British artists entertain gloomy children of quake-hit PaK

Greater Kashmir

Muzaffarabad, Sep 13: Two Britons who had arrived in Pakistan more than two months ago to entertain the minor victims of the country’s worst ever natural disaster through the magic of moving images, held last screenings of their novel project here on Tuesday evening amid great applause by viewers.
The screenings were witnessed by 400 children and several elders in two groups in a marriage hall close to a soccer field in the central part of the quake hit town as the organisers had to shift the venue of their show from the nearby site of town’s devastated cinema house at the eleventh hour due to heavy downpour.
Children who had come from different makeshift camps and were served with juice packs and pastries cheered with glee, giggled and clapped as they watched cartoon films and wildlife documentaries with lovely music in the background on a 2.5 x 2.5 metre large screen through a projector efficiently manned by Eugenie Reidy and Theo Baines, conceivers of the project.
The duo, graduates in anthropology from UK’s prestigious Oxford University, were more than happy as what they had envisaged in January this year – bringing back smiles on the faces of traumatised children – had come true to a great extent.
“When we saw the footage of the earthquake on different TV channels we were deeply moved… and we thought we should do something different to put our share in return of normality in the quake hit zone,” Baines told Greater Kashmir as his colleague handled the equipment.
“We were particularly worried about the children and wanted to entertain them and give them a chance to laugh and revel,” he said, recalling when they conceived the idea they had tough times in finding the sponsors.
He expressed his gratitude for Kashmir International Relief Fund (KIRF) – a registered charity in UK and NGO in PaK – which he said came to their help and bought them equipment besides sponsoring other expenditures.
He said as they go back the equipment would be KIRF property which would make the mobile cinema a permanent fixture in the quake hit zone.
Asked about the response of people particularly the children to their shows, he said it was “absolutely wonderful.”
“Honestly speaking, initially we were a bit nervous that whether the children will like our selections or not. But their response was beyond our expectations,” he said.
During their stay in Pakistan, Reidy and Baines screened shows for nearly 3000 children in PaK and neighbouring NWFP.
When asked, Reidy described her experience as fantastic.
“I am happy we have established a bond in the disaster struck region with fun and laughter for the young children,” she said.
Attired in Qameez Shalwar, Reidy who also speaks Urdu fluently said although the project was physically gruelling but they felt delighted and satisfied over the fulfilling experience.
The duo appreciated the resilience of the quake survivors and said the way they had got back to normal lives despite adversities was amazing.
They were scheduled to fly to Karachi on Wednesday to hold meetings with some publishers “so that the ‘mobile cinema in Kashmir’ is also scripted somewhere.”
Once back home, they hoped to receive coverage in English media as well which they said would help remind the world community that lot more still needed to be done to alleviate the sufferings of the quake survivors.