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Making theatre in the midst of austerity


A one-day symposium on theatre, poverty and inequality

Martin Harris Centre, University of Manchester

The Martin Harris Centre is building number 42 on the campus map available here – www.manchester.ac.uk/maps

4 November 2015


9am: Registration, with coffee and tea

9.30 – 10.45: Welcome and keynote session 1: John McGrath & Reece Williams

Welcome – James Thompson, University of Manchester

John McGrath – Artistic Director, Manchester International Festival (formerly – founding Artistic Director, National Theatre Wales and Artistic Director, Contact Theatre, Manchester). ‘Another Country: Place, Poverty and National Theatre Wales’

Reece Williams – Manchester based poet, peer mentor, workshop facilitator and theatre producer, working with Young Identity & Inna Voice Collectives. ‘The Relative Cost of Ambition in the Arts’.

10.45 – 11.15: Break

11.15 – 12.45: Parallel sessions 1

12.45 – 2.15: Lunch (brownbag), accompanied by the launch of a free online resource on theatre, poverty and economic justice, with presentations by Janine Waters (Edge Theatre), Melodramatics (Octagon Theatre/Bolton at Home), and Amanda Dalton/Sarah Lovell (Royal Exchange Theatre)                         

2.15 – 3.45: Parallel sessions 2

3.45 – 4.15: Break

4.15 – 5.30:  Keynote session 2

Stella Duffy – Co-director of the Fun Palaces campaign, theatre-maker and writer. ‘There is No Austerity (of Brilliant People)’

With responses from Rachel Clements (Lecturer in Drama, University of Manchester) and Amanda Dalton (Director of Engagement, Royal Exchange Theatre)

5.30: Close of symposium

 5.30 – 6.45: Pre-performance refreshments, for those staying for the performance (soup and snacks)

 7pm: The Housea solo performance by Carran Waterfield (Triangle Theatre), followed by Q&A (running time one hour, plus Q&A)


Parallel sessions 1 (morning, 11.15-12.45)

Session 1: Making and representing (Chair – Maggie Gale)

John Deeney, Manchester Metropolitan University: Powerhouses of spectacular precarity: the politics and poetics of poverty in recent Manchester drama and theatre

Kerrie Schaefer, Exeter University & Graham Jeffery, University of the West of Scotland: Theatres of hope? The politics and pragmatics of cultural practice in austerity’s ‘extreme economy’

Andy Smith, theatre-maker: YOU AND ME, HERE AND NOW: De-materialising the theatre to re-materialise the theatre


Session 2: Theatre spaces and austerity (Chair – Steve Bottoms)

Lourdes Orozco, University of Leeds: Theatre in the Outskirts: The Holbeck Underground Ballroom, poverty and resilience

Claire Cochrane, Worcester University: Making theatre in the jaws of doom: austerity, artistry and Birmingham rep

Alice Borchi, Warwick University: Teatro Valle Occupato: protesting, occupying and making art in contemporary Italy


Session 3: Identity, community, transformation (Chair – Jenny Hughes)

Matthew Elliott, Collective Encounters: Theatre for Change: Collective Encounters’ and the multitude of opposition

Selina Busby, Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London: Finding A Concrete Utopia In The Dystopia Of A ‘Sub’ City

Alison Jeffers, University of Manchester: Authority, authorship and authorisation: an analysis of the radical potential of community plays in Belfast

Matthew Knights, playwright: Who is poor? Popular and political theatre


Parallel sessions 2 (afternoon, 2.15–3.45)

Session 4: Histories, communities and activism (Chair – Kate Dorney, V&A/University of Manchester)

Carry Gorney, artist and writer: Linking Lives: a participatory performance with migrants in a deprived area of Melbourne (1980)

Sian Rees, Goldsmiths, University of London: Don’t Keep Calm. Reclaiming austerity politics through theatre and folklore

Susan Croft, Unfinished Histories: “Turning reality up to the level of art”: Experiments in urban living and alternative theatre in the 1970s – Dispatches from Camden Town and Kentish Town, London


Session 5: Work, unemployment and making/makers (Chair – Alison Jeffers)

Matt Jennings, Ulster University: Just about coping’: precarity and resilience among applied theatre and community arts workers in Northern Ireland and Scotland

Naomi Alexander, Brighton People’s Theatre: Austerity and the City: From Anger to Action

Sarah Bartley, Queen Mary, University of London: Hard Labour and Punitive Welfare: Aestheticising the Unemployed Body at Work





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