Participatory Arts – Capturing The Learning, A Response From Abdul Shayek, Artistic Director & CEO Fio.

In response to the lockdown triggered by COVID-19, many arts organisations have taken their work online, sharing content for audiences to view for free. However, creating participatory engagement online is much more challenging and, as a sector used to being face to face with people in their practice, it’s clear that the current restrictions change the nature of participatory arts based activity substantially.

Following a vital conversation on social media led by Guy O’Donnell, Learning and Participation Producer, National Dance Company Wales which opened a discussion on how we can deliver participatory arts effectively, a range of partners are collaborating to lead Zoom discussions for the sector where we can talk about the impact of the lockdown on our work and work creatively together to think beyond the lockdown.

In partnership with ArtWorks Cymru a series of free Zoom meetings have been set up to discuss and share current working practices in participatory delivery.

Capturing the Learning

These Zoom meetings will explore how we capture the learning from organisations and artists who are currently delivering projects. We’ll explore what methods are working well, what are we learning through this experience, and how we are adapting our working practices.

Abdul Shayek is Artistic Director & CEO of Fio. Abdul will be speaking at the meeting organised by Youth Arts Network Cymru 5pm – 6pm Tuesday 9th June. The meetings are free to attend but numbers are limited. At the meeting Abdul will outline some of the challenges and solutions Fio has created to support the public to access their services in the current climate.

Abdul is a former Creative Associate for National Theatre Wales with a particular focus on engaging communities and has worked with a range of organisations including Contact Theatre, Theatre Royal Stratford East, RSC, the National and The Almeida and various international organisations and projects connected to participation and engagement.

He is a visiting lecturer at the University of East London and has guest lectured at a host of other institutions.  Abdul is a Clore Cultural Leadership Fellow (2013-14)and sits on the steering group of the National Alliance for Arts in the Criminal Justice System, is a trustee of mid-wales dance company Impelo and on the board of No Fit State Circus.

Currently, Abdul is Artistic Director & CEO of Fio.  Fio makes fearless theatre: work that tears down stereotypes and challenges injustice.

Abdul has directed all of Fio’s productions to date from ‘Swarm’, a site-specific show about migration to Katori Hall’s ‘The Mountaintop’ to critical acclaim, to most recently directing ‘Death and the Maiden’ by Ariel Dorfman, and a UK touring production of Athol Fugard’s ‘The Island’.

He is currently working as director and dramaturg in Fio’s stage adaptation of ‘Orchard of Lost Souls’ a novel about the female experience leading up to the Somali genocide which will tour across the UK and internationally. 

He is also developing a VR project with Bangladeshi women. Over the summer of 2019, Abdul worked on ‘Orpheus in the Underworld’ at English National Opera.  

‘Orpheus in the Underworld’, English National Opera.

At the meeting Abdul will discuss the projects below:


Has self-isolation got you going doolally? Is the company of your phone just not enough?  Are you finding it hard to escape the ever-growing challenges of COVID-19?

If you’re anything like us you’ve watched everything Netflix has to offer and the person leaving the fridge door open for the 50th time is starting to grate on you. Why not shake things up?

We’re challenging you to put Pen 2 Paper and write us a letter.

Join the #FioPen2PaperChallenge

Let’s revive and reinvigorate a faded art form.

We want you to feel free to write whatever you wish – get creative, be inspired.

What would you tell your future self? 

Do you want to reflect on what’s happening in the world? We’re living history!

Do you want to reflect on how you’re feeling and how you’re coping? Impart your wisdom to others.

Do you want to just forget this whole thing is happening? Just tell us a funny story.

This is YOUR letter you can write whatever you want, but we just say make it YOU.

If you need to, nominate a scribe, translator. We don’t mind. 


Keep it authentic- don’t worry about spelling mistakes,  you can write in any language you want. It just has to be signed, sealed and delivered….we love a pun, so please feel free to include others!

We encourage kids, grandparents, parents, those on the front line, those who’s stories might get left behind and even you, yes YOU on the other side of the world, to take part. 

Send your letter to the following address:

The Old Library,
Singleton Road,
CF24 2ET

Don’t forget to provide a return address so we can write you back!

Once you’re done, share a picture of your writing set-up and tag us @wearefio #FioPen2PaperChallenge on instagram and then tag 2 of your friends to take on the challenge.

Leave your username so that we can tag you back. Happy writing!  

Ysgrifennu Hapus! Bonne écriture! ¡Escritura feliz!

for people to write in letters during the lockdown

Unheard Voices

“We’re making sure BAME Women are being heard.”

Hosted every Wednesdays at 3pm on Zoom, we are working in collaboration with Women Connect First to listen to the stories from BAME Women of all walks of life. Whilst set online, the setting is honest and raw as we record conversations and discuss topics such as the meaning of Home and how this translates from generation to generation, culture to culture.

One of our most inspiring projects yet, this female-only collective is resilient as they are supportive of one another.

A New Normal

Being innovative and responding to the environment is what we do well here at Fio. That’s why, we’re introducing you to A New Normal!

Using their film-making skills online and offline, our inspiring group of young people will be working together to create a web series to document past, present and future pandemics. All from the comfort of their own homes! Combining education and history with creativity and reinterpretation, we’re dreaming up A New Normal for each pandemic to realise the mass effect of change on a global society and how this draws comparison to COVID-19.

What have we learnt from past pandemics?
What do you think a future pandemic might look like in the future?
In 2020, what would you put in your Time Capsule?

Happening every Tuesday @ 4PM on Zoom.

Why not make the best out of a bad situation?

Want to get involved?
Get in touch with to sign up and we’ll take it from there!

Abdul will discuss the challenges and solutions Fio has found below


Health and safety, morale, data poverty and access to equipment, translating the work via screen – how do we turn what inevitably needs congregation into creating a similar on screen?


Think about what the purpose of the project is and how do you make sure you find a way to enable that online? This has to be the central question.

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