We held a radio drama design workshop in Monrovia for the transboundary forest within the Mono River Union subregion in West Africa. It’s transboundary because the forests stretch between two countries where both French and English are spoken. The multilingual three day workshop brought together our grantees, local paramount chiefs, and traditional leaders from various communities under one roof.
Most of the people attending did not know much about producing a radio drama or creating a storyline. We split the participants into groups and spent the first two days preparing everybody so they could develop their own character profiles. Despite them all being new to this type of work, everybody had created characters and identified story threads by lunchtime on day three.
Out of six groups, two of them were French and four were English. We asked them:
Instead of just reporting back and explaining your characters,
why don’t you act them out?
To get everyone inspired, the WABiCC team put together a quick drama about a guy who was sent by a businessman to kill animals and bring him the parts. Shortly after we played our roles, we had the teams present their stories.
Once the participants had started their work, you could see that they were really psyched. Village chiefs are typically very serious guys that sit in their communities and just give orders to people. In the workshop, they were running around playing hunters. Government officials who are always in their suits giving instructions at the office were getting really involved in portraying these dramatic characters. Everybody was amazed.
I noticed that, even for the people working in French, our quick example really helped and inspired them. We had a translation team in a brown booth translating all of the skits in real time. Imagine the translation team trying to keep up with these people! A guy who manages a radio station in Guinea that covers 200,000 people was in a skit, holding his umbrella like a gun. This was his first time taking part in such a workshop, playing the part of an elephant hunter with his umbrella. It was an incredible experience for everybody.
We learned that if you give people the opportunity to express themselves, they can do it well beyond your expectations.