“Magical Bag”: under-privileged young people take the streets of Lisbon with circus performances

Also in... (Français)

ECPA awards 2011/Portugal

Lisbon (Portugal), October 28, 2011 – The “Magical Bag” project developed by the Lisbon cultural centre Chapitô will be the Portuguese entry for the European Crime Prevention Awards. This initiative consists in involving young people who are in a situation of exclusion in circus and theatre activities that they perform in the streets of Lisbon, as well as in schools and other educational centres.

The Chapitô cultural centre presents a whole array of circus shows and animations that all have a cultural, social or educational vocation. It is situated in the Alfama neighbourhood, near the famous walls of the São Jorge Castle. It is quite well known by Lisboetas and also by tourists, not only for its artistic performances but also because it hosts a very good restaurant and café, Restô do Chapitô, and has a breathtaking view over the city and the Tagus river.

Chapitô is a non-profit cultural association with the status of NGO. Its main objective is the “social inclusion of underprivileged youngsters”. “All our skills, arts and crafts are aimed at improving the life of young people who are in a situation of exclusion,” says the association. “We believe that the development of expression and communication capacities help to reduce marginalisation and social exclusion, and to prevent crime”.

The project Magical Bag – Animation for social (re) integration was conceived as part of an initiative that has been going on for a few years now, whereby Chapitô’s animation team work together with young people aged from 12 to 20 who are under judicial custody, and are interns in two youth centres of Lisbon. A circus show has been created as part of the Magical Bag project, the scenario and performers of which change constantly according to the circumstances. What does not change is that the main actors are youngsters, who perform either in the streets or in schools, kindergartens, community centres and neighborhoods.

The objectives of the Magical Bag project are:

  • To enable vulnerable young people to benefit from more social and cultural opportunities;
  • To promote circus skills and arts as a way to boost the self-esteem of the young participants;
  • To promote a close collaboration between local partners and youngsters who are under the custody of the Court of Justice through thematic workshops and street animations;
  • To change the methodology and approach of authorities towards the social exclusion of young people with an underprivileged background.

According to Chapitô, “The arts and culture, the positive multicultural communication and socialisation experiences, the commitment to solidarity, the ethical responsibility and civic paths followed by the young people participating in the Magical Bag project may not always be enough to counter life stories in which there were many “shadows” at an early age, but they certainly construct narratives with new windows of hope and, above all, with tools to face and overcome fears and obstacles.”