WEDNESDAY 13 OCTOBER
We set off from Gjackova by van to Peje at about 7.30 a.m. After reviving cups of strong expresso coffee we went and had a meeting with Save the Children with whom we will be running some workshops and shows here. Then we went on to meet the Peje branch of Balkan Sunflowers. Again, their house is tiny, and already very overcrowded, so they have found a tiny separate flat for us to stay in.
In the afternoon we go with Save the Children to Baran where Save the Children have created one of their “Safe Areas”. These safe areas are places which are now definitely free of landmines, and Save the Children have been running different activities to encourage their use – wonderful work.
Show We had hoped to do workshops as well as shows, but the secondary children have been invited as well, and as there are 400 children and young people between the ages of 6 and 18, we cannot even manage parachute games, and go straight into the show, which goes down tremendously well.
Then we return to Peje and visit the old Blind School where there are many refugee families with about 45 children. We give out clown noses, do the show, do facepainting and give out balloons.
THURSDAY 14 OCTOBER
We are going to do a show at the Vaso Pasho school in Peje. First Kofi Anan (the head of the United Nations) was going to re-open this school, then he wasn’t, now he is! Are we going to perform before he arrives, or after he has done his speech? Chaos rules, men with walkie-talkies confirm constant changes, then it appears Kofi Anan will be late, so we do our show to about 600 as the warm-up act! It goes down very well.
Have to cut a bit at the end as the secret service guy say he is on his way. We are tremendously well placed on the top of the steps where Kofi Anan will give his speech. His cavalcade arrives and a helicopter hovers overhead. As Kofi Anan mounts the steps, Charlie is blowing up a balloon for a child – and it bursts! A severe shock for the secret service and policemen! Wonderful speech by Kofi Anan who has a wonderful presence, and a lovely return speech by a young teenage Kosovan boy. I get a grin and a handshake. Lots of good photos.
In the afternoon we go to the village of Jabllanica e Madhe, a few kilometres out of Peje, right by the foothills to do a gig under the auspices of the European Children’s Trust. A lovely little village, with many burned out buildings. They were just rebuilding the pathway to the school. A very well behaved crowd of about 350 awaits us and do a very successful show.
Silly Billies The show now runs as follows: Daryl and Charlie present the Silly Billy wallpaper sketch (must rethink this for the future, as am not convinced everyone knows what wallpaper is), Jamie does his Booper the Clown show, Devilstick The Clown does his juggling and circus skills show, and then the Silly Billies present their charming sketch “The Cleaner and the Ballerina” ending in the balloon dance. A lovely chanting thing has been started by Paddy at the beginning of the show and at each changeover and the end. It is an echoing call, and eventually we have huge crowds singing “oh, oh, oh, oh”with the other half of the audience singing “Boomchacker, boomchacker”. Doesn’t work well on paper, but works very well in real life! A nice break where the audience can participate.
FRIDAY 15 OCTOBER
We go with Balkan Sunflowers to a school in Peje. We had hoped to be able to do workshops here as well as shows, but there are about 600 children, so can’t do anything except the show sadly. We perform at the top of the steps and the children stand at the bottom. It would have been better to seat them really – there were huge crowd surges as though it was a pop concert.
The teachers were sitting at the top of the steps as though on a dais and weren’t a lot of help. Paddy and I have to descend into the crowd to try to exert some sort of control. Show goes very well though and is much enjoyed.
In the afternoon we are meant to go to Strellc with Save the Children, but they are still caught up in a meeting and are unavailable. We decide to head to Strellc anyway, but when we arrive nobody knows that we are coming. We grab a few passing children and start to play parachute games, word spreads and soon we have 40 children or more for parachute games and at least 80 by the time we do the show. These impromptu events sometimes feel the best, on the edge, yet intimate. We were working in the grounds of the school by a tree which had been burnt and near the graves of people killed in the conflict. Some very moving photographs. Although this village is directly on the main road between Gjackova and Peje, it feels very forgotten. Many, many burnt out buildings, and the children very poor and needy. The sports master from the school turns up and we leave him a parachute so that he can continue the games with the children. A lovely afternoon.