The Warwick Commission’s (2015) report into cultural value found that the wealthiest, best-educated, least ethnically diverse 8% of the population are the main producers and consumers of publicly subsidized theatre.
I see this as a social justice issue. During a time of austerity with the cuts hitting the poorest, hardest, why is public subsidy of the arts being used in a way to produce work that primarily attracts white, wealthy, well-educated professionals to the theatre?
I want to make great theatre with and for the 92% of people who do not normally go to the theatre, by setting up a People’s Theatre Company for Brighton, where I live.
The people’s theatre creates socially engaged work that speaks of and to the lives of diverse people across the city. The focus of the company will be on creating the highest possible quality work for enjoyment by the widest possible audience. We will tour shows to community centres across the city a few times a year as part of a good night out.
I am just coming to the end of a period of research and development in partnership with the Brighton Unemployed Centre Families Project and the Brighton Dome. Working with contemporary dancer Gary Clarke and dramaturg Lou Cope we have worked with a group of people to explore the cost of austerity to people in the city.
We held a sharing of some work-in-progress material at Brighton Dome Studio at the end of February where we got amazing audience feedback. We have 10 pages of quotes like this:
“An outpouring of humanity.”
“The most powerful drama I have seen in years. Emotionally hard, tears in my eyes, because this subject is so relevant.”
“Moving – enraging – inspiring.”
“Original, brilliant, quite different from any other theatrical performance that I’ve seen.”
“Powerful, moving, authentic piece of quality theatre.”
“It’s blown me away. I didn’t know how bad it has got. Everyone needs to see this.”
“A powerful, personal and important piece of theatre.”
“The first rendition of ‘Tighten Our Belts’ had part of me thinking. “Oh yeah, they all want handouts…” I looked back at that thought 20 minutes later and remembered it in shame. Thanks so much.”
We are currently developing radical plans to put theatre at the heart of civic and artistic life of the city.
If you are interested in finding out more or want to help shape things please get in touch or visit the Brighton People’s Theatre website.