Who are you?  

Many years ago I was dressed up as a toad and drove past a stand at Larmer Tree Festival that looked inviting, fun, playful. There was a great big smile and a kind voice that called out;

“Come back later and talk with us”!  

So I did, that is the voice of Emily Ball (who dedicated so much volunteer time to building up the tours and supporting volunteers over many many years), and that was the beginning of my involvement with PWB 8 years ago! For Performers Without Borders, I’ve been a volunteer, a tour coordinator, a tour manager, an HQ management team member, a clown, a musician, a storage space provider, an instigator and a supporter.   

Chez Dunford reporting.  

Alongside my years of supporting PWB to grow and offer more great projects with vulnerable and disadvantaged communities, I practice theatre-making with school projects, intergenerational work, write and perform traditional folk music, fool, clown, and collaborate with a host of Street Theatre Companies (you might also find me teaching a Yoga class and offering Holistic Massage treatments too!)

My current project is Griefnotes, supporting young people with their emotions after the terminal diagnosis of a close family member and young people experiencing grief, we run fun drama sessions to process the realities of what is happening.   

My umbrella is PLAY – play to connect, play to create and play to process – all with an inquiry of how it is to be on a human journey. I use music, movement, improvisation and writing to respond to each individual group I work with. I believe all children have the right to access play no matter your class, race, gender, or location. 

I studied Devised Theatre at Dartington College of Arts and this embedded in a deep listening practice to following creative processes that serves each project I collaborate with.         

What memory have you most revisited from a tour? 

Listening to the current news about immigration law for displaced people crossing the waters from France, I am reminded of the love I have witnessed between families in Calais and Dunkirk. The risks that people take to provide a safer future for their children are incredibly risky. I am reminded to continue lobbying and connecting with the imbalance and unfairness of how displaced people are treated. All people have the right to be safe – after such traumatic journeys to reconnect with family and friends, it feels that people should be met with safety and open-hearted warmth. The lack of insight our government has when thinking about what these people have been through dehumanizes – our connection work in north France allows young people and families some much-needed respite from the reality of their situation.

What areas or aspects of the tour challenged you the most? 

Oh – I remember the first tour and the heat of India! “TOO HOT!” we would chant.

Our travel was always a hoot! We had so much circus kit and unicycles and backpacks and food bags  – there was one train station that was sooooo busy. My feet lifted slightly as we were carried along by the masses of people. Turns out the train didn’t fully stop.  So we found the fire escape shutter on the carriage and climbed through one by one. “TOO MUCH LUGGAGE” chimed the crew and we formed a chain getting all of our kit onto the train throwing it through the tiny window as the train slowly started moving faster. Wide-eyed, we looked around as the train station turned into a blurring colour of heat and colour, we counted each other with wry smiles, counted the kit bags, and finally, after some breaths, the belly laughs reclaimed the reality of what we were doing.  It was a bit of a keep breathing, keep moving, trust all will be well.    

On the tour what was your biggest achievement? 

I’m most proud of how I’ve managed my time as a freelance performer and facilitator to be able to volunteer time and energy for 8 tours! India, 2013 with Andy Long as the Tour Coordinator, India, 2015 with me Tour Coordinating, Kenya  2017 with Abi Cooper as the Tour Coordinator and most recently myself and Jess Herman have set up and facilitate the Calais and Dunkirk projects, 2017, 2018,  and two in 2019.  

Throughout all of the tours, I feel more comfortable leading and listening to what the group needs are.

What was your kids show about? 

Oh so many things, co-operation, teamwork, challenge, working out puzzles, the cycle of night and day, good overcoming evil, silly clowns, being hungry, chasing the coconuts….

What was your biggest breakthrough with teaching? 

It was Kenya – we were working with some very vulnerable young people in a children’s home. One young person was non-verbal and was unable to make eye contact. I offered clown workshops to the school for a month and gently, gently, this young person wearing a red nose joined in the game and told the whole group his name. It was a profound moment, all the children were so kind to him and I hoped that this was the beginning of his release of trauma. This was one of those moments that reassures me why I do the work I do. 

How did you fundraise for the tour?

  • 12-hour Knitathon – I knit, you sponsor me and guess how long the scarf will be.
  • Autumnal Wordy Warmer – poetry, music and storytelling in a local venue.
  • Winter Warmer – stories at the Milk Bar
  • Busking out in the street with a sign
  • Cabarets at The Island, the Greenbank Pub.
  • Raffles at all sorts for events
  • AND THE BEST ONE – S**T TOMBOLA – available for all and any event. 

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