One of the on-going tasks our Research Lab is undertaking is a slow and steady mapping of theatre and arts for social change organisations in the UK and internationally. We’re doing this for three reasons: first, so that we can share ideas, consider international best practice and take inspiration from other artists and companies. Second, with a view to developing meaningful collaborations, creating new opportunities for our participants, artists and audiences; finding new creative synergies. Finally, it’s about making connections. Very often arts organisations operate in a vacuum. Local and regional networks can be valuable, not least because they usually contain a diverse range of organisations with very different artistic and other agendas, but sometimes it’s invaluable to engage with likeminded others. With organisations that share social and political objectives: for us, that means organisations that are committed to using the arts to further the cause of radical change. Making contact with these organisations across the world reminds us that we are not alone. While our focus is north Liverpool, the same issues, problems and concerns are being experienced in urban centres the world over; and similar artists, community activists and organisations are working, like us, to tackle the root causes of poverty, inequality and social injustice. A few months ago in my blog I talked about the ‘Multitude of Opposition’: the idea that while few radical thinkers any longer dream of a large scale Marxist style revolution, many are hopeful of positive and forceful change via a massive, global, network of oppositional groups. In every part of the globe people are fighting to combat inequality and injustice. It usually goes unreported in mainstream media (due largely to systematic controls by governing interests – Murdock et. al. in cahoots with governments, corporate interest etc.) but it’s happening none the less. The more these oppositional groups talk to each other, share their ideas, link up and become a forceful network of opposition as opposed to isolated individual groups, the more effectively we will work to radical and fundamental change on a global scale.
But obviously it’s not that easy, and nor is it quick! First of all to decide who to connect with? The possibilities are overwhelming and almost limitless, and partnership for the sake of partnership is pointless, so we had to determine parameters. Given the geographic and cultural background of Collective Encounters we decided to focus, for the time being, on urban arts for social change practice in the Global North. Then we had to decide how to distinguish between generic participatory arts organisations and theatre companies (of which there are many thousands) and arts/theatre organisations with a specific focus on social and political change. We did this by defining what we understand by Theatre for Social Change and seeking other organisations that most closely fit this profile. Like I said at the beginning, it’s a slow and steady process. In the first year, we’ve visited similar organisations in the Netherlands and Ireland, building relationships and preparing a joint bid for collaborative work through our Third Age Theatre programme. We’ve begun to build partnerships with several organisations in the north of England with a view to developing a national Strategic Touring Network to enable us to take our work to other communities and bring other performances into north Liverpool; a process that was launched by Red Ladder performing Sex and Docks and Rock n Roll at Crofts Social Club in Everton. We’ve encountered lots of exciting practice and ideas and learned about many interesting companies and artists, and more organisations internationally have heard about us. We hope in the future it will involve us hosting festivals and conferences, performing internationally, and working in a joined-up way with a multitude of oppositional groups across the world, campaigning for change and a better, fairer future.
For the next year in each of our quarterly newsletters we will profile four inspiring organisations that we’ve come across through this research. We hope you enjoy finding out about them. By the end of the year we hope to have a section of our website providing links to the many organisations we’ve encountered.
If you know of an organisation you think we should connect to, please post a link as a comment or email us at email@example.com