Mixit: keeping creativity and laughter alive during lockdown
Mixit is a project that uses creativity to inspire young people. It is a multicultural platform for young people from refugee, migrant and local backgrounds. The heart of Mixit is their Saturday afternoon sessions, bringing together a diverse group of young people to mix, create and express themselves. Mixit also runs a Youth Leadership and Alumni programme, as well as participating in community events and annual performance projects.
In March 2020, Mixit was mid-way through Term 1 of its Saturday Programme. The group were focused on Body Percussion with guest artist Otis Herring. Simultaneously the Youth Leaders had commenced working with choreographer Justin Haiu on a new performance piece to contribute to the International Cultural Festival. Mixit’s strategic development National Outreach Programme was also well underway. Following two successful 2019 workshops in Hamilton, and partnership building meetings in Christchurch, in March 2020 Mixit was poised to roll out Alumni-led workshops around the country for the remainder of the year.
COVID-19 impacted on all these activities. The team, Youth Leaders and Alumni rapidly adapted and shifted some activities to on-line platforms, while putting Outreach plans on hold till we had survived the pandemic crisis.
During Level 3 & 4 restrictions Mixit was unable to deliver its usual programmes, which previously relied upon face-to-face engagement in conjunction with online communication. They were challenged to provide a digital space for young people to continue connecting with each other, have fun and participate in creative activities. One of the challenges faced was their members’ varying levels of access to technology including devices and availability of a stable internet connection.
It was also tricky juggling the roller coaster of participation. They found that the young people were getting stretched during lockdown - using digital platforms for all connectivity which included school work, community programme involvement (such as Mixit - but also others) and recreational use. On top of that, sleep patterns were scrambled and for Muslim communities it was also Ramadan.
Wendy Preston, Mixit’s Director, explains how they sustained their creative engagement with young people throughout Levels 3 & 4: “Our Core Programme weekly on-line sessions were (and still are) being facilitated by a combination of regular guest artists and Alumni and creative focus has been across a range of movement, drama, music and spoken word. We also provided an opportunity for the Alumni Squad to create a 5-part web-series in response to the pandemic. Based around a group of flatmates and their experiences living in lockdown. They wrote, prepped and planned during lockdown, and filmed on phones”.
You can find the full series of videos here:
Through this experience, Wendy reflects, Mixit has come to understand the importance of “flexibility and adaptability - something creatives are hard wired to lean into and embrace. Our team quickly pulled together, faced the roadblocks and found a lateral approach to continued creativity”. Mixit actively reached out weekly to community partner organisations, to share experiences and support. This was important, Wendy explains: “We recognise that the future remains a fluid space within which we all need to find new ways to operate. As an organisation we are committed to reviewing and recalibrating our creative support to ensure we’re actively responding to the changing needs of young people”.
Younis Ahmat Abdallah reflects on what it has felt like to be a Mixit member throughout the pandemic: “The experience of doing Mixit on Zoom was interesting at first. I thought it would be harder because I didn’t know who would talk about who, but we created our own way of communicating - even on camera. I didn’t know it would be so fun using objects in our own house’s to create things or make stories out of them. I find jokes on video not funny, but I can’t lie I laughed like crazy. The experience made me realise we can adapt to anything different that would come our way in the future, Peace.”