The short read
For a brief introduction to WSI and insight into this area of work look at their case study on the A Restless Art website that has a wealth of information, ideas and case studies relating to participatory arts.
The long read
Engineers of the Imagination by Tony Coult and Baz Kershaw (Methuen, 1983) introduces the work of Welfare State International and sets it in context, as well as giving practical guides and techniques for making lanterns, puppets and other ingredients for a WSI spectacle.
Welfare State International are perhaps the best known innovators of the spectacle: large scale community celebrations that involved elements of ritual, procession, music and story telling. Artists and theatre makers worked with communities to create one-off events that were usually rooted in the community’s history, mythology and/or identity. They were colourful and high impact, using puppets, lanterns, eye catching costumes and oversized props that the community groups were involved in making. Their influence on participatory theatre today can be seen in the celebrations, parades and large-scale, short term engagements orchestrated by multi-arts companies, and in the site-specific participatory projects of organisations like Big Telly.