Mandala Young Company’s Exchange to the Rencontre, Grenoble by Ildi Nagy

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If the World Cup and France’s upcoming games aren’t enough, Crearc’s Rencontre also brought life and noise into the otherwise rather quite scenic town to celebrate art, theatre, Europe and of course the summer.

Grenoble University surely has the most beautiful campus – no matter how tired we were from late-night workshops or rehearsals we never failed to appreciate the spectacular view.

Shortly after our arrival at the accommodation, we meet international students right away

Eric is quick to lend me a kettle, our wifi gets sorted out as well thanks to Louis just across the hall.

 

The dorms we stay in evoke different memories – from first loves to university parties,

which I would turn into a boutique hotel while Ralph is lamenting over his waterpark plans – both forgetting that surely a monastery would be the most fitting option.

 

This festival is like no other, and one rarely gets the opportunity to discuss what culture, theatre and being European means in such an informal and naturally flowing setting. On the first day listening to the Mayor’s speech we all shout out at different times, but with the same emotion and drive – we are all grateful to be here.

 

Watching a play in a language you don’t understand was a first for many. It’s always interesting to see how easy it is to get along, once you actually try to understand how the other person feels, what they are trying to achieve.

 

As we step into a more and more globalized world, these soft skills will be useful once we try to navigate this maze they call ‘Adult Life’.

 

It’s not only informal cultural exchange we see every day, every afternoon brings the cafe debate, where the participants get the opportunity to discuss the plays of the previous day.

 

Some would expect that these events are not the most popular option for the participants,

but the curiosity of the people clearly shows as the small room quickly fills up, with young people sitting on the floor. The level of knowledge could make any corporate translator company jealous with people speaking parallel in English, French Italian and many more languages. As we move through the week, it matters less and less who came from where. After lunch the arrangement gets mixed, with voices, languages, opinions all twirling around in a colourful (and of course loud) conversation just like the summer storm that often forced us to run even faster towards the theatre.

 

This year’s Greek team from Thessaloniki raised the bar giving a moving performance portraying disability, with members of the group having various disabilities themselves.

 

We hear inspiring examples every day in Grenoble, as the Portuguese team who came from a Technological University are ready for the revolution and the Greek team is in the process of creating an Art Academy.

 

 

What can we do? What’s our responsibility to make the United Kingdom a place of cultural exchange? How can we put all that we learnt into practice?

 

The writer of this essay found a place of belonging through Mandala’s open workshops and learned about what it means to be British and how she as an immigrant can find a place here.

 

The scenic town feels old and new at the same time hugged by mountains with the river flowing in the middle – separating and connecting at the same time. Hot afternoons and breezy summer nights pass as we talk with each other in every way we can – through music, through hand signs, through a shared love of food.

 

Century old (or painfully present) differences disappear once you realise that your grandma uses the same type of summer apple for a sour apple tart – and whether it’s a cake, or play we all love, or a dream we all have – we’ll continue to build bridges over those rivers even after leaving Grenoble.