4 DAYS TO GO: Johnny Autin runs free dance and street games workshops at Central Square Shopping Centre – ahead of Little Amal’s visit to Erdington

Words, images & video by Ed King / Images of Little Amal supplied by Good Chance Theatre and Active Arts

“You just become friends straight away because you play a game together.”

International choreographer and dance artist Johnny Autin will be running free dance and street games workshops at Central Square Shopping Centre on Monday 25, Tuesday 26, and Wednesday 27 October – between 1pm and 3pm each day.

Open to families, children, and adults of all ages, the workshops will be practicing a simple and specially devised dance routine – to be performed as part of the one day carnival welcoming Little Amal to Erdington on Thursday 28 October.

Little Amal is a 12ft ‘living puppet’ which has been on a worldwide ‘walk’ to raise awareness about the plight of refugee children, based on a young Syrian girl separated from her mother as her family try to find food.

Starting on the Turkey/Syria border in July, Little Amal will have travelled through countries including Greece, Italy, Switzerland, and France, before finishing her 8,000km journey in the UK.

According to UNICEF, the United Nations’ child support agency, 33 million children had been ‘forcibly displaced’ at the end of 2019 – accounting for over 50% of the world’s refugees and displaced people.

Johnny Autin is the Creative Director of Autin Dance Theatre, Artistic Director of Man Made Youth Company, and an Associate Artist of Midlands Arts Centre.

Autin has been commissioned across the world, including Dance Hub (Birmingham, UK), The Arden School of Acting (Manchester, UK), MUDA (Africa), IBUKA Dance (East Africa), and in Opera choreographing ‘Carmen’ (Macerata, Italy).

Johnny Autin’s dance and street games workshops are part of the Kaleidoscope events being organised to welcome Little Amal to Erdington, led by local arts charity Active Arts on behalf of Birmingham City Council and Birmingham 2022 Festival.

“My team is coming to play some games with people in Erdington, games that come from different parts of the Commonwealth countries,” explained Johnny Autin.

“Those games are then being used chorographically for a performance when Little Amal comes to Erdington (Thursday 28 October) – people will be able to come out onto the streets and play those games live, with a band, with music and some workshop facilitators.

“It’s really about just having fun, about play, and about having a sense of community.

“There will be a stylised performance of these games, as a way of saying thank you for coming, showing our love and respect for her journey, and wishing her well on the last part of her journey.

“We’ll play games because Little Amal is a young girl, so we want to bring back that sense of play that we all have when we’re children and that some people might have forgotten.

“I feel like the world needs more fun, and joy, and play, and that’s the message – because children are generally more welcoming and playful with others, than adults.

“You just become friends straight away because you play a game together.

“It’s fun, it’s physical, and it’s healthy. It’s good for yourself and it’s good for everybody.”

As part of the ongoing Kaleidoscope workshops there will also be arts and crafts sessions run by Celebrating Sanctuary Birmingham – where people can learn to make friendship bracelets, to be gifted to members of the public on the day Little Amal comes to visit Erdington.

Johnny Autin added: “They can help make some friendship bracelets, that we’ll be offering to all the audience that come (on Thursday 28 October).

“We will be making things, painting things, decorating things.

“But also learning some street games, rhythms, and music, and being surrounded by beautiful musicians, dance, and movement.”

All the Little Amal events and Kaleidoscope workshops are open to children and adults of all ages, and are completely free to attend,

People are invited to simply drop into the workshops, being held at the Secret Art Studio Space downstairs at the Central Square Shopping Centre on Erdington High Street.

Or email [email protected] directly for more information.

Johnny Autin leads dance workshop at Central Square, Erdington

Images from previous Kaleidoscope arts and craft workshops

Kaleidoscope arts, craft, street games and dance workshops will be held between 1-3pm at the Secret Art Studio Space on Monday 25, Tuesday 26, and Wednesday 27 October – at the Central Shopping Centre on Erdington High Street.

Little Amal will visit Erdington on Thursday 28 October, with a one day event from 1pm.

For more on the Kaleidoscope event and Little Amal’s visit to Erdington visit www.activearts.wordpress.com/little-amal/ or email [email protected]

For more on Little Amal and ‘The Walk’ visit www.walkwithamal.org