Bauhaus Café CIC were thrilled to realise their dream of a youth exchange to beautiful and little-known Georgia for young creatives, again generously funded by Erasmus+.
The name was ‘Mind My Art, Would You?’ and was aimed at youths aged 18 to 30 from disadvantaged backgrounds to help support them to take their creative talents into employment.
Excited, yet dubious they came together as groups across eight countries; Georgia, Azerbaijan, The Ukraine, Cyprus, Turkey, Armenia, France and of course the UK and many met their participants the first time just before the trip, forging what they didn’t know then, would become some significant and lifelong friendships.
The French and UK team met on the plane and shared a hair-raising bus journey from the airport to Kobuleti. Strong bonds started forming immediately. The two groups arrived in the small hours in darkness to a lovely hotel on The Black Sea (that wasn’t black at all!). Each participant was allocated to a single sex room for three, each from a different country, so the interculturalism started from the outset.
Next morning, the new friends awoke to a miserable wet day but were astounded at the breath-taking views from the roof top dining room of The Black Sea to one side and snow topped mountains to the other. Waiting for the groups from the other countries to trickle in from near and far, the French and the English (later affectionately known as the ‘Frenglish’!) had the opportunity to explore the town, its markets, its multitude of thrift shops and of course the bars and cafes. The Georgian locals were absolutely delighted to come across the Western Europeans in their little town, eagerly taking selfies with them and inviting them for free shots of Cha-cha, the national brandy. Dances and music were even performed to the young people in shops, markets and bars amongst great hilarity and laughter.
In dribs and drabs the other groups arrived at all hours of the day and night and the job in hand was ready to begin. We had lots of icebreakers and energising games and everyone was encouraged to mix with different nationals fully. The lingua franca was English, but some participants struggled with this in the beginning, but as confidence grew and inhibitions dropped, the language barrier broke down. The talent grouped together in that building in tiny Kobuleti in modest Georgia was jaw dropping. There were artists, poets, photographers, musicians, actors, writers and much more. To have them all together in one space, especially as the inhibitions broke down, was truly electrifying.
The sun suddenly came out, the streets dried up, flipflops replaced boots, jetlag was slept off, the mood hit sky high, the sound of laughter, music, pen scratching, lenses clicking, and poetry filled the air and the youth exchange was well underway.
Workshops were diverse, interactive, creative and fun. They were run by different countries and were adapted to the needs and the wishes of the participants. Once everyone had integrated and talked about their fears and expectations, we launched into a wonderful day learning about social inclusion and multiculturalism especially in the creative arts. This was led by the Armenian group and it was fascinating to hear from all the different countries and the different approaches there towards the creative industries. Comradeships were quickly being formed and in between the activities there were regular impromptu trips to the close by beach where the common sounds were of waves crashing, laughter and music.
Every country was expected to put on a ‘cultural night’ where they were to immerse the other groups in their home land’s traditions, beliefs, costumes, history, dance, politics, art, music and of course food and drink. We were not disappointed and indulged all our senses night after night with delights and experiences from Armenia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, The Ukraine, the Frenglish and of course Georgia. Georgia’s night was the climax as host country and we were taken to a local traditional restaurant where different dishes were continually brought to us and we were plied with Georgian wines (one of their major industries) and drinks. There was a toastmaster who led the feast known as a Tamadar and the eating and drinking was very structured by him. The atmosphere was celebratory and then we were wowed by a young Georgian girl who floated around the dance floor like a swan as a Georgian young man danced around her in what seemed like a seduction ritual. Imagine our surprise when another young man leapt onto the dance floor out of nowhere and competed with the first for the attanetion of the ‘swan’!
Other workshops included how to attract the media, successful social media use, PR and marketing, vlogging, blogging, making vision boards and so much more delivered by Bauhaus Café CIC trainers. Everyone learned a lot from them, but they were not the most valuable of the whole experience, it was the networking and interaction between the different creatives from all cultures and all walks of life. Friendships were made for life, confidences were boosted, resolutions made, and lives were changed.
As young Naomi Houlton, photographer from Ashford said, “I was nervous in the beginning, but we had a few days to bond; we were all there for the same reason albeit from different cultures. I have grown hugely in self-confidence. When I went back to my day job, they said I was a ‘changed woman!’ “
Bauhaus Café CIC is planning another exchange in the Spring with the same participants called ‘Six Months On.’ Here we will see how everyone has progressed in their chosen creative career following ‘Mind My Art, Would You’ climaxing in an exhibition and concert. Each member is already receiving ongoing support from Bauhaus Café and we know for example that Ashford based Naomi is doing some voluntary photography work, entering competitions and so on; definitely moving towards a paid career in photography. She has also appeared in local media. Boris MVD, from France has set up social media to platform his art and has had a successful exhibition. The success stories are pouring in and we are expecting many more. This exchange really has had a huge positive impact on so many.
If you are interested in getting involved in Bauhaus café and/or youth exchanges, we would love to hear from you.
Please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org and prepare to change your life!
We are grateful to all photographers present at the project for all the wonderful photos here and on our social media sites.
By Helena Maltby, Project Coodinator
More from Betsy, our CEO, in the next few days. She will be talking about Georgia and why you may want to consider visiting and how our Georgian visit changed so many lives for all the partners involved.