Cities of Peace Noh Theatre Project

The aim of this project is for five Primary School pupils in Coventry, UK to work collaboratively with pupils in Hiroshima to explore noh theatre and to create work linked to noh with a focus on peace and reconciliation.

Students from Coventry have had a one-day workshop with Jannette to learn about noh theatre and the new noh story Between the Stones supported by the Japan Society. As a result they have been inspired to work on three ‘peace’ projects:

Peace Project 1: In the Autumn (October to November 2018) the children wrote peace poems on tanzaku and shared these with the City of Coventry on peace trees displayed at Coventry Cathedral on Armistice Day 2018 and then at the Japanese Embassy in London in February 2019.

Peace Project 2: In the spring-summer (April-July 2019), the children began work on ‘travel songs’ a significant aspect of Noh storytelling, following a performance workshop with Kinue Oshima, Richard Emmert and Jannette. A selection of the children’s travel songs will be performed at Coventry Cathedral on Hiroshima Day (6 August 2019).

Peace Project 3: In the autumn (September onwards 2019), they will begin to design model karesansui gardens. More information will be given on this project as it develops!

The ‘Cities of Peace Noh Theatre’ project is part of a larger initiative by the Coventry City Council and the Coventry Young Ambassadors Programme. As part of a major bilateral Japan-UK Season of Culture from September 2019 in the run up to the Rugby World Cup and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, they will undertake a series of cultural activities, culminating in a city-wide Coventry Young Ambassadors Japan Arts Festival in June 2020.

What is the Coventry Young Ambassadors’ Japan Arts Festival 2020?

The Coventry Young Ambassador Japan Arts Festival is a pupil-led event which will take place in Coventry City Centre in June 2020 to welcome in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. This forms part of Coventry primary schools’ commitment to introducing Japanese culture and language education through the Coventry Young Ambassadors. The Coventry Young Ambassador programme was launched at a Japan conference in March 2018, where 250 pupils from over 30 schools participated in Japanese workshops. These young people now have a specific role to promote Tokyo 2020 and to lead Japanese events in schools and in the community.

The Coventry 2020 Japan Arts Festival is being managed by three lead primary schools in Coventry: Howes Primary School, Finham Primary School and Stivichall Primary School. Other partners include Warwick Arts Centre, EnV, the Japan Foundation and the Japan Society.

Why is this project unique?

The project is innovative as the Japan Arts Festival will be pupil-led. Pupils will have training in running an arts festival so that the pupil management committee will be responsible for the key elements of the festival. The pupils will receive training from and be supported by Warwick Arts Centre. The project is also significant because it links the arts with sport. Much of the work at the festival will be linked to Olympic and Paralympic values as well as actual sporting events. This will promote interest in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Preparation work...

To prepare for the Japan Arts Festival, Japanese artists will work with pupils in over 70 Coventry primary schools to create work including sumi-e art, Bizen ceramics, matsuri dance, manga, taiko drumming, digital storytelling, calligraphy, ikebana and Noh theatre to exhibit at the Japan Arts Festival. Artists working with Coventry schools include Hiroko Imada, Misako Okuyama, Taiko Meantime, Elaine Cooper, Chie Kutsuwada, Ishida Kazuya and Takumasa Ono. 

As part of this project school partnerships will be developed for many of the 90 Coventry primary schools. There are already 10 schools working collaboratively with schools in Chiba. To support the school links an educational resource to introduce Japanese culture and language into schools is being developed which will comprise of twelve themed units. This will be launched in Autumn 2018 at the Japan Conference for Schools.

How will the Japan Society and the Between the Stones Project support the Coventry Young Ambassadors and the Cities of Peace Noh Theatre Project? 

The Japan Society will support five primary schools from Coventry and help to facilitate Japan-UK school links. The project is supported by the ‘Getting to Noh’ programme of the Between the Stones Noh Theatre Project to introduce the children to aspects of noh theatre as well as the two other Japanese cultural art forms, karesansui gardens and furin wind chimes, that are also part of the new noh drama 'Between the Stones’.

Pupils in Coventry have had a one-day workshop supported by the Japan Society and Jannette learning about Noh theatre and the new noh story ‘Between the Stones’. As a result they have been inspired to work on three ‘peace’ projects. The schools plan at present is for each project to link to an aspect of the curriculum. Work planned to date: 

  • The peace poems will be shared with the City of Coventry in Coventry Cathedral from 8-16 November 2018, and then at the Japanese Embassy on 6 February 2019.

  • In the Spring term they will begin work on locally relevant stories and plays using aspects of noh storytelling structure in their own performance work following a performance workshop with Kinue Oshima and Richard Emmert as part of the Between the Stones Project - Phase 2.

  • Then, in the summer term, they will design model (miniature) karesansui gardens working initially with Jannette and then local gardeners.

The first workshop

The first workshop for the five Coventry primary schools took place on 21 September 2018. 180 Coventry children and their teachers participated in this initial workshop. They spent the day initially learning some key aspects of noh theatre and about the story of Between the Stones from Jannette as part of the Between the Stones Project Phase 1. Then, using three scenes from Between the Stones, they worked in small groups to read, role-play and draw those scenes. We are very grateful to the celebrated photographer, Clive Barda, who is supporting the Between the Stones project, as he kindly agreed to join us in Coventry to capture some of those moments of the day!

One such moment of the day was when all the children demonstrated the ‘shiori’ gesture (representing sadness) together:

180 children from five Coventry primary schools participate in a ‘Getting to Noh’ workshop on 21 September 2018 to learn about some of key aspects of noh and the story of  ‘Between the Stones’.  Here the children are learning about the meaning of the  ‘shiori’  symbolising sadness. Photography by Clive Barda

Take a look at some of the other moments and the work of the children captured by Clive during the day.

These key moments reflected the work undertaken by the children and teachers:

The children read and role-played a scene from  ‘Between the Stones’…   Photography by Clive Barda

The children read and role-played a scene from ‘Between the Stones’…

Photography by Clive Barda

Working in small groups…  Photography by Clive Barda

Working in small groups…

Photography by Clive Barda

Then, spent time drawing the scene they had been studying...  Photography by Clive Barda

Then, spent time drawing the scene they had been studying...

Photography by Clive Barda

It was lovely to see the  karesansui  garden in this child’s drawing. Photography by Clive Barda

It was lovely to see the karesansui garden in this child’s drawing. Photography by Clive Barda

And children helping one another…

And children helping one another…

The day was a massive collaborative effort involving the Japan Society (Heidi Potter, Hannah Eastham and Rebecca), teaching assistants and teachers from all five schools and Jannette. None of this would have been possible if not for the energy and drive of Rebecca Bollands, Deputy Head of Howes Primary School, Coventry and all her Coventry colleagues!

The Peace Poems Project

Coventry Young Ambassadors 180 Peace Poem Furin Exhibition at Coventry Cathedral, 8-16 November 2018

The five Coventry schools decided to create ‘peace poem tanzaku’, which are the poem cards that hang from wind chimes (furin), as the first of their peace projects inspired by the story of Between the Stones.

The children made their own wind chimes. All 180 furin and peace poem tanzaku are currently on show in Coventry Cathedral from 8-16 November 2018.

The peace poems will then be exhibited in London at the Japanese Embassy in London on the 6 February 2019 - the day that the Between the Stones Project (Phase 2) is presented to Embassy guests as part of the Japan-UK Season of Culture.

John Lewis & Partners have kindly donated three of the trees on which the 180 furin are displayed.


We will keep you up-to-date with progress on the schools project as it continues to develop. 

If you would like to support or gain further information about the work of the Coventry Young Ambassadors contact Rebecca Bollands at: deputy@howes.coventry.sch.uk

For Coventry Young Ambassador News see: Twitter @CYAmbassador

http://www.coventry.gov.uk/news/article/2467/counting_down_to_tokyo_2020