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  • Alice Smith

Kinder Exeter: Laboratory of Holidays at Slava’s Moulin Jaune with Olya and Bryan

29 June 2021


Friday’s workshop for Kinder Exeter was on Slava Polunin’s Moulin Jaune with Olya and Bryan.


As people joined the call, Olya and Bryan put on a fun improvised performance, with Olya in a clown nose and Bryan with spiked up hair. It was playful, entertaining, and definitely awe inducing for the toddler that was in the Zoom audience!


Bryan and Olya are lecturers at the University of Exeter Drama department. They both previously created ARTEL (American Russian Theatre Ensemble Laboratory), a company who create their own training and devising processes and serve as a performance incubation house. Olya is also one of our Kinder Exeter Festival directors and is the founder of Maketank, and artist led cultural organisation, sharing resources and space.


This session began with a discussion of the work of Slava Polunin, a theatrical clown, and avant-garde artist of happiness. Slava is a champion of momentism, an appreciation of the moment which helps performers get rooted in playful spontaneity. In a 2017 TEDx Talk, Slava discusses that he has 32 rules or guidelines for celebrating life every day. He says that balance is about recklessness and detail. When asked by someone if he is happy, he responded saying that he is always happy. Slava insists that we need to create small aspects of happiness that will then spread wider, for him, that is creating.



The Yellow Watermill, or the Moulin Volant is a vibrant chateau that the Poulins took over 20 years ago. Bryan discussed how it is an imaginative creative space where artists and local communities are invited to realise their own little bits of creative imagination.



Bryan then asked us to think about what a holiday is. Participants put their answers in the chat and responses included themes such as breaking your usual routine, rest and relaxation and spending time with loved ones. Following this, Olya and Bryan linked what they were saying to Vikki Barnes’ workshop earlier in the week on Positive Wellbeing. They urged us to take our brain on holiday and unlock a sense of awe, much like the toddler felt in Olya and Bryan’s opening improv.


Following a whistlestop tour of Slava’s work, Bryan prompted us to take a minute to write down some little successes we’ve had this week. A couple of people had successfully tended to their plants, one person worked on a new song and another found and bought a new home in 24 hours. We then were tasked with writing a to do list of positive things we want to do at the weekend. Everyone looked forward to reading, and experiencing food, dance and music at the weekend.


The participants were then asked to find an object that brings them joy or comfort and imagine what kind of festival could be created from this. One person found a pillow and imagined a festival to provide more comfort to the homeless communities in Exeter.



Olya and Bryan then left us with some final words from Slava, urging us to break out of everything that limits us!


Follow us on @kinderexeter for more insight into the Kinder Exeter Festival.

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