Edutainment expansion - Ashe intent on widening scope
They have been around for more than two decades, and have grown tremendously since being established. Still, the Ashe Performing Arts Company is looking towards expansion. They believe edutainment is one of the most powerful tools in today's society, and see it as a means of getting Jamaica's youth empowered and more involved in social issues.
Executive director of Ashe, Conroy Wilson, told The Gleaner that the group is seeking to get accreditation for their edutainment programmes. "Ashe is deepening its niche in edutainment," he said. "We have used the arts to tackle a number of social issues in the past, and are still doing so today."
He referred to the recent staging of the children's musical, HUSH, an Ashe production which looks at children's rights. Wilson said the production was an eye-opener on many issues affecting the nation's children and established how important their voices are.
"Over 10 years ago, we wrote a full-length musical looking at the rights of the child, and the issues are still relevant today. So we decided to highlight those issues during our summer-school programme," he explained. Wilson noted that the 2015 summer-school children were the third generation of Ashe trainees to create a children's musical, and they intend to travel the country with HUSH.
"We want to travel with the musical across the country to every school and community group to start a dialogue on the issues and provide some ordinary solutions," he said. "With the process and power of edutainment, everybody learns and is impacted. The theatre provides an avenue to examine very sensitive issues in a non-confrontational way."
Wilson also said that Ashe is looking to expand its brand as they continue to use the performing arts to foster social change. "Having established a permanent home after a long hiatus, Ashe now focuses on expanding its brand," said Wilson. "Ashe is not just about learning to sing, act and dance, but learning how to use that to impact social change."
Ashe recently participated in a Global Workshop on Promoting the Advancement of Community-Led Communication for Change through Participatory Theatre (Edutainment) in Lusaka, Zambia, with 17 other countries from Africa, Asia, Central and South East Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean.