Cultural Conversations We're working with Queen's Hall Youth Theatre to deliver a new exchange project between young people aged 15-20 from Northumberland and Latvia . Queen's Hall Youth Theatre is open to new participants for this project so please get in touch here if you would like to be involved. Since November last year, as part of the Cultural Conversation Project, Queen’s Hall Youth Theatre have been in conversation with youth theatre students from across rural Latvia, bringing a much-needed sense of adventure during lockdown. Via monthly collaborative zooms they have been sharing everything about their lives, what they know about each other and what they don’t know. From what they like to eat; what lockdown is like; how they view their culture; along with their hopes for their futures. The project, set up by Hexham Book Festival, Queen’s Hall Arts, and working in partnership with Fonds Initium in Riga, hopes the creative relationship will offer the opportunity to develop and share an understanding of each-others worlds. Each month, after working in their individual groups, they share and discuss their findings. As such, the Christmas Zoom party, devised by Queen’s Hall youth theatre and project lead Susan Betts, was a fun drama workshop combining Christmas traditions from both countries: Latvian’s main Christmas meal is on Christmas Eve and they only get a present if they can recite a poem? The project idea was stimulated by Hexham Book Festival’s successful Writing Borders residency, which saw four authors from the Baltic Countries visit Northumberland to join UK authors/translators for a week-long cultural exchange. Having experienced the positive difference made to the writers and translators understanding of each other, creatively and culturally, Hexham Book Festival committed to developing and nurturing links between young people in Northumberland, and other European borderlands. Cultural Conversations Project phase 3 is still hoping to be able to offer a 5 day theatre intensive here in Hexham and then Riga, allowing the two groups to come together physically to rehearse and perform the work they have created over the period of the project. For the Christmas Zoom the students were tasked with creating a menu of 9 dishes. (Latvian’s must have 9 dishes on their Christmas table.) The dishes represented the things the students felt were most significant to their future wellbeing. Their most important dish? Connections. Post Brexit and in this time of a global pandemic, young people must be supported to connect. Cultural Conversation Project does just that.