Thinking differently with a purpose

Black Lives Matters / Edinburgh 7th June

I was at a Men’s workshop yesterday where 18 of us from 3 countries and diverse heritage each took 3 minutes to explore where we were in the world, in the time, in this moment, with ourselves. I have never been in that company of men before and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to be a bit of a timekeeper for the event and a lot of a listener. The struggles across America, the protests for the world to be different and acknowledge that Black Lives Matter, and the three pandemics of covid19, racism, and greed were making us all wonder what actions and changes we could/must make to heal our communities.   In reflecting at the end one host suggested three themes – Mission, Purpose, and Responsibility.

Today Kath and I were at the Black Lives Matter personally distanced gathering in the vast Holyrood Park in Edinburgh where testimonies were shared to an audience of, I guess 5-10,000.  It felt very safe from a health perspective, everyone in masks and gloves, everyone staying in tiny family/friend units with a good 2m + apart from each other.  Respect for the risk, but way safer than shopping in a supermarket.   I came away knowing that I need to do more. I need to read. I need to understand the past to inform my present. And I need to double my efforts in my mission and purpose.

I have a Mission – to create the best possible training programme for Creative Producers who wish to access an online classroom and collaborate with aspirational peers to make new theatre in a new world which is necessary and works within the needs of access, equity, and the planet.

This gives me a Purpose at the moment, isolated in my tiny office near Edinburgh, using the internet to reach out as far and wide as I can.  That purpose is to find ways to talk about the job of producing, and the pathways into the profession to the widest cross section of possible future inventors, employers and facilitators for the theatre of the future. I cannot not be a ‘cis white dude’ creating this course (to quote a challenge on twitter). I add to that ‘old and English’ living in Scotland.  But I do have a multi-cultural faculty, which I will grow further, across 4 continents, who will explore with the cohort of aspiring producers how to make work and change the world one show at a time.  

My challenge is to be heard, and to find colleagues to explore with me how best to make the Diploma and the workshops which go with it most effective and useful to a future community of producers.  On Friday I did a 2hr workshop for inspiring members of the Mousetrap Foundations’ Youth Arts Leadership Conference exploring what the world might look like for them as young multicultural theatremakers in the future, and pathways to being a director or producer or movement director.  Over the weekend I got a phenomenal buzz of energy from connecting with Dollie Henry and Paul Jenkins, the founders of the BOP Jazz Dance Company who have challenged me to  connect into the London based FE sector to see how I could help young people there.  The UK needs more theatre producers who are going to make work happen – whether that is in a small fringe venue or a massive dance and music gig at the O2 Arena.  Here in Scotland I start working with Ruth Marsh on a PR/Media push to build awareness of producing pathways here especially to communities not currently represented enough in the theatre community Step by step on my purpose. 

Reflecting on my Responsibility and opportunity to make a difference, it is to the audiences of the future, and especially those who do not at the moment feel that the theatre is for them.  Those who do not see themselves represented in the work which is being made – either because they are not represented, or because they are not in the room when it is shared.

The Board tables, the management structures, the programmers and the producers of the work for our stages need to reflect the diversity of our extraordinary ever changing population, and to be seen to represent and champion that diversity.  The industry as a whole is working to make a difference, and my part is to help the new aspirational, emerging, or already emerged producers and theatremakers to find ways whereby their voices can be produced loud and strong – and welcomed by all.

I can’t wait to be out of my little locked down room and meet people face to face on the ground, but for now I have my Mission, Purpose and will take my Responsibility forward  with my little office and laptop.  And I have some reading to do, and understanding to soak up, about the world I have not looked at enough for the last 60 years of my life.

If you can help me, do shout.  If there is someone I should be talking with, please let me know.  If I should be thinking differently, acting differently – tell me.  Thank you.

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