for Action (EFA) London provides English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses for migrant communities across London. Our aim is to reach people who may be excluded from mainstream ESOL courses. We believe that ESOL classes, with the correct focus, can enable migrants to access the social, economic and political benefits that would be out of reach without language training and support.
Implicated Theatre have worked since October 2011 including collaborations with the Migrants Resource Centre, UNITE’s Hotel Workers union and Justice for Domestic Workers with theatre director Frances Rifkin. The experimental workshops explore the relationships between political speech and action, the self and the collective, voice and silence. Forming close relationships with migrant’s rights groups and unions, Implicated Theatre creates theatrical interventions inspired by real-life struggle, and highlighting issues of social justice.
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