So, PWB 2012 has “Honk Honk Ding-a-Ling” ‘d it all the way to the mountains of Darjeeling. The first thing that struck us all was the welcome change in temperature, fresh breezes brushing our faces as we wound our way through the tea farms up the hills to Darjeeling. The second, as we arrived at the apartment that is our home for the next month, was the calm that pervades over the upper part of the town. Due to the narrow and poorly maintained roads (the monsoon season is long up here and washes away roads at quite a rate apparently), there is very little traffic compared with noisy, jam-ridden Kolkata. People walk places mostly, often carrying the hugest loads that are just supported by a strap around the forehead and whatever it is they are carrying. I think the winner so far is a full sized wardrobe carried in this manner!
After a short break for the team, which saw us all off on different adventures (ask individuals for more details!), we gathered ourselves together for our third and final project, which kicked off in traditional PWB style with a show at our chosen charity for the whole of this month, Edith Wilkins Street Children Foundation (EWSCF). We loaded ourselves up with hoops, unicycles, and large bags of kit for the show, and as we trekked down the hill and through town, we were followed by a quiet babble of voices, occasionally picking out words such as “circus’ and “cycle”…Yes, PWB were back again, and the locals knew it!
PWB did their first project at EWSCF last year, having only performed there the year before – and our show was very well received by the extended EWSCF family who even sat through the fog and drizzle to see the end of our show. Some of the adults even wondered if we had added to their ongoing building works by digging a tunnel for our “twins” to run through (we hadn’t if you don’t know the show). Our first week of teaching over, we have now met over 90 children whom either live at or visit the drop-in centre at EWSCF. All are eager to learn, pushing the team to find ways to teach and entertain 90 children in the same space at the same time. In just a week they have begun to show off their new skills. Overcoming their initial shyness they are learning new tricks at an astounding rate. Favourite props have begun to emerge – Diabolo and Hoop as always, are the main contenders. Unicyclists wobble up, down and through the yard with various rates of success. A yard which is full to brimming with hula-hooping, juggling, plate spinning, diabolo-ing children and young people aged between 3 and 18. Some new arrivals at EWSCF this week were greeted with this sight, a mixture of surprise, confusion and intrigue on their faces, which soon turned into excitement as they got involved with the circus classes that day.
We had time in our first fews days here to perform for another local and well established charity Hayden Hall. They run various projects supporting old people, women and children that live below the poverty line in the Darjeeling area. Faces kept appearing round the door as we prepared for our show, intrigued by the various props and warming-up that was going on. Then our audience flooded in, led by members of the Burns Club (men and women aged 65+). The hall quickly filled with a 400 strong audience aged 3-86, and a fantastic audience they were too! From the earnest clapping and wow-ing of some of the youngest in the audience to the heartfelt gratitude and amazement that Kaluman Thami (aged 70) had a volunteer translate to us (he hadn’t seen things like we did in our show even on the TV and he didn’t even know some of these things we did were possible!) another PWB show was truly well enjoyed by both team and audience. All in all, a fantastic first week’s work, I reckon!