Indra Training Workshops
April 25, 2015 By admin

A. We plan to develop a training network based on the principle of dialogical education. This will involve developing a data base of artists who practise in the field and who have an interest in ongoing training and sharing in facilitation, performance, funding issues and other related skills. We will also offer training for artists who wish to explore how the aesthetic imagination can provide the key to constructive change and offer artists training in core conflict issues. These training programmes will be devised in parallel to and as an integral part of the wider Indra cycle of Congress events.

B. We are able to advise and work in partnership with agencies and organisations in the fields of reconciliation and conflict transformation that wish to employ the creative processes in which we specialise.

To achieve these objectives we can provide creative training and/or dialogue workshops in a range of settings:

higher and further education – training professionals in Equality and Diversity awareness and challenging racism

community, youth and social work – facilitating creative approaches to mediation and conflict, working with groups/gangs

with development agencies – generating confidence, self esteem and promoting the values of arts processes to help agencies achieve their objectives

industry and public services – helping people in business and public service to deal creatively with conflict in the work place, to work effectively with diversity and equality issues and to challenge racist practice at all levels.

Much applied theatre works with people who experience discrimination in various forms from racism to disability. Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed provides an example of this approach. We also recognise the importance of working with those who hold power and influence, whether in industry, education, health or the police, with the aim of challenging and opening minds to new ways of seeing.

Suggestions for exercises and workshop programmes

The exercises in this section are taken from David Oddie’s book:  A Personal Journey of Art and Conflict.  Weaving Indra’s Net published by Intellect.


This section of the book outlines a range of exercises and workshop programmes that incorporate ideas from the previous chapters. The idea is to share practice arising from my work during the development of ARROW/Indra. I have not set out to create an orthodox manual in the field of drama and conflict transformation: the practice is unapologetically eclectic. I do try to acknowledge sources whenever possible. The chapter is in three sections:

      1. preliminary looseners
      2. exercises linked to specific chapters
  • three extended workshop programmes: Cooling Conflict; Not another anti-racist workshop; and Zobodo.


  1. Preliminary looseners

There is an abundance of literature and digital material in the area of warm up games and exercises.   Here are three simple lead in exercises that help to get participants on their feet and, perhaps, not hiding behind folders or papers. It is worth pointing out to participants that if they can complete these straightforward activities, they already have the basic skills to engage in all the ensuing exercises and workshop programmes.

  1. Hypnosis (Augusto Boal). In pairs, A and B. A holds the palm of their hand about six inches from B’s face. B stands relaxed and neutral. A slowly moves their hand and B must move their whole body so that their face is always in exactly the same relationship to A’s hand. The aim is to move in sync, NOT to try and catch your partner out with quick, jerky movements, though A can be quite demanding! After a while change over.

It is useful to point out that this is more than just a physical warm up. Encourage participants to feel the experience of being in control, of being controlled: in which role do they feel most comfortable? Share these feelings afterwards.

  1. Change the Image (Boal). This exercise is a treat! In pairs, A and B create a statue, a still image of two people shaking hands. A then steps out of the picture and B remains exactly as they were. A looks at the remaining half a picture and spontaneously steps back into the frame to create a completely different image – B remaining still, in the previous position. The idea is to encourage spontaneity, without the fear of getting it wrong – there is no right answer, just let the imagination free. B then takes their turn and the exercise continues in this order, becoming a flowing dance like sequence.

The facilitator asks for a volunteer pair. They make their first image of shaking hands. The group is then asked to imagine thought bubbles arising from the heads of the figures. A then moves away and they assume the second image. The group suggests the contents of the speech bubbles now. This can become hilarious.

  1. Taxis. This is a simple trust exercise in pairs. A and B stand opposite each other, raise and put the palm of their hands together at around neck height. A then drives B around the space, taking care not to bump into other vehicles. A does this by exerting a small, sensitive pressure on B’s hand. Both A’s hands pushing gently move B gently backwards. If A presses with their left hand only on B’s right hand, then the vehicle will turn to A’s right, similarly with the other hand. Releasing the pressure causes the vehicle to stop. After a few moments B is encouraged to close their eyes and trust A not to bump other vehicles or crash! The partners may then change over. Participants are encouraged to explore how little pressure may be needed to move the vehicle, even just using the finger tips.
  2. Exercises linked to specific chapters

The exercises in this section relate to ideas and issues arising from chapters in the book. Exercises 1-2 are linked to chapter one.

Exercise 1

The newspaper game

This is an excellent exercise to help encourage imaginative problem solving, to help participants realise that ongoing, seemingly intractable conflicts may require ‘out of the box’, innovative ways of thinking and approach

If any of the participants are familiar with this exercise they are asked to stand aside as observers. It is useful anyway to have a small group volunteering to stay out of the exercise as observers.

Several sheets of newspaper are spread out over the space on the floor. Participants are asked to step into the space. They must all be in touch with the paper but must not be directly touching the floor. This is relatively easy as there are plenty of pieces of paper to stand on without touching the floor surface directly. The facilitator then removes some of the paper and asks the participants to repeat the task, i.e. touching the paper but not the floor. The paper pieces are reduced again.   Each time the participants will apply the same answer to the problem, even if it involves lifting or using a piggy back to carry a partner.

This continues until the facilitator removes all the paper except for a small piece; there is no way the participants could stand on it. They are set the same task. The observers watch the group and record the various responses. The same old response will not solve the problem, which does now seem insoluble. The facilitator must keep it going for as long as s/he thinks appropriate, until the problem is solved or until sufficient strategies for addressing the problem have been observed.

There is a way to solve the problem, which involves thinking out of the box, thinking in a different way. This is for the participants to stand in a circle, touch the piece of paper with their hands and then, at the same moment, all jump in the air: they are all in contact with the paper but not touching the floor, as they were asked.

The observers give their feedback. Some participants may have grumbled, ‘it’s impossible’, and give up. Some may lose interest. Some may suggest a potentially viable approach, which is rejected as being too off the wall! I remember watching one young man propose the solution I suggested above, but then not having the confidence to assert it and withdrawing the idea. The exercise helps to encourage a creative, flexible approach to resolving a problem.

Exercise 2

Truth, Mercy, Justice and Peace

The primary practical task of those working for reconciliation is to help create the dynamic social space where Truth, Mercy, Justice and Peace can truly meet and thresh things out. We experiment with various procedures and mechanisms that serve this goal (Lederach, J.P.1999).

The aim of this exercise is to create a dynamic social space to explore these key energies. The exercise is in four parts. Part one provides space for participants to brainstorm and share their thoughts and understandings of the four energies: Truth, Mercy, Justice and Peace. Part two looks at the individual qualities of each energy in an adversarial way, each one promoting their own significance above the others. Part three explores the potential of their creative collaboration and part four applies the process to a specific conflict situation.

Part one: In small groups participants are invited to brainstorm what each of the four energies means to them. It may be useful to encourage groups to fill large sheets of paper with ideas, images and words. These doodlings can then be shared and discussed.

Part two: Making the case

Depending on the overall size of the group, participants are divided into pairs which will each represent one of the energies: Truth, Mercy, Justice and Peace. The reminder of the group becomes the judge and jury. Each pair prepares their brief and the judge and jury reflect on the overall case. Each pair is then invited by the court to make their case for their singular importance. They must address the following questions:

What are your singular virtues?

Why should you be considered the leading energy of this group?

Who do you respect most of your opponents and why?

Who would you regard as a possible deputy in a coalition?

Who do you trust the least and why?

Are you afraid of any of your opponents?

Can you give us an example that illustrates and endorses your case?

After all the cases have been made the judge and jury make their summing up.

Alternatively the same exercise could be followed in the format of a political hustings, with the contenders each giving a speech and then being questioned by voters, before having an election process!

Part three: Working together. Part three explores the values and virtues of the respective energies, but within a framework of creative collaboration.

In groups of four and using bodies as raw clay – as in the Changing the Image loosener exercise, groups create a still, frozen picture representing each of the energies.

Gently bring all four of these images together into one piece of body sculpture so that they are physically touching each other and, if possible, showing a mutual dependency. The groups can then experiment, taking it in terms to become the focus, the other pieces in the sculpture expressing their relationship at that moment to their colleague, e.g. when Justice takes centre stage how does Mercy respond – Mercy knows that an obsession with Justice can become brutal and consuming? Similarly when Peace takes centre stage, Truth may feel uneasy. This may be repeated until, rather than one image just jumping to another, the transitions begin to flow: Truth, Mercy, Justice and Peace now dance together on the stage of reconciliation.

Part Three: Application

For part three participants can take a specific conflict situation and explore the roles and priorities for each energy at various stages of the transformation process.


Exercises 3- 6: My experience with conflict.

The exercises in this section link with the autobiographical chapter two and include individual meditation type exercises and group exercises exploring personal experiences of and responses to conflict.

Part 1: Working by yourself


Exercise 3:   Being centred

Over recent years meditation and mindfulness training have been central features in my life and creative practice, processes which have helped me deal more effectively and compassionately with the maelstrom of tensions, distractions and preoccupations in my own head. Meditation is a ‘specific way of paying attention’, of being present, which allows space for insight and creativity. There has been a huge growth of interest in meditation type practices in the Western world which range from simple relaxation classes to the wild and whacky.

Meditation is about much more than relaxation and it is a real challenge to make this rich and liberating resource accessible to large number of people, whilst respecting its spiritual roots and without diluting its deeper significance. The resonance between the practice of mindfulness and artistic creativity has fascinated me for some time. Art, like meditation, enables us to capture the anguish of lived experience and offers a vision of its transformation. As Desmond Tutu, quoted earlier, said, ‘Art can help us deal with the traumas of the past and gives hope for the future.’

Andi Puddicombe is a former Buddhist monk who established an organisation called Headspace, with the intention to demystify meditation and make it as widely accessible and relevant as possible (see Puddicombe, A. 2011). The online Headspace programme is a valuable and user friendly resource for those wanting to explore the possibilities of meditation for their own lives. The following exercise, derived from Andi Puddicombe, Jack Kornfield and others (see Puddicombe, A. 2011, Kornfield, J. 2004) , illustrates some basic features of a meditation session.


Find a quiet space and sit comfortably with you back straight.

Take a few deep breaths and then allow your eyes to close.

Bring your awareness into the present, becoming aware of your environment e.g. any sounds or smells. Be aware of any physical sensations such as your body in the chair or feet on the floor.

Do a gently sweeping scan down through the body, noticing any areas of tension or relaxation.

Become aware of your breathing and just observe its rising and falling. Do not try to change it, just observe. Notice where the breath begins, do you feel it in the throat, the stomach, is there a pause at the end of each cycle? It may help to count one with the rise of each breath and two with the fall, till you reach ten and then begin again. As Jack Kornffield says, training to work with the breath is like training a puppy: it keeps wandering off. When the mind strays, pause and bring the focus back to the breath.

Continue to focus on the breath. As you do so random thoughts, feelings and sensations will arise. Acknowledge them. Try not to resist them and try not to indulge them, e.g. by letting them carry you away, but acknowledge, perhaps name them, e.g. ‘thinking’, ‘anger’ and then release and allow them to disperse. Gently bring the attention back to the breath.

After around 15 minutes let the mind have its own way for a few seconds and then bring your attention back to your physical awareness and open your eyes.

Exercise 4: Observing yourself in conflict.

(Adapted from Here for Now. Living Well with Cancer. (2005) Elana Rosenbaum. Satya House. Mass.)


Sit comfortably as in Exercise 3 and focus awareness on the breath. Give yourself sufficient time to become grounded and still.


Bring to mind a situation that troubles you; observe it, without judging, as if it was on a screen.


Identify the place, the characters. Is it a regular scene or a one off scenario? Notice what you are feeling. Are strong emotions involved? Are you aggressive?   Trying to placate?


Try to keep contact with the breath, you may pause, allow time to maintain calm, then return to the event.


As the scene plays out notice if there is anything you could do to change the outcome for the better. See yourself dealing constructively with the situation. Try it out, rehearse it and explore alternatives.   Observe your thoughts and feelings with different approaches.


The purpose is to address the core issues as truthfully as possible, cultivate self respect and the freedom to make authentic choices for yourself.


Exercise 5:   Letting Go

(Adapted from Here for Now. Living Well with Cancer. (2005) Elana Rosenbaum. Satya House. Mass.)


Take a coin and hold it in the hand, back of the hand facing up. Hold and grip it as tight as you can, as if your life depended on it. Bring your awareness to any physical sensations, feelings and thoughts that arise. Notice your breathing. Observe yourself.


Turn the hand over and open the fingers, allowing the hand to relax, as if you were offering the coin as a gift. Again observe your responses.


Think of any resentment, baggage or ill will that you are holding on to within yourself. Now imagine you could hold that feeling in the palm of the hand. Grasp it tightly and repeat the above exercise, replacing the coin with the imagined feeling.


When you finally open the palm, allow the resentment or whatever to disperse into the air. If you wish you can blow and help it on its way.


Part Two: Working with others


Exercise 5:   Adaptation of The Image of Oppression from Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed (Boal, A. 1974)


Participants take part in a visualisation exercise in which they recall a situation in which they experienced conflict or oppression. They are reminded that no one will be obliged to share the details if they choose not to. Each person will then have a picture, an image in their mind of this moment from their lives. They will see themselves in the picture and be aware of feelings and thoughts arising at the time.


They are then divided up into groups of four or five. Taking it in turns each person then shapes the others in the group, i.e. sculpts them as if they were clay, to make their picture. They put themselves in the frame last. The group members may not ask the sculptor any literal questions about the situation.


The whole group is asked if they would be willing to share the pictures, without discussing any details. If so each group then shows their pictures in sequence, like a slide show. As this occurs the participants are asked to watch carefully and notice any moments, physical groupings or gestures that re-occur. When the sequence is complete the group are asked to share their observations. Firstly they identify physical patterns and shapes only, after doing so they may identify emotional threads running through the pictures. It is interesting to list these spontaneously and create a poetic structure.


The group then creates a composite sculpture that does not correspond literally with any of the specific sculptures, but resonates truthfully with the experiences of the group. You may start by encouraging a volunteer to create a sculpture of ‘victim’ , others may choose to adjust or change it until consensus is reached. The group then add other figures who may be oppressors or witnesses. On completion the group may be asked to identify the place, time and potential characters in the picture.


Exploring and playing with the image


Ask the participants in the sculpture to hold the image and imagine themselves in role within the situation. They are then asked, as if in a film strip, to play back the film about five minutes and then freeze that moment. They must do this spontaneously without discussion or planning. This is picture number one. They then forward the film strip to picture two, which is the original image. They are then asked to repeat the process, going forward in time about five minutes. They then have three pictures and they are asked to move through the sequence several times to allow them to feel their way into the situation.


The participants are then invited to sit on chairs, in front of the rest of the group, and assume their respective roles in the situation. They then become the focus of a hot seat process, in which the group may ask individuals probing and challenging questions about their attitudes and actions in the emerging story. The actors must respond spontaneously but within the truth of the framework depicted by themselves and their colleagues in the hot seat.


The depth of story that emerges from this simple process can be surprising and insightful.


Exercise 6: Exploring my responses to conflict

There are five key ways of responding to conflict:

Accommodation. You demonstrate reasonableness, you try to smooth over and appease. You encourage others to express their point of view. It is not the same as just caving in and may be deliberate and assertive.

Avoidance. You may deny or ignore the problem exists. May be a fear response but avoidance may sometimes be a wise tactic to allow time to cool down or identify a more appropriate time and space.

Compromise. Compromise Involves negotiation and trade offs. You may compromise when it seems both sides have equal power or you need to reach a temporary settlement in complex matters and in tense situations.

Controlling.   You must get your way at all costs and will resort to open conflict and even violence to do so.

Problem solving.   Both sides are willing to engage in authentic dialogue, to empathise and to go below the surface to explore the root of the problem.


You need an empty space for this exercise. Up one side of the room create a line which represents the level of concern for achieving goals, like the side of a graph, so that the bottom represents 0 and the top 10.   Now create another line, starting at the same 0 but going at right angles to reach 10. This line represents the degree of importance you attach to relationships, so at 0 you have little regard for relationships, but at 10 they are your priority.

Ask for a volunteer. They represent an unformed piece of clay and must stand in the space. Ask another volunteer to shape the figure to represent the body language of a person using avoidance. Let others adjust it. Imagine a speech bubble coming from the figure’s head, what would it say?   (It could be ‘what conflict?’) Discuss the strategies this figure might use to achieve their aims, e.g. deny, ignore, change the topic. How would you sum up their character, e.g. refuses to really talk? Which of the other approaches to conflict would they prefer to deal with?

Ask the group to place the figure within the space on the floor to represent where this approach to conflict would stand in the achieving goals/prioritise relationships graph.

Repeat this exercise with the other approaches of accommodation, compromise, controlling and problem solving.

Follow up:

Pick two figures depicting alternative ways of responding to conflict. Stand them next to each other. They are in a lift and one needs to go to the top floor urgently, the other needs to go the ground floor urgently. Improvise the sort of negotiation that would take place. Experiment with different combinations.








Workshop Programme One

Cooling Conflict:

A whole school approach to bullying and conflict in schools

Cooling conflict is a whole school approach to bullying and conflict in schools that was developed and researched over several years in Australia by John O’Toole and colleagues. The programme is described in rigorous detail in their publication: O’Toole, J. Burton, B. Plunkett, A. (2005) Cooling Conflict. A new approach to managing bullying and conflict in schools. Pearson Education Australia. What follows is a short summary with extracts from the programme.

Cooling Conflict provides an exemplar of the practice implied in chapter 3: it is clearly structured but offers opportunities for flexibility and variation.   The programme has emerged through a critique of Boal’s Forum Theatre and enables the participants to explore key issues and experiences in some depth and detail. I myself have adapted the framework to work on a collaborative project linking young people in Palestine with their peers in N. Ireland, and a project with primary schools in inner city Plymouth UK involving families and their communities. I have also drawn up plans for a post war reconciliation project in Sierra Leone, West Africa, which will use Cooling Conflict as a guiding structure to give ‘voice’ to young people, especially girls, in that country.

Conflict and bullying pose problems in virtually all schools throughout the world. For some pupils bullying is a source of deep misery, for others an anxiety that undermines productive teaching and learning. Over the years there have been various attempts to solve the problem ranging from the quick fix to well considered, longer term strategies.

The findings from Cooling Conflict showed that the programme had a major impact in schools and demonstrably helped to build positive relationships across perceived barriers of culture, race, age and status: the development of a more harmonious web of relationships within the school leading to the creation of an improved teaching and learning environment.

Through engagement with the Indra Congress schools could also be linked up with our overseas network of schools, young people, educators and artists, some of who are in settings of tension and conflict, e.g. in the Middle East and Africa.

As described by the authors the aims of Cooling Conflict are to:

  • promote a genuine understanding across the whole school of the roots and nature of conflict and bullying
  • provide students with the confidence, strategies and skills to engage effectively and sensitively with diverse forms of conflict and bullying – i.e. verbal, psychological, social or sexual.

There are three pillars underpinning the programme:

  1. An understanding, appropriate to each age group, of the basic elements of conflict/bullying:
  • conflict is about clashes of interests, rights and power and is perpetuated through misunderstanding and stereotyping
  • there are three stages to a conflict; latent, emerging and manifest
  • conflict can be de-escalated through learned strategies and mediation
  • bullying is the ongoing misuse of an imbalance of power causing distress to those less powerful.
  1. Enhanced Forum Theatre (EFT)

EFT is a carefully structured and accessible drama form that allows issues to be explored in imagined contexts that are based on but detached from real life. The programme does not propose quick fix solutions but offers an opportunity to explore, understand and deal with the underlying patterns, the webs of relationships that motivate ongoing conflict.

  1. Peer group teaching

Studies have shown that peer group teaching is the most effective way to teach these issues – both for the teacher and the taught: peer teaching enhances the self-confidence and self-esteem of students who have been peer tutors.

We can then offer a fourth pillar: engagement with a national and international network, through which we can link pupils with their peers in our overseas partner settings such as Palestine, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Kosovo, India, Greece and others.

How does it work?

A structure would be designed for each school or cluster but a basic outline over a year could be as follows:


An in-service training session for the key co-ordinator in the participating secondary school and participating members of staff, including a senior management figure, will introduce the scheme.

The key class

A senior class, known as the key class, ideally a drama group doing A Level or GCSE equivalent in the UK – but could be at any starting level – are inducted into the programme. They are taught the roots and causes of conflict and how to practise conflict management through de-escalation and mediation using structured drama techniques, i.e. EFT.

The relay classes

The key class then teaches the concepts through drama to the first relay classes (preferably not a drama class), who may be a couple of years below them. This involves the key class researching and rehearsing a piece of EFT based on the experience of the relay class.

The first relay class is then empowered (with teacher guidance) to use the techniques to a second relay group of classes, again a couple of years below.

The second relay class then adapts the technique to teach and apply the process for the top class in primary feeder schools.

The same pattern can then be applied within the primary school.

The curriculum

As the process takes place, other opportunities to pursue issues arising may occur within a range of subject areas, e.g. History, Citizenship, English, Art, Music, Languages.

The community

The key (or other) group may then devise a way through which the experience can be shaped into a performance or celebratory event that can be presented to parents and the wider community.


Pupils may then through the Indra Congress make links and share experience with their peers in overseas settings.

Enhanced Forum Theatre (EFT)

The core concepts are taught creatively through the process of Enhanced Forum Theatre (EFT).

Step 1. The participants prepare and present a situation in three scenes showing the latent , emerging and manifest stages of conflict.   Each performing team will consist of from 5-8 people.

Step 2. The story needs to be complex enough to present the audience with a really difficult challenge, where right and wrong are not simplistically presented and all the characters have their own integrity and justification for their actions, where the behaviour is authentic to real life, and where the conflict can be seen to emerge in three stages (O’Toole et al: 2005).

Methods for selecting stories.

  1. Client stories: researching authentic stories from target audience, which are then fictionalised.
  2. Our stories: Choosing a real life story from the performing team. Confessions is a useful mechanism for this process.
  3. Other people’s stories: For example, taking a story from a novel or historical context.

The process of Confessions I have found to be particularly effective as a devising tool:

I use a visualisation exercise to give participants the time and space to identify moments in their own lives when they have experienced bullying and conflict. :

The group then divides into pairs, A and B. They sit facing each other. A begins and tells their ‘story’ to B over the course of about one minute. B listens to this story and then repeats it back to A – as if it was their (B’s) own story. The process is then repeated with B’s story. Each pair then chooses one of the stories that they think has the best potential to dramatise. They rehearse telling this story together.

Each pair then joins with two other pairs to form a group of six. Each group now has three stories. In their groups they listen to each story, make notes and choose one that could be made into a short play. They can incorporate aspects of other stories from the group to add interest. The story now becomes a fiction and is owned collectively by the group.

Step 3. Fleshing out the story line and painting the picture. Groups can use the ‘role circle’ technique In order to ‘flesh out, problematise, establish ownership and fictionalise’ the story. For this the group members sit or stand in a circle and each person adds one piece of fictional information to the story, this is tangible information e.g. what somebody was wearing, not an account of emotional states . It could be a personal testimony type contribution, e.g. ‘I was standing outside my shop when I saw….’

Step 4. Devising the play:

  • there will be three scenes: showing the latent, emerging and manifest stages of the conflict
  • the 5 W’s must be clear: who, what, where, when and why.
  • each scene is set at least one week apart
  • each scene will include bully, bullies and bystander
  • the action or the host (facilitator) must make clear what is not seen.
  • it is important for actors to background their characters to prepare for ‘hot seating’.

Step 5. The performance

The play is performed without interruption. The audience is then invited to select a character to ‘hot seat’. One of the characters is invited to sit on a chair and, in role, answer questions from the audience regarding their attitude and behaviour. This enables the audience to begin exploring in more detail what has happened and why.

Step 6. The host introduces the second performance in which the audience will be invited to take the exploration one step further. As the play is performed again, the audience can call ‘freeze’, at which the actors must stand still. A character is then identified and, with a tap on the shoulder, this character must then speak spontaneously what is going through their minds in direct speech and in the first person.

Step 7. The audience then discuss where things may have been different. They prepare for the third performance, the forum performance. The host introduces the idea that the audience can again intervene as ‘spect-actors’ by calling freeze, except this time they are invited to take the place of a specific character and try to change the course of events in the play. The host also introduces the concept of ‘magic’ solutions, i.e. unrealistic solutions which are too easily accepted.

Allowing space for adequate discussion is crucial to prevent shallow outcomes and to exploration of real human dilemmas and situations in some depth.

Step 8. As in real life there may be a need for mediation ‘off the battlefield’ to de-escalate the conflict. It is very often the case that people who could make a difference may not be visible in the initial story. This is now set up through discussion in groups and, where appropriate, further process drama applications.

Step 9. The discussion stimulated by the performance is often the major learning outcome.(O’Toole. 2005:108).

This is a brief summary of a thorough and in-depth action research project and process, which in its development of Enhanced Forum Theatre from the traditional format, reflects a focus on conflict transformation, as opposed to conflict resolution, which is at the heart of this narrative.


Workshop Programme two

Not another anti-racist workshop!


I was asked to create a series of workshops on Equal Opportunity themes for colleagues in the Social Work Department at the University of Plymouth. They did not want a workshop that was predictable in terms of ‘correct’ content or up to date legislation. They wanted me to create space for students to self reflect, without judging or being judged and to explore their own personal, cultural responses and thoughts in a non threatening environment.

For many people the thought of attending an equality and diversity workshop generates defensive resistance. However, students and professionals in a wide range of subject areas and working life need to demonstrate understanding of equality and diversity issues. Their fear of ‘getting it wrong’ often results in adaptive behaviour which leads to surface and reproductive learning only. This workshop programme addresses the pedagogical challenge of moving participants beyond a detached, surface engagement with learning to engage them in a deeper understanding of how to practise in culturally sensitive ways through the use of accessible, interactive teaching methods.


The programme consists of a series of introductory exercises leading to the A. Family workshop. The A Family workshop is derived from the Jo Blaggs model in James Thompson’s Drama Workshops for Anger Management and Offending Behaviours (2002) Jessica Kingsley. London, and from the ideas of African philosopher John Mbuti regarding ‘the past that lies before us’, as summarised in Lederach’s (2005) Moral Imagination p136ff.


Introductory exercises:

  1. Welcome

Participants are invited to sit quietly and spend a few moments in silence, focusing on the breath. The pattern and purpose of the workshop are introduced.   There is a simple technique to help dispel anxieties about participation (James Thompson 1999). Two volunteers stand side by side facing the group. The group is asked , ‘What is the relationship?’ ‘What is the story here?’ One of the pair steps forward. The question is repeated. The group is then asked to fill in a thought bubble for each one. It is then explained that this simple exercise demonstrates the basic skills needed to participate. .

  1. Agree/disagree warm up

This is a simple, sparky exercise to get the group talking. A statement is read out. All those who agree with the statement stand on one side of the room, those who disagree at the opposite side. Those who are unsure stay in the middle, or wherever they think they ‘stand’ on the issue. There then follows a debate in which people at either extremity try to persuade the uncommitted, or their adversaries, to come over to join them. Some example questions:

  • Affirmative action or positive discrimination, where minorities are given preferred treatment, is a good way of making things more equal.
  • People who come to Britain should fit in with British culture.
  • We should not focus so much on racism when class, disability and gender are more common issues in this region.
  • The government is right to cut the number of immigrants allowed into the UK.
  1. The Bus

A simple exercise allowing space for participants to reflect on the issue of stereotyping.

Twenty four chairs are laid out to represent the inside of a bus, with a passage up the middle. There are twelve seats on either side of the aisle, in pairs. A sheet of paper is placed on each window side seat to indicate who might be sitting there. Each seat on the aisle side is free. The taken seats could be occupied by:

12 yr old Afro/Caribbean Boy

Gay white man

North American black male

50 yr old lesbian

Drug addict

Female solicitor

A young Muslim woman wearing a top-to-toe burka

Elderly man

Mid-20s Arabian person

Mohican hair-styled punk rocker

35 yr old Down’s syndrome man

8yr old with cerebral palsy

The occupants would be varied according to the specific cultural context of the exercise.

The participants form a queue to board the bus. They then silently file onto the bus and walk down the aisle, taking a snapshot in their minds of the people on the bus. They exit the bus at the ear without sitting. They then repeat the exercise, but this time when they board the bus they take a seat. They try to imagine which seat they would spontaneously choose, in which, for example, they would feel secure or comfortable. They pause and then move to the back of the bus and exit.

Participants do not comment on the choices of others, but on completion of the exercise are asked to share feelings, thoughts and assumptions that may arise.

  1. The Car Park exercise

This exercise explores the playing field of equal opportunities and shows how some people get more stuck that others and are unable to progress with their lives.

Each participant is given a role card. They do not share this with other participants. The information gives the age of the person and a brief statement about their background.

All the participants line up on one side of the room. A series of questions are read out. If the participant, in role, can answer the question in the affirmative they are invited to take a step forward. If not, they remain still.   If unsure they may shuffle a little! Some of the participants will make huge progress and may overlap their less fortunate colleagues. The identities of the roles will be adjusted according to the cultural context of the session.

On completion of the questions, participants can look around them at the relative progress made by others, discuss issues of equality/inequality arising and share their experience of the exercise.

Sample identities.

Aged 35, Caucasian, Lesbian, naval officer in stable relationship

Aged 41, Kurdish male failed asylum seeker, homeless

Aged 17, Caucasian, female, heterosexual

Aged 29, Black female, 3 children, suffers Post traumatic stress, lives in run down estate

Aged 59, Caucasian female, single heterosexual. Homeless

Aged 23, refugee, single male, non English speaking, heterosexual,

Aged 23, Black African, male Heterosexual, single, graduate, unemployed

Aged 24 Caucasian, pregnant, HIV, employed

Aged 39, Caucasian, heterosexual male, employed

Aged 29, Caucasian gay man, teacher, conviction for cottaging

Aged 27, Caucasian male wheelchair user, employed

Aged 32,Caucasian mother, married Head Teacher

Aged 40, Caucasian male, advertising executive, heterosexual,

recreational heroine user

Aged 20, Caucasian single mother, working in sex industry

Aged 40, Muslim mother, married, full time parent.

Aged 47, mixed race, female, history of mental health

Aged 35, Caucasian, doctor with two children

Aged 36, Kovovan male, taxi driver

Aged 21, Kurdish refugee, student

Aged 57, Caucasian, teacher, school closing

Aged 18, British Asian male, at school, 3 A Levels

Aged 16 Caucasian gay male, at school.

Aged 71, Caucasian,female retired admin support worker


Possible questions to be read out loud by the facilitator, allowing space for participants to consider the implications for their role:


Can you be honest with your family about your occupation? (sex industry, illegal work.)

Can you travel freely and without difficulty on public transport? (disability, language finance)

Can you shop where you want to? (Finance, disability, refugee status etc)

Can you get a bank loan or a mortgage without difficulty? (refugee status,finance, HIV, age, financial status)

Can you get a GP to accept you without difficulty as a patient?(refugee status, health status, language)

Can you be affectionate with your partner in public (sexuality)

Do you feel safe alone walking after dark? (age, gender, ethnicity)

Can you obtain health insurance without difficulty? (finance, health status, language, refugee)

Would you be able to apply for a job which requires a police check

Would you feel comfortable taking your partner to a work’s social event? (sexuality, ethnicity)

Are you able to obtain a passport without difficulty?

Are you able to go on holiday without difficulty?

Would you feel confident to go to a pub or club alone (age, gender, ethnicity, sexuality etc)

Are you able to get your child into a local school which positively values your culture or family status?

Are you able to obtain appropriate hair or skin products in your local town or city?



  1. The Story of Olaudah Equiano


I first heard of Equiano when a museum officer in Exeter brought my attention to a picture which was supposedly of Equiano himself – more recent research has shown it was not him! I devised a number of educational drama programmes about Equiano and he soon became an inspirational figure in my own life. Telling the story of Equiano helps to put racism in a historical context. The shape of the story also provides an ideal opportunity for a ‘hot set’ type confrontation at a crucial moment in his life, which allows the facilitator to play devil’s advocate and raise challenging issues with the group. The full story of Equiano can be found in his ‘The Life and Travels of Olaudah Equiano’, which was a best seller in its time and described as a ‘principal instrument in bringing about the repeal of the Slave Act.’ The core features of his story can be summarized:


Equino was born into a high status family in what is part of modern day Nigeria. At about ten years old he was kidnapped and taken into slavery. Equiano described the ‘Middle Passage’ across the Atlantic and the appalling conditions on board. On arrival in the West Indies Equiano was sold at a slave auction, like an animal, for twenty pounds. He was transported to Virginia where he described the horrors of his life there. He was then bought for thirty pounds by a British naval officer, Lieutenant Pascal , who brought him to London as a pet for his girlfriends, the Guerrins.sisters.   Equiano was baptized.


Lieutenant Pascal then took Equiano to serve in the British Royal navy for four years in the war against Napoleon. On their return to London Pascal betrayed Equiano and sold him for forty pounds to Mr Robert King of the island of Montserrat in the West Indies.   Mr King was a Quaker, ‘a kind of Christian’ and Equiano persuaded Mr King to grant him his freedom if Equiano could raise forty pounds. Mr King unthinkingly agreed.


One day Equinao was sent to work with the ‘slave of a man called Hawkins’. They rowed to Antigua to deliver sacks of meal. On arrival they bullied and abused by the merchant. The slave advised Equiano to do as he was told, ‘to smile and say, yes sir.’ They were late back to Montserrat and Equiano watched the slave being whipped. He knew only too well that eventually he himself would suffer such a fate. He resolved to get his freedom and shortly after this incident he was offered a chance to escape by French sailors. He rejected their offer: he would do it his way.


In an astonishing piece of entrepreneurship Equiano set himself up in business and after four years earned his price, forty pounds. Mr King refused to let him go. Equiano was distraught. In the book Equinao describes how a sea captain was present at this meeting. The sea captain took Equiano’s side and challenged Mr King to grant the young man his freedom.




This is an opportunity for the facilitator to take the role of Mr King and for the group to challenge him, collectively in role as the sea captain, and persuade him to change his mind. Mr King was, at least avowedly, a Christian. The hot seat allows the facilitator in role to raise direct and awkward questions of morality, politics and religion and to challenge the group’s assumptions.


The historical outcome was that the captain succeeded and Mr King agreed to grant Equiano his freedom on condition that he stayed and worked with Mr King as a fully employed sea captain for three years. Equiano eventually came to London where he became a prominent figure on the Abolitionist Movement, working closely with Granville Sharp and others.


Process drama: The A Family


  1. The setting. We meet John A, the father. John runs a one shop bakery business in a northern town. He is tired and finds it difficult to cope with the changes taking place around him in the small town. Over the past decades the demographic of the town has changed radically. Changes in industrial working patterns led to the introduction of large numbers of workers from Asia, who settled in the town and brought up families. With the decline of these industries there was wide spread unemployment, which led in the longer term to social tensions. John wants to retire, he feels he cannot understand the changes going on around him. He has become increasingly racist and there are tensions in the family. His daughter, Barbara, has started going out with an Asian youth, Mohammed and is angry with her dad. His wife, Mary, is stuck uneasily in the middle. His son, Michael, is doing a stint in prison for attacking an Asian youth and has got involved in extremist politics. Michael is due for release and has just sent a letter to his parents saying how angry he is that his sister is going out with an Asian; unless Barbara drops the relationship he will ‘do what he has to do.’


  1. What’s going on?. We introduce and explore the character and situation of John, using whatever techniques feel most comfortable to the facilitator.   Taking the role in a simple ‘hot seat’ session is most effective, starting perhaps with a phrase such as, ‘I’ve had enough, I’m packing up.’ Participants then question the character to draw out his experiences and feelings: this can be quite confrontational.   Another approach could be to draw the outline of a person on a large sheet of paper and fill in details in and around the figure. This section finishes with Michael’s letter and our attention now turns to him.


(I have found using John as the starting point works effectively for me, you could also use, Mary as the preliminary focus.)


  1. The incident. Time has moved on. Michael is released from prison. Barbara continues to see Mohammed and Michael attacks him and beats him up.


Place a volunteer in the centre of a circle, standing still over the body of Mohammed who has been beaten to the ground. Imagine the speech bubble that could be emerging from Michael. Now imagine concentric circles rippling out, as if a stone is thrown in a pond. Invite volunteers to name individuals in the family and the community who would be affected by Michael’s action and then to pace themselves in the circle in a place that represents how far they are emotionally from the epicentre in the middle. For example, Barbra would be close to the middle, a policeman could be further from the centre.


With a simple tap on the shoulder ask each of these figures to speak their thoughts on hearing of the incident. After this the group may wish to hot seat some of these people to explore their thoughts and feelings further.


  1. Investigation

Part A.   We have so far learnt something about the A family, including Michael and what he has done. We have seen the consequences of this action for those around him. We now explore a range of factors that could help us understand why it happened. For this we can adapt John Mbuti’s idea of ‘the past that lies before us’ (as summarised by Lederach in The Moral Imagination).


The group is divided into five groups – depending on how many in overall group. Groups 1 to 3 are given a historical moment in the life of Michael:

Group 1: A month ago

Group 2: When Michael was fifteen years old

Group 3:   When Michael was a young child.

Group 4: This group are asked to identify a key moment or event during the life of any members of the family that could endorse a particular world view, e.g. for a Jewish person it could be the Holocaust, for a Palestinian the Nakba. More recently it could be 9/11.

Group 5: This group are given the challenging task of identifying a cultural or historical tradition, a myth or legend that would endorse Michael’s attitudes and feelings. For example, one group identified the pseudo-scientific theories of brain size to endorse racial superiority.


The groups are asked, using their own bodies as clay, to create a still image that demonstrates this moment or event. More confident groups could enact a short scene, which gives life to the situation. The groups are asked to share their images/scenes and discuss and challenge implications and issues arising.


Part B. The groups are asked to form a line starting from group 5 down to group 1. There must be a clear corridor through which a character could walk. Each group is asked to summarise their image/scene with a short statement in direct speech. For example, group 1 may chant, ‘your own sister’. They will repeat this five times in rising crescendo. The aim is to explore the voices inside Michael’s head as he is propelled along the path of his life.


A volunteer takes the role of Michael. They stand at the top of the line, just before group 5. Michael is then propelled down the corridor with each group chanting their lines in his ear. When he reaches the end of the line he adopts the position he was in just after he had beaten Mohammed to the ground.


It is useful to have a rehearsed run before doing the performed version. Participants must control the energy. This can be a very powerful experience for the volunteer taking the role of Michael. Michael is then de-briefed and the experience



The group may then reflect on the process and identify moments for constructive intervention at various moments in the story at personal, relational, cultural and structural levels. This can be done through discussion or using techniques such as forum theatre or ‘hot seating’.   The Cooling Conflict structure demonstrates the potential for creating moments and scenes outside the immediate frame, e.g. a meeting of the board of governors for Michael’s school following a series of racist incidents.












Workshop Programme three: Zobodo


Zobodo is an extended two part process drama, which looks at a fictional and contemporary political crisis through the lens of John Mibiti’s ‘the past that lies before us’ framework. The simulation could take place in an abbreviated form during one whole day, but would benefit from longer.   Zobodo uses a wide range of interactive conventions to explore the history of a community over a long, historical period of time.


Part I Fruits of the Forest explores the historical process of change faced by the inhabitants of Zobodo, an imaginary region loosely based on areas of West Africa, when faced with the experience of impending colonisation.


Part II Turmoil in Zobodo is a simulated political thriller! Participants, in role, are faced with a tense conflict, which they must urgently resolve within a given time frame. The situation involves the kidnapping of local and overseas workers from an oil rig in a remote region of Zobodo, and raises important issues and questions rooted in Zobodo’s past and present.


Part 1   Fruits of the Forest


Fruits of the forest was initially commissioned by Christian Aid as an educational workshop to explore issues of development and the impact of economic globalisation on local communities and their environment.


The exercise takes place in an imaginary country, Zobodo, which has features based on regions of West Africa. Zobodo is derived from Obodo-dike, Ibo for Land of the Brave. Historical time needs to be abstract.


Step one : Creating the imaginary community of Zobodo


Zobodo has many features of a traditional W. African style community of 150 years or so ago. The climate is hot and humid. Vegetation grows fast and furious. When farmers have gathered the year’s crop of yam the fields have reverted to bush, i.e. dense undergrowth, in no time at all. However, the Zobodians are successful farmers in that they are largely self sufficient in food.


Zobodo covers a large area of such land and has four main villages. Let us call these villages North, South, East and West. To the North is a vast desert area, to the west rocky, mountainous regions. Dense forests cover the land to the east. There are no strictly defined borders in the modern sense. The southern part of the region is dominated by a giant river delta. People in this area are referred to, sometimes derogatively, as the ‘swampies’.


Work and trade                    

Families work communally on the land and help each other out in the building of houses, the collecting of palm wine etc. Technology for farming is simple, basic hand tools, hoes, machetes, which the Northern Village has a tradition of making. Zobodo is largely self sufficient in food and meets further needs by an age old barter system. There is no such concept as unemployment in Zobodo. Zobodians do not communicate much with the people further north, finding them aggressive and unfriendly. They enjoy good relationships with the forest people to the east.



There are no formal schools. Children work with parents, relatives and other villagers and learn by doing. Children undergo initiation rites in adolescence as the major ceremony and focus in their passage to adulthood. Mystery societies keep these ceremonies strictly secret from outsiders. Girls and boys have clearly defined roles and expectations.


Religion, art

Religion focuses on the relationship of Zobodians to the Natural world. They have a host of small gods who are in turn answerable to the ‘Creator of all things’. Festival and ritual play a major part in the yearly calendar. The Festivals celebrate the usual pattern of the farming cycle and are events of much colour and vitality. The age old rituals are passed down from generations and focus on the yam especially – on which they are dependent for food.



Village elders are appointed by the Council of Elders. This council in turn elects a chief. There is no centre of political debate, meetings are held around the villages, they are open to all adults. The elders also operate a legal system based on open appeal hearings.



Health is generally sound with one major exception. Sleeping sickness carried by a ‘Sleeping’ fly causes many deaths, especially among the young and the elderly. In some years epidemics have resulted in large loss of life. The Zobodians feel powerless. The power of the chief priest with herbs, spices and traditional ‘folk’ remedies is of no avail against the sickness.


Overall Zobodo is a simple community in the sense that it lacks technology, a range of sophisticated, material goods and services. It can largely feed itself, and has a long tradition of culture which has known little change for generations.


Step Two: Images of Zobodo


Participants discuss the nature of Zobodo and get a basic understanding of how they see its geography and people.   Having a basic grasp of background factual information it is helpful now to get a ‘feel’ for the area. I find the most effective way to do this is through a visualisation exercise. Following a breathing and relaxation exercise the group are asked to close their eyes and are taken on a guided, imaginary tour into the forest where they encounter a village community in Zobodo. They are invited to look around the village and observe the people going about their daily business. Throughout the visualisation participants will be encouraged to notice physical sensations, e.g. the heat, the vegetation, smells of cooking, sounds in the forest etc. They may then share their respective journeys around a circle.


The group is then given a task and invited to imagine they work in a museum. The museum is showing an exhibition of ‘The Ancient Art of Zobodo’.   The exhibition is a series of sculptures showing aspects of life in the period ‘before the great change’. Dividing into smaller groups the participants create a series of sculptures, frozen images – using their bodies as clay – which demonstrate different aspects of life in Zobodo. The headings could be as follows:



–           Zobodo at work

–           The training of the young

–           Trade and relations with the outside world

–           Health

–           Religion


Each small group creates a depiction, using their own bodies, which captures one of these aspects of life. They should aim to make each picture dynamic and interesting, communicating tension as well as harmony. This is a very powerful technique for creating focus. The groups can then look at each image in turn and discuss implications and issues arising.


Alternatively the images could be created through drawing, painting sculpting, or photography. It is important that whatever techniques are used, there are a series of clear images which an outsider could clearly see depicted the way of life in ancient Zobodo.


Step three: the village meeting


The group is asked to take the role of a village as a whole. Not in an ‘acting’ sense as such, but, as themselves, taking the point of view of the Zobodians. The group select a chief who is confident enough to chair a crucial meeting of the people.   The chief introduces the meeting by announcing the presence of a messenger from the neighbouring forest people. The messenger has arrived with alarming news as follows:


In recent weeks strangers have arrived along the coast, to the east. The strangers came in large ships. They talked with the elders and made some suggestions and offers of help. However, it appears that some of the younger people were offended by the strangers and argument then broke out. The strangers responded with deadly weapons and two local people were killed in the scuffle. The strangers had weapons of war beyond the dreams of the native warriors who were unable to fight and organise effectively against such strength. The strangers have now assumed control of the eastern lands.


The strangers have sent an ambassador who has already arrived and wishes to speak with the chief elders. They talk through possible responses and discuss their consequences. The chief encourages the people to see the ambassador.


The role of the ambassador may be taken by the facilitator or other person with a sound grasp of the issues concerned. There are therefore three key roles in the drama which need to be briefed prior to the meeting: the chief, the messenger and the ambassador.


Notes for the ambassador/facilitator – not to be seen by remainder of group:


Your objective is to colonise Zobodo on behalf of the King of Albion’s government which you represent. You want to do it peacefully, if possible. Begin negotiations using a bottle of medicine – a cure for the sleeping sickness which has been tested and tried. Offer to build schools, hospitals, raise the quality of life. Offer to defend them against hostile colonising powers who will enslave them. All this in exchange for administrative control of the area and new ‘modern’ institutions of government.


If they disagree you have the ultimate threat of force which of course, you are reluctant, but ready to use. It is futile for the Zobodians to choose destruction when they could choose progress, modernisation etc.


When you have reached a satisfactory negotiating position then outline your plans for development and invite comments. (This is an effective technique for introducing and discussing complex economic and political issues within a simulated context).Your opening speech could be along the following lines:


“You Zobodians have worked well in the past. Unfortunate you are now out of touch with the modern world. We can help you and bring prosperity to the land. Our people unfortunately, do not need your yams. What we need are these – oranges! Millions of them. Our government has set up a great trading company which will come here and build a large factory, clear the land and convert it to growing oranges. Now, how will this affect you? Well, look at it like this. All these wonderful services we are bringing you, hospitals, schools, defence etc, do not come free. They must be paid for with what we call money. You haven’t got money you may sa, well we will give you money for working in our orange plantations! Then you can purchase what you want.”


The ambassador then has to debate and persuade the Zobodian people who will eventually have to choose a response.


Step four: Images of Zobodo II


The debate is stopped. The group then divide back into their original image making groups. Their task now is to create further images, with the same headings, showing Zobodian life after the ‘Great Changes’ come about, say about fifty years onward. The images now may show children in schools, adults in factories, plantations etc.


The two sets of contrasting images then provide a vehicle for debating and analysing the process of change. What are the pros and cons of this process of development in the life experience of Zobodian people, i.e. how will their health, prosperity and well being be affected?


Zobobo part II   Turmoil in Zobodo


Many years have passed. Zobodo becomes a colony of Albion and eventually achieves independence. But the new ‘country’ is uneasy with itself. The borders were constructed by officials from Albion and did not take account of the long standing tensions between different parts of the region, which included differences in language and culture. Oil was discovered in the south of the country, in the land of the people known historically as ‘swampies’ – the area is a vast delta.

A crisis has emerged. Version A below is a summary of the situation. Version B is a fuller United Nations report for groups who would prefer a more thorough preparation.

Version A: Summary of Zobodo Situation

Oil is discovered in the Delta region of Zobodo.


The Federal government makes a contract with Turmoil Inc, a Western multinational company, for rights of extraction.


The Delta is an unstable area and pipelines are regularly vandalised.


Despite vast oil wealth, Zobodo remains poor as wealth has been squandered by a succession of military governments.


Delta problems have escalated: low level of oil revenue for local people, neglect of local people’s needs and infrastructure, high levels of pollution and very high unemployment. There is bitter resentment about workers being brought in from outside the area.


Traditional leaders are suspected of collusion with Federal Government/Turmoil.


‘Gangs’ have initiated actions such as disruption and hostage taking –usually released after payment.


There is a growing sense of anarchy in the region.

On 15 March, six Turmoil workers (two Germans, two British and two Zobodians)

were kidnapped. A group calling itself the Delta Movement for Peace and Development have claimed responsibility. They are demanding immediate release of three local leaders, arrested for fermenting riots and violence, and one billion dollars in compensation for pollution levels. The group have announced their intention to begin killing the hostages one by one after 48 hours.

Version B: The crisis in Zobodo   Full United Nations Report

Historically the discovery of oil has led to intense pressures on both natural and human resources in the country of Zobodo. The Federal Government of Zobodo negotiated with the Turmoil Co to extract the oil in the Delta region and Turmoil has been granted a monopoly of production rights.

The Delta is an unstable area of Zobodo, and inter-ethnic clashes are common – often access to oil revenue is the trigger for the violence. Pipelines are regularly vandalized by impoverished residents, who risk their lives to siphon off fuel. Vandalism is estimated to result in thousands of barrels of crude oil wastage every day – a loss to the Zobodo economy of millions of dollars each year. Zobodo is potentially one of the world’s largest oil-producing nations. However, mismanagement and successive military governments have left the country poverty-stricken.

Zobodo has a history of exploitation by colonising powers. More recently, the failure of the early independent Zobodan government to follow through on a promise to treat the Delta as a special development area, the steady reduction in the share of oil royalties that people in the Delta have received, and, finally, the habitual disregard of the people’s needs by non-indigenous federal military governments, continued and worsened Delta problems.

As more powerful weapons became available in the Delta in the mid and late1990s, disputes became more violent. Youth gangs became more powerful. Traditional leaders have lost much credibility and respect as they have been corrupted by payments from the military government and the oil companies.

As a result of these factors, and because oil companies did and do make tempting targets, many aggrieved youths in the Delta resort to direct action to extract compensation for their perceived losses. They invade oil company properties, take employees hostage, and shut down facilities. Oil companies typically negotiate release of captured personnel and properties with relative ease by paying the youths modest ransoms. This oil company strategy creates a ‘moral hazard: the willingness of companies to pay ransoms stimulates imitators of this lucrative ‘business’, leading to sustained disruptions and to a general sense of anarchy in the Delta.

On 15 March six Turmoil workers (two Germans, two British and two Zobodians) were kidnapped. A group, calling itself the Delta Movement for Peace and Development, has claimed responsibility. They are demanding immediate release of three local leaders, arrested for fermenting riots and violence, and one billion dollars in compensation for pollution levels.

The group have announced their intention to begin killing the hostages one by one after 48 hours.


The roles


Participants are divided up into five groups:

Government representatives and spokesperson

Turmoil executives and spokesperson

Local tribal leaders

Delta Movement leaders and spokesperson

United Nations Mediating team


Each group is given a role card, which summarises their position and outlines their aims and objectives.   They are given time to absorb this information.


Government representatives and spokesperson


Aim: Get the problem solved with the minimum of disruption to oil production, make some gesture of reconciliation with the Delta people but make a minimum of commitment to the Delta region.


This is a difficult situation for you. The government depends on oil revenues. You have enjoyed a profitable relationship with Turmoil, a partnership through which members of the government have indeed become very rich.


The level of prosperity that oil brings enables you to walk the world stage with status and confidence. From your perspective the whole country now depends on oil revenues in order to maintain this status.


Members of the government are of different tribal groups to the people of the Delta.   You look down on the Delta people as always squabbling among themselves, causing trouble with the oil installations, complaining about pollution and poverty.   At the same time you realise that their under representation at government level and the lack of investment in the Delta region, in terms of infrastructure, roads, schools and hospitals is a cause of the unrest. However, there are limits to how much you can divert investment away from other areas. At the end of the day the majority of people in Zobodo are not directly troubled, or indeed concerned, about the grumbles of the Delta people. Historically, even before independence, there has always been tension between the majority of Zobodians and the Delta people.


The kidnapping of foreigners is bad news, it gets around the world. You want it solved and you expect the oil companies to pay a ransom, as indeed they have on many occasions. You are not too concerned about the fate of the kidnapped as only rarely have they come to grief in the past. You do not want the oil companies to get scared and you are willing to make great play about the army getting tough.   You would be willing to make some gesture to the Delta groups in the way of future investment, though you are reluctant to go too far down that road as it will set a precedent – i.e. the government giving in to violence.


Releasing trouble making ‘terrorists’ is not on the agenda and will make matters worse.


You could make some very tempting offers to the regional leaders in the Delta for their own advancement.


You have agreed, somewhat reluctantly, to allow in a team of UN mediators to help mediate an agreement. It would not look good internationally if you turned this offer down, though many of your colleagues are unhappy about ‘international interference’. You would prefer to settle it yourself and may seek to do so ‘behind the scenes’.


Turmoil executives and spokesperson


Aim: to solve the hostage situation quickly and efficiently and continue production, with the least amount of adverse publicity and loss of revenue as possible.


You want to get this sorted as soon as possible. The international press will be all over this one and the green lobby will be having a field day. You are there to make money for your shareholders, that is the way the market and indeed the world works. The federal Government is corrupt and you have to tread a very careful path of diplomacy and financial inducement – what your critics call bribes, to keep the oil pipes flowing.


The people in the Delta are not primarily your problem. It is the Federal Government’s responsibility to look after its people. You have spent a huge amount of money on building roads, setting up communication, even supporting local causes. You acknowledge that environmental regulation is not very rigorous, but again, that is not primarily your problem. You are here to do business with the world as it is, not as some of your woolly minded critics naively would like it to be.


You have been paying ransoms, sometimes covertly, to individual kidnappers, but things are getting out of hand.   This is causing a crisis of morale amongst staff who are increasingly worried about working in the area. Production is down, it is currently not a major problem but could become so.


If the government does not act decisively you have the ultimate threat of withdrawl and closing production. This is risky as it may let in less scrupulous competitors.


The kidnappers are demanding one billion dollars. No way is this possible. You will have to think very carefully about how much your company would be willing to pay.


You believe very strongly it is the Federal Government’s responsibility to invest in the area and improve conditions. Turmoil can make a contribution, but the government already gets huge revenues from your work on what they claim is ‘their land, not the Delta people’s’.


You are concerned about your international image. There was a movement in the UK to boycott petrol sold through the company recently and this sort of incident exacerbates the problem.

United Nations Mediator

Aim: to gain release of the hostages without loss of life and to use this crisis as an opportunity to move towards a more sustainable and just model of development in the Delta region.

You need to get a clear picture in your mind as to the genuine needs of each of the parties and try and see through the posturing of all concerned. There are lives at risk. The priority is getting an agreement to release the hostages safely. But the same thing will continue to happen again and again unless the participants can address key issues that cause tension in the web of existing relationships.

The Delta people will need to realize their long term needs are unlikely to be met on a sustainable basis through violence.

The company cannot continue to ignore the damage to the environment and the quality of life in the delta that the current level of oil production causes.   Standards of regulation in the Delta are minimal.

The Government needs to understand their responsibility to the people in the Delta and put aside money from royalties to invest in the region. The local leaders are currently hatching a plan for independence from Zobodo and claim that the land is theirs. This would ultimately lead to civil war and more suffering.

If royalties on oil production, currently paid to the Federal Government, were invested in the Delta, and if, for example, a newly proposed Delta Development Corporation (DDC) could come on line, that might offer enough funds to leverage meaningful local cooperation in the development and implementation of ‘area development plans’.   This could provide a subtle way to meet the demands of the local leaders and people who are demanding independence.

Something is needed to encourage multiple and historically competing/conflicting communities to start working together, to bring more moderate and mature leaders into the centres of decision making, to co-opt or marginalize violent youths, and to find constructive and promising avenues of activity for a currently ‘lost generation’.


Local Leaders


Aim: To exploit this situation to put pressure on the Federal Government and Turmoil to invest oil revenue in the development of the Delta region, to gain greater economic and political autonomy and to clean up the pollution.


You are in fact related (distantly) to the kidnapping group, you know who they are. You do not agree with their tactics and talk of an independent Delta is counter-productive. You keep a reasonable, discrete distance from this fact. You do, however, make an issue of the fact that you are the only people who can negotiate with them. This puts you in a strong position in relation to the company and the Federal Government, whose only option is an invasion of troops into the area – an impossible task as much of the area is mangrove swamp and the gangs can appear and disappear almost at will.


There could be some good publicity arising from this that would help the cause.


You want recognition of the rights of the Delta people to education and health care, cleaning up of the pollution, investment in roads, schools, hospitals and work opportunities currently denied local people as many jobs are given to outsiders who have ‘friends’ in the government. You have heard of the idea of a Delta Development Corporation, which would receive money from oil revenues and invest in a development programme for the region. This is a wiser option than seeking independence.


Delta Movement for Peace and Development


Aim: To capitalise on this incident and gain international publicity and recognition of the neglect, exploitation, dire pollution and irreversible destruction of the natural environment; devastation caused by the unholy alliance of the Federal Government and global oil company. You want compensation and ultimately an independent Delta region.


There are tensions within the movement. Some of your colleagues are expressing their frustration by just taking what they can get, with no sense of deeper intention. Others, like yourselves, are interested in the political objectives. You are fed up seeing your people exploited by the Federal Government, by the oil companies and the international community that just watches it happening.


This is a real opportunity to make a stand and proclaim the need for an independent Delta region. Your people have lived here for generations and if a valuable resource is found on their land it is theirs by right, not the Federal Government. The latter works hand in hand with the oil company and there is a lot of corruption.


You respect local community leaders but they are too soft and give in too easily to the lure of foreign engagement.


The Movement is determined to hold out on this one and there is majority agreement that if the authorities do not respond soon you will execute the hostages one by one, starting with the Zobodan (who are not Delta people) workers. Some of the group are uneasy about this but considering the suffering of the Delta People, the heartless exploitation and the disgusting levels of pollution it is time to stand form and show strength and purpose.


Order of Zobodo game


  1. The group is introduced to the current Zobodo situation. A report from the United Nations is read and discussed.


  1. The whole group is divided into smaller groups representing:


The Oil Company

Federal Government

Local politicians

Kidnapping group

United Nations mediating team.


In addition there is a joker/facilitator who has a desk in the centre of the space and a timer, which can be stopped and started.


  1. Each group ‘sets out their stall’ and finds a space in which they can create their office or centre. These may be different corners of the space or in different rooms. Each group member has an identity denoted by a letter, e.g. A,B,C etc.


  1. In the game I minute = 1 hour


Each group must have a clear idea of what they want to achieve by the deadline of 48 hours, i.e. 48 minutes. They must decide a strategy and decide who they want to meet, when, where and with what agenda. All requests for meetings must go through the joker. This is done by sending a note to the joker. For example, the Oil company may seek a secret meeting in a neutral space with the kidnappers in three hours, i.e. three minutes. The request for a meeting is done by filling in a form. Group representatives may be in negotiation with more than one other group at any time.


The groups must be given sufficient time to digest their roles, their aims, their strategies and the rules of the ‘game.’


The Press Release


Each group may also request to hold a press release. As a device this allows the joker and participants to suspend the frenetic activity of negotiations and detach themselves from the intense perspective of their roles. At this request the joker/facilitator stops the clock and the action is frozen. The group holding the press release will deliver their information to an assembled gathering of journalists. All participants in the drama then step out of their roles and assume the role of the journalists at the press conference. Those giving the press release will decide whether to allow questions or not; they may choose just to read a statement. For example, a government spokesperson may hold a press conference to assure the public they are doing everything in their power to gain the release of the hostages. Once the press conference is over the joker will re-start the timer and the participants resume their main roles.


Request for meeting/press release



Name of group


We wish to hold:


A meeting with …………………………………………………


A press conference in …….hours




Any message?






Joker cards


Once the game is in progress the joker may introduce joker cards as a de-stabilising element within the groups. For example:


Delta group.   Member A. You secretly suspect group member B is trying to take over the group for personal reasons and you distrust this person absolutely.


Delta group. Member C. You are privately a religious and moderate person and are a bit out of your depth. You are instinctively against taking life.


Delta group. Member B. You are determined to use this crisis as a platform for revolution and independence. You think you could be a great leader. You mistrust member A who is jealous. If necessary the hostages must die.


Government.   Member C. You are convinced that member A is using the crisis for their own political advancement, everyone knows that A will stop at nothing to become the next Prime Minister.


United Nations. Member A. Your wife/husband has just called you from New York. S/he has begun divorce proceedings on the grounds of your adultery and has left home with the children.


Local Leaders. Member B. You suspect member C is involved secretly with the kidnappers and has a senior position within that organisation.


Turmoil. Member A. Your own son is a vociferous campaigner for an environment group, he has persuaded his mother towards his point of view and you feel under personal pressure to send a positive signal to them: your marriage is already on shaky grounds.


Following the game


The participants may resolve the crisis within the time scale. If not then the following scene could be appropriate:


Create a circle with the participants. Place the kidnappers in the middle. It is now past the deadline. They meet to decide what to do. The group are asked to hold that meeting spontaneously, in role, to decide their course of action. The rest of the participants are flies on the wall.


All participants are then de-briefed and allowed an opportunity to reflect on the overall process. Individual incidents within the simulation may be re-played, subject to a forum theatre type process or specific roles may be hot seated.