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Call out to theatre projects engaging with poverty, inequality and economic justice


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Are you a theatre-maker or theatre organisation addressing poverty, economic inequality, or engaging with economically hard-up groups?

What methods and approaches of theatre-making, participation and production are you using, developing and/or are needed, in such contexts?

What artistic, creative and social approaches are effective for addressing issues of economic justice and/or working with economically disenfranchised communities?

What artistic and theatrical forms and heritages do you draw on in your own work? What work are you inspired by?

What language do you use when describing your work – artistically experimental or innovative, socially-engaged, activist, welfare-focused, social security-related, creative or social entrepreneurship, contributing to economic or community development … ? 

What challenges and opportunities are there for doing and developing this work?

Over the coming months, the Poor Theatres research project will carry out 15 online conversations with theatre-makers working on poverty and economic justice projects internationally. We will make recordings of these publicly available via for our research database and You Tube channel.

We are interested in hearing from theatre-makers, community theatre organisations, artists and community members who would like to take part in a conversation. If you are interested, please get in touch with us directly by emailing Jenny and Naomi on poortheatres@manchester.ac.uk

You can also tweet us on @PoorTheatres or leave a message on our facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/PoorTheatres

We aim to provide a public platform for an international conversation about the impact of economic crisis on theatre-making and participation. We want to include a diverse range of voices in explorations of theatre, poverty and economic justice. This part of the research will develop a network of artists and organisations interested in finding out more about related work happening in different contexts across the world.

We hope to represent a rich and resonant set of reflections that enhances public understanding of theatre’s relationships to poverty and economic justice, and that inspires artists and communities to imagine and initiate new approaches in their own sites of practice.

We would like to include theatre projects that are both high profile as well as small-scale or ‘off the map’. No organisation or project is too small, large, new or old! We want to hear from professional, amateur, activist, formal, informal, educational, community, local, global, artistic, rights-based as well as welfare-focused projects.

We are keen to have open conversations that explore issues and experiences that artists identify as significant in their work.

Possible topics for conversation might include: descriptions of important projects; accounts of the history of your organisation; reflections on how to work creatively in complex and pressured environments. We might explore different ideas about how and why the work happens – for social development, cultural development, economic development, community cohesion, enhancing resilience, for example, or to stimulate political critique or creative entrepreneurship. It is clear that organisations – and increasingly so in times of economic crisis – experience tensions around funding as well as pressures to evidence ‘impact’ of their work in ways that satisfy funders – these might also become a topic of conversation. We might talk about managing on limited resources, challenging deficit and/or stigmatising models of welfare, fostering engagement, working within multi-agency partnerships, sustaining networks of support, and working within organisations and communities that operate across formal and informal economies.

The result will be a series of conversations that privilege the manner in which those closely connected to theatre projects describe the value of their work.

The online conversations will complement our documentation of 5 theatre projects local to the site of the research – Manchester (UK). These local projects are all situated within the areas of Greater Manchester described by Friedrich Engels in The Condition of the Working Class in England in the 1840s. The idea here is to revise Engels’ accounts of deprivation by creatively documenting the ways in which artists and communities draw on theatre activity to critique and celebrate their localities.

Click here to explore the research map and database.

All of our research conversations are managed in close collaboration with participants. So for example, we schedule conversations to take place at a time that suits those involved, and all contributors will have a full opportunity to review, amend and approve material before it is made publicly accessible on our website.

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