Joy – PEN’s Educator of the month

1 November, 2013 § Leave a comment

We are very proud to announce that this month Joy is PEN‘s Primate Educator of the Month, the first non-habitat educator to be selected.  Thanks to Aoife for nominating her!

Primates Have Talent

28 August, 2013 § Leave a comment

Hello lovely monkey people,

Sorry for my silences. I recently got a full time job, in both theatre and education too! I have been away from computer and my brain filled with other things. That said, we have a MASC event at Beale Park this weekend. It is a new event so if you are free then come down and see us in the Toy Museum area. Primates Have Talent is a talent show where you will be taught 5 facts about a primate of your choice and then you can do whatever you like as a talent and answer the question. We will have people on hand to help you create your talented performance and support you all the way!

Monkey Hugs

Beale Park this year

21 June, 2013 § Leave a comment

Just a heads up for those who are local to Reading. MASC will be in Beale Park three times this year so feel free to come down for a lovely day out and to do some primate-themed activities. Firstly we are doing Monkey Athletics (Monkelympics as was) on the weekend of the 27th and 28th of July. Come down and test your primate abilities! We have 5 different activities that test 10 different things that make primates different from other animals.

Gibbon boy combo

Then over the weekend of the 31st of August and 1st of September we are going to do activities that haven’t been decided on. We will be running a poll to vote for what you think would be the best activities for us to run between: Monkey Biscuits and masks, Monkey Athletics, a trial of activities that are designed to promote empathy for pet primates, a show or some activities that are about palm oil (feel free to cast your votes via comments). Whatever happens we’ll be in the Toy Museum.

Then on the 31st of October and 1st of November which are a Thursday and Friday we will be launching Spooky Monkeys! Find out about primates that are active in the night and what makes them special. Compete between kids and adults and learn more about people’s relationships with night-time primates.

See you there!

Arty hands and biscuits

Where is the positivity?

29 May, 2013 § Leave a comment

I know that there are lots of places in the world where conservationists are fighting a losing battle, I know that in many places we have already done more damage than can be repaired in hundreds if not thousands of years. I know that species are in trouble and much of that is simply because there are too many humans in the world.

BUT, I also know that those many humans are all just trying to live their lives. The few who have power to change, those in the affluent Western consumer countries, have been made to feel powerless. Every time conservationists tell other people it is too late, they give up a bit more. We already are trying to persuade people to change, which they are not in the main overly keen on, why would we add to the barriers we have to break down to reach people? It is our responsibility to make people feel empowered, that they can make a difference. Every time a victory is won it should be celebrated no matter how small.

I invite conservationists to submit small victories they have had, whether they be people in their field sites who protect the wildlife that was once over-hunted or a successful petition to a company or government, if you have had a child tell you what you are doing is great or a friend pass on the message. Anything, we have to keep our chins up!

Here is my positive thing for the day, these two kids are followers of MASC who inspire me with their passion for conservation!


Monkey hugs

How MASC got its cast, Oh Best Beloved

20 May, 2013 § Leave a comment

I was absolutely blown away by the cast we used in Martil. Before we arrived we had arranged to work with one group and then when we arrived and arranged a meeting with them they didn’t show up because they were tired from rehearsing for a show that weekend as part of the Tetouan Theatre Festival. That was fair enough but we thought, since we might not be able to get them for another week that we would try to find another group.

DSC05211This we did, in Martil (the town outside Tetouan where we were staying) just round the corner from us was a little theatre group. We managed to arrange a meeting with their director and he said that once they had done their show (part of a theatre festival too) they would be more than happy to come along. We cast it on the beach on the Saturday and Aoife and I saw their show in the festival on Sunday. They then turned up for rehearsals every day for the following week including Friday (which is the Sabbath in Islam) after school for a couple of hours and persevered with my direction in broken French.

I cannot imagine if I had wandered into any small student theatre group on a Friday when they had a show on Sunday that I would have got the same response in the UK,DSC00565 even though I speak the same language! Their director, Norddine and Ahmed from BMCRif spoke French, some of the cast did, but not all so I would explain to Norddine and he would explain in Arabic to the cast. The patience they had was astounding.

We double-cast the show and those who weren’t on stage that day would happily sit in the audience and watch, correcting when those on stage went awry. It was an amazing experience from start to finish and I hope that Marso, Nabil, Arafa, Fatima, Bouchra, Rida, Wigdane and Morad are all very proud of themselves.


Conservation in a vacuum

14 May, 2013 § Leave a comment

When we went out to Morocco, Sian asked us to find some Vitamin E oil or similar for reducing scarring. This was for a young girl in the village of Lahcen where they work who had had some hot oil splashed on her face and hand the previous week. The woman had approached Sian and Ahmed to help and of course they rushed her to hospital and made sure that she was admitted and got the right treatment. Sian wanted to make sure that the girl had the minimum scarring from the incident, especially since the wound was on her face.

The whole affair made me think about in situ conservation projects and their interaction with the local people. I think all too frequently conservation projects focus on the animals or the habitats without considering the impact on the local people. Without building a positive relationship with the people whose lives are impacted by both the wildlife and the efforts to protect it I feel success is limited. While we were driving around with Sian and Ahmed we often picked up shepherds and school kids and families and gave them a lift to wherever they were going. We stopped to talk to everyone and everyone recognised the monkey bus and waved. Without this kind of relationship with the people how much success can conservation achieve?

I found it incredibly inspiring to see the respect and affection that the project has for the people and the people for the project. I look forward to having a chance to work with BMCRif in the future.

This is the view from the BMCRif house in Lahcen in the morning!

How the tortoise got his shell, oh Best Beloved

11 May, 2013 § 2 Comments

You may have seen that we had a shell made for us in the UK, it was made of wicker-work by a local artist. It was environmentally responsible and beautiful. Once we got here, however we saw that it would not be able to take the kind of beating it would be expected to in the monkey bus from place to place. So we decided to see if we could get one made in Morocco that could take more abuse. We went to a few different stalls that sold weaving but all their products were either made elsewhere or they were selling to the trade rather than making. Ahmed had the idea of seeing if we could make it out of leather, over a wooden frame.

DSC04868We went down to the Artisan Centre and spoke to the leather-workers there and after some long conversations which made us giggle with Ahmed wearing a shell having a completely serious chat with the worker as though there was nothing amiss! Ahmed then set about making the frame by bending a pole to a shape and then attaching strips that curved to this. When we left it wasn’t finished but I am looking forward to seeing photos once it is done. I think in total it cost around 20 to 50 Euro.

Dressing Teshta

10 May, 2013 § Leave a comment

We bought or acquired the human characters’ costumes in Morocco in order to make them as genuine as possible, to increase the space in our luggage for our personal stuff and things we couldn’t get in Morocco as easily and to save some money! DSC00657We had several characters that would need area-specific costume such as the Village Man and Woman, the Grandfather and the Seller. Ahmed very generously donated things for the Village Man and the Seller and BMCRif had some fezzes which we could use for the Grandfather (only one!). So we went to the Artisan Centre, where the people are working on making their products and you can watch them while they do then they sell them directly to you so you don’t get a huge mark-up and they get to put all the money in their pockets. We bought two futas which are what the village women wear, they are stripey bands of fabric which can be wrapped round the waist or over the shoulders and keep the sun off and keep you warm in the winter.

For the young children in the show we spent a few days looking round in Tetouan and Martil to see what they wore. It turns out the boys all wear sporty jackets, tops and caps and the girls mostly wear pink! The young girls have a great variety of clothes from more traditional style clothes to kaftan-style things to t-shirts and jeans or skirts. The only common denominator is that there is a lot of pink for girls, particularly under 10. Once they get older they seem to lose the obsession. There are also a lot of pigtails.

DSC00610Once again Ahmed came through for us with a sporty jacket and a pink jacket for Yasmin and Dani. Then a cap and a head scarf for the children in the villages, the girls in the villages do tend to cover their heads. So in the end we only bought two futas for under 8 Euro and the tortoise shell. But that, oh best beloved, is a story for another day.

Off to Morocco and the new website

27 April, 2013 § Leave a comment

One more day here before we fly out to Morocco, bags packed, set made, costume done and now… website finished! I will blog when we are back from Morocco but wish us luck.

I leave you with a new picture from the photo shoot with Steven Foster yesterday. Showing the work of Hellen B on the backdrop and Christine Brewster on the shell.

Thanks to them all.

Monkey hugs til we get back
Tortoise forest 1

Monkey shrugs – Check!

10 April, 2013 § Leave a comment

I spent the morning making new monkey shrugs for Teshta and I am now covered in fluff! We still have the gazebo up in the living room for Hellen to come and finish the set. We are getting closer every day and I am beginning to feel like we are going to be ready. I have the basics for Muna to make and then Muna’s fluffy coat but then the sewing is finished! Then Christine Brewster has started making the Ahmed shell and we are desperately trying to find a bag big enough to fit it all in to! I am getting ready to pack our stuff and head out there. 19 days!

Excited monkey hugs

%d bloggers like this: