Other relevant writing experience includes:
Feature articles for the EU Rural Review; Arena Magazine; BBC Online; and Red Pepper; a book review for the Times (London). Technical writing for Science for Environment Policy magazine; sub-editing for consumer lifestyle magazines Midweek and Nine to Five; and corporate communications for the American Theatre Company, Brussels (from 2005/2007 I was Editor of ATC News, the company’s quarterly newsletter).
Below you will find an article from the EU Rural Review, followed by a selection of my pieces for ATC News.
Rural Citizen Interview
LOCAL ACTION FOR SOCIAL INTEGRATION IN LUXEMBOURG
Fons Jacques is LEADER-manager of the Local Action Group (LAG) Redange-Wiltz in Luxembourg. Based in the town of Eschdorf, Mr. Jacques has a background in agronomic engineering and has been part of the LAG since the LEADER II period (1996). The Redange-Wiltz LAG is responsible for implementing the LEADER programme in two of the 12 communes of Luxembourg (Redange and Wiltz in the west of the country). Farming is the main source of employment in this lightly populated rural area, which contains Luxembourg’s first national park (Naturpark Uewersauer). As elsewhere in Luxembourg, the area is notable for a higher-than-EU-average presence of non-indigenous residents (some 6% of the 19 114 population are of Portuguese origin). The Redange-Wiltz LAG has led innovative and successful approaches to integrating the Portuguese community into Luxembourgish society.
“As you know there are a lot of foreigners working and living here in Luxembourg – more than 40% of the population,” explains Mr. Jacques. “In our region a large percentage of the population came from Portugal in the 1970s. The problem is that a lot of the first generation Portuguese immigrants don’t speak Luxembourgish,” he notes.
Two-thirds of Luxembourgers speak the country’s native language, and demand for Luxembourgish courses is increasing, particularly as they are compulsory for those who want Luxembourg citizenship. However, says Mr. Jacques, “It’s very difficult for an outsider to speak Luxembourgish in our country because, as Luxembourgers, when we address people from outside we always try to talk in their language, whether it’s French or German or English, and so on.”
As a result of these unusual circumstances, the Redange-Wiltz LAG has chosen to focus on people, training and communication initiatives: increasing human resources through training and education; promoting leisure, culture and tourism; and providing better communication between different target groups in the villages.
LEADER shows the way
In order to improve social interaction and integration between the autochthonous people of Luxembourg and incomers of Portuguese origins, an innovative transnational LEADER project (“De Basto à Redange-Wiltz: Regional Development through Cultural Exchange”) was undertaken jointly from 2005-2007 by the Redange-Wiltz LAG and the ProBasto LAG in northern Portugal. The collaboration encompassed three action strands: promotion of regional/local products; promotion of tourism; and, most significantly, a highly successful pilot language/integration course in Redange-Wiltz.
The course, the first of its kind in the region, involved simultaneous teaching of both Portuguese and Luxembourgish to a group of 20 students (10 speakers of each language). “The teaching concept behind it was to learn the foreign language through knowledge about the country’s culture, history, traditions, cuisine and dance,” explains Mr. Jacques. An important part of the course was a series of workshops in which participants were organised in pairs (one Portuguese speaker, one Luxembourgish speaker) and sent to do activities together, such as shopping, cooking, dancing and playing games. “The workshops allowed the participants to not only discover each other’s country and language in a practical way, but also to get to know each other,” he says.
The first pilot course started in February 2006 in Wiltz and lasted for 17 weeks. Attracting participants from the Portuguese-speaking community was a challenge, admits Mr. Jacques. Traditional advertising methods such as posters and newspaper adverts got little response, so the LAG chose to contact potential participants directly through partner organisations, such as the Association Amitié Portugal-Luxembourg. “Without local multipliers it would not have worked,” believes the LEADER-manager. The “excellent” response to the first course led to a second pilot course beginning in autumn 2006 and involving a further 20 participants.
“We were very happy with the project, or at least with the local part of it,” says Mr. Jacques. “However, the contact between the LAGs was not that good.” Co-ordination issues arose at the transnational level due to the different interests of the two LAGs. Social and cultural integration of Portuguese inhabitants in Luxembourg was the main goal of the Redange-Wiltz LAG, while the ProBasto LAG was more interested in the promotion of its regional products abroad.
Nonetheless, Mr. Jacques is very pleased to note that the project has contributed to an improved understanding between the Luxembourgish and Portuguese communities and to better integration of minority groups. “The creative style of the language workshops has led to an exchange not only of language skills but also to a considerable cultural exchange,” he says proudly.
Multiplying the effects
The language courses have proved so popular that the Luxembourg Ministry for Families and Integration is planning to mainstream them at national level to encourage wider cultural integration and ensure the sustainability of the project.
Mr. Jacques explains that “in this period of LEADER we have again put a very big emphasis on the integration of people coming from outside living in our region”. The Redange-Wiltz LAG is planning to launch some new language courses in autumn 2010 that build on the lessons learned during the “Regional Development through Cultural Exchange” project. “We are collaborating now with a social association in Luxembourg on what we call an ‘integration packet’ with all the communities in our partnership. As part of this we hope to launch some new courses where people learning the Luxembourgish language are guided on a practical level by a coach who will be by their side during different activities. So the Luxembourgish ‘coach’ will have lunch or a coffee with them, go shopping with them or have a walk with them. We call these ‘coaching courses’ and we are advertising now for interested parties to take part.”
Advice for other practitioners
Mr. Jacques is reluctant to give advice to practitioners from other countries involved in promoting social inclusion in rural areas: “I think it’s very difficult because it depends on the local situation all the time. Luxembourgish is only spoken by 200 000 or 300 000 people so it’s a special thing. It’s perhaps easier in other countries such as France or Germany, because the languages are more widely spoken.”
Nonetheless, he does have some general principles that he also tries to apply in his work with the LAG: “Always have respect for other cultures and look at things from their point-of-view too. Don’t just look at things with your own eyes, stay on the mirror side and see things through the eyes of the foreigner coming to another country.”
(Originally published in issue 7 of the EU Rural Review – 2010).
FEATS is the word
The ATC came away with two trophies from FEATS 2006, the annual European one-act play festival for Anglophone theatrical societies. The ATC’s entry, “The Author’s Voice” by Richard Greenberg, directed by Carrie Ellwanger, took third place out of a 12-strong field of entrants at the 30th anniversary FEATS, hosted by Luxembourg’s New World Theatre Company in the charming town of Ettelbruck. Adjudicator Mike Tilbury awarded the ‘Blackie’ for best actor to the ATC’s Caraigh McGregor for his memorable portrayal of Gene, while also praising the performances of Keith Gilroy (Todd) and Deborah Griffith (Portia). ‘The Author’s Voice’ was also nominated for the Best Stage Presentation prize, a tribute to the highly creative stage design by Carrie Ellwanger and Keith Gilroy, and the innovative lighting of Carsten Koester.
Picture caption: The ATC FEATS 2006 team (left to right): Caraigh McGregor, Keith Gilroy, Katie Carroll (stage hand), Bruce Burdick (ATC supporter who flew in from Rhode Island for the festival), Michel Didier (stage manager), Carrie Ellwanger (with the Tache Diamonds Award for 3rd place), Deborah Griffith (not pictured: Audrey Noble (stage hand) and Carsten Koester). (Photo: Alan Kenway)
On a highly successful night for Brussels’s English-language theatre community, the Brussels Shakespeare Society (BSS) won first prize for its presentation of “The Real Lady Macbeth” by Stuart Delves, while Andrew Ing (stage management) and lighting designer Richard Maddern (Anthony Cornish Discretionary Award) also picked up prizes. Many congratulations to “Real Lady” director Lynne Vaughan and all her cast and crew.
Table: ATC trophy-winners at FEATS – 1976-2006
- 1982 – ‘A View from the Bridge’ by Arthur Miller (2nd place and the Anthony Cornish Discretionary Award)
- 1984 – ‘Stay’ by Vincent Eaton (2nd place, stage management and best original script)
- 1985 – ‘Tennessee’ by Romulus Linney (best actress: Sally Boyle)
- 1987 – ‘Aria da Capo’ by Edna St. Vincent Millay (3rd place and stage management)
- 1989 – ‘The Pushcart Peddlars’ by Murray Schisgal (1st place and best actor: Adam Brown)
- 1990 – ‘Patio’ by Jack Heifner (stage management)
- 1994 – ‘Hopscotch’ by Israel Horovitz (1st place and stage management)
- 1998 – ‘The Unseen Hand’ by Sam Shepard (best stage presentation)
- 2001 – ‘Power Lunch’ by Alan Ball (2nd place and best actor: Ted Fletcher)
- 2002 – ‘The man who met his maker’ by Graham Andrews (best actor: Richard Foxon)
- 2003 – ‘Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You’ by Christopher Durang (3rd place)
- 2006 – ‘The Author’s Voice’ by Richard Greenberg (3rd place and best actor: Caraigh McGregor).
Tony luvs Alan
This year’s Antoinette Perry Awards for Excellence in Theatre (that’s the Tonys to you and me) were a triumph for the Brits, and in particular for Nicholas Hytner’s production of Alan Bennett’s ‘The History Boys’, which came away with no less than six awards, including best play, best direction, best featured actress (Frances de la Tour) and best actor (the man who should have played Sir Leigh Teebing in ‘The Da Vinci Code’, Richard Griffiths). Best actress went to ‘Sex and the City’ star Cynthia Nixon for her performances in the play ‘Rabbit Hole’, while Scotland’s Ian McDiarmid was named best featured actor for his work in ‘The Lieutenant of Inishmore’. Best musical was ‘Jersey Boys’, the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
Hall of Fame
Continuing our regular series of interviews with actors new to the group, this issue we catch up with Rob Hall, who is set to make his first appearance with the ATC in our spring mainstage production, Arthur Miller’s classic, A View From the Bridge. Here’s the skinny…
Q: How long have you been in Brussels and what do you do here?
A: I’ve been living in Brussels thirteen years, twelve of them in Saint Gilles. I work as a translator at Agence Europe.
Q: Have you ever acted before?
A: I used to do quite a lot at university in Bristol, as well as in community theatre there, and only recently took it up again when I got involved in a theatre group in Liège, La joyeuse compagnie de bonheur, a deceptive name because it’s mainly experimental, engagé kind of stuff!! My role as Cyril Clatworthy in (see photo) was my first role in English speaking theatre since coming to Brussels, which was great fun.
Q: What made you want to be in “A View from The Bridge”?
A: I love all Arthur Miller’s plays, especially this one. It’s a very modern play, despite being set in the 1950s and containing obvious references to the McCarthy trials for un-American activities, it’s on a very human level with themes that don’t seem to date with the passing of time: betrayal, love, jealously, illegal immigration, etc.
Q: Which character do you play? How would you describe that character in one line?
A: I play Marco, the older of the two illegal immigrant brothers. He’s loyal, protective and selfless. He is prepared to kill to defend family honour, “good old fashioned values” really.
Q: Who are your favorite actors?
A: Philippe Noiret, Al Pacino, Edward Norton, Robert Carlyle, José Lopez, Nathalie Baie, to name but a few.