Working with Yonas through the pandemic has been a silver lining in a very strange, turbulent year. I honestly think that when I look back to 2020, I will remember the sessions we spent with Yonas and his family as one of the most positive things to come out of this time. Having previously worked with Yonni pre-COVID, it’s been an incredible journey and a total privilege to see him respond to the work both in person and over Zoom.
As a group we have got to know this young man, and have learnt that he is playful and engaged with the work, but is simultaneously also struggling through a lot of resistance which can manifest itself in ways that prevent him playing each game. When we worked with Yonni in person, we adapted to meet his needs and to find a point of connection with him according to where he was at day by day.
On Zoom we aimed to do the same thing. What was remarkable was the growth we saw online; in our first session we encountered much of the resistance and struggle that we had anticipated. By the second session we found definite steps forward – there was a much higher level of engagement in the eye contact game.
On the third session, Yonni’s Mum Meseret used a phone instead of a laptop, and this showed us a revelatory level of flexibility in the games. What started out as a technical hitch became a game changer: Meseret could move the phone closer or further away from Yonni depending on what each game required, and the games suddenly had a whole new dynamic and dimension.
We were no longer rooted to the spot, but could adapt to Yonni and align to his space. A few sessions later, we logged in to Zoom and found that Meseret had created Yonni’s own Flute Theatre backdrop in his living room to match ours – fairy lights and all. It was a moment of realising that despite the global pandemic keeping us all apart, this community was still connected.
I have learnt an enormous amount from Yonni and his incredible family. I have seen the value of persistence, patience, and belief. I have seen a concrete example of what can be achieved if you refuse to give up on somebody, and refuse to be defeated by huge obstacles. What happens when you keep trying. And trying again.
-Oliver McLellan, Actor –
Y is a very happy bubbley, full of energy all the time and pushes his baunders to get what he wants. Y is a very smart child knows a lot of things, he offten gets frastreted when his not been anderstood, bits himself offten, hits me and hits his head, jumpes up and down and makes nouises.
in the beging of starting flut theater he was very challeging, it took him a few sessions for him to start to imtate what the group are doing. as he has autism and ADHD and is non verbal, it took time for him to focus. with hard work from the flute theater not giving on us. it helped him to focus and and imitate and eventually copy what was been said. As he has no places to go to get the social interaction, he was getting an input of social interaction. I am so grateful and thank to the flute theater for not giving up on Y and for giving him the opportunity to access the session as there is no place that he has access to, other then school.
I am very greatful to Kelly and to all the staff for giving him and his brother to particepate in the sessions.
-Meseret, Yonas mother-
We often talk about a ‘golden’ or a ‘lightbulb’ moment doing this work. In Yonni, Meseret & Jacob’s case this was a quite literal experience as on our third session we were greeted with fairy lights, a coloured cloth backdrop, pretty much a fully decked zoom stage that rivalled ours!
There was a collective in breath from all of us in our zoom boxes as we realised the vitality and vitalness of what we were doing. A Mother of two with her boys, navigating lockdown with relentless fire, energy and boundless love.
As a group, we had found a way of working in real space that we considered ‘a groove’, there was an intrinsic mutual trust and understanding. From this base, the work rocked, cradled, grounded, catapulted and morphed itself into whatever it became for a specific session. As a team we had learned what that felt like and how to help navigate our participants through it in an optimal way.
To then be thrust into unknown territory was akin to starting again, we knew we couldn’t recreate what we had found but there was a huge platform from which to build something new. Yonni was one of the first participants we played with online, having also previously done sessions with him in real space at his school.
What we do at Flute, is create a safe space for our participants. It’s like creating a sense of home. Something, warm, safe and familiar. The more you do it, the more it is like putting on a warm pair of slippers at the end of a cold hard day. So how could we create this remotely?
To watch Yonni and his family grow in trust, sensitivity, playfulness and daring was a humbling, joyous experience to watch. There was a realisation very early on in the process that we had created something exciting, something that was it’s own beast but that most importantly something that the participants had direct access to. Yonni found his voice and allowed us to hear it in ways we hadn’t before. And even though we were all scattered across various parts of the world, everyone was channelling their energy into and beyond the screen to some kind of liminal space where our souls could collectively dance in our created world.
Yonas has also proved how essential it is for our learners to have constant access to this work, for there to be regular repetition. The progress that we have witnessed is evidence of this and something that has quite frankly astounded us. I will never cease to be amazed by this work and feel as though we have tapped into a whole other treasure trove of techniques, not to replace the previous work but to run alongside.
-Alistair Hoyle, Actor-