As regular readers will know our research lab is focused on exploring how theatre might connect directly to a social change agenda and be a useful tool for opposition and change.  I spent the last year (year one of a six year part time PhD) reading around the subject – looking at contemporary applied and political theatre, contemporary leftist politics and change ideology.  It was fascinating reading and really exciting in terms of looking at where and how Collective Encounters’ might develop.  This month we’ve been starting to look at how the research will directly inform and shape our work.  We’re making sure that current thinking on best practice is embedded in our Quality and Evaluation Framework, and that our Manifesto reflects the more radical stance we’re taking…these are the key policy/position/procedure documents that guide our work and need to be revisited and we’ll be publishing the revised versions shortly.  Practically though, the question remains, how can we connect our work more directly to a change agenda and become a more effective part of the ‘multitude of opposition’?

If you read my October blog, you’ll know that we’re not interested in tinkering with the existing system.  We take the position that our democracy is broken, global corporate capitalism is fundamentally wrong and is directly responsible for unprecedented inequality; and that change from within is hopeless.  But before radical change can occur, it seems, from my research, that four things need to happen:

  1. the status quo must be challenged and defamiliarised – we need to see the existing system as a constructed system and not just as ‘the way things are’
  2. we need the space to talk, reconsider basic political concepts, think and imagine – the continual call for kneejerk solutions contributes to oppression and maintaining the status quo
  3. people must be re-engaged as citizens not consumers – politics must be reconnected back to every day life, rather than being the preserve of an elite
  4. we must imagine new futures and create new stories – what are our utopias?  How could life be better for everyone?

These things in themselves won’t bring about change, but without them change can’t happen.  And it seems to me that Theatre for Social Change has a unique contribution to make to each of them.  Over the next month I’ll be working with our creative team, and they’ll be working with our participants, to look at how the different elements of our programme can be re-imagined, to connect into this change agenda.  And looking at what new elements we’d like to bring into the programme to support these ideas.  This thinking will start to shape our programme development over the coming years and will help us to find new ways of measuring our impact.

We’re also looking at how we might connect to others who are working for a change agenda.  One of the ways we’re doing this is by compiling a database of national and international arts organisations working to a change agenda – if you are part of this please do get in touch with us so we can include you.  We’re starting to look at national connections (and have an application pending with ACE to develop a strategic touring network for organisations like ours who try and reach new audiences and play in non-traditional spaces) and international connections.  We’re working with non-arts charities and social justice organisations in the development of our own work, and are looking to extend these relationships and explore how we might be able to use theatre as a lobbying tool to support their work.  So it’s all happening…

If you’re interested in any of this, please do get in touch – we’d love to hear from you.