On Saturday 20th January at D and D 13, I called a session on 'Can we make sit-specific social change?' After initially beginning with two participants, we grew to 10+ with a range of ideas, questions and suggestions coming from people with different backgrounds, experiences and interests.

While it was not possible to take notes of the entire discussion, I have summarised some of the main points here and encourage others who attended the session - or who are interested but were unable to attend - to add their comments, to keep the discussion going.

The following day (Sunday 21st January) there was also a session on 'Immersive theatre and political action' which had some overlaps, and a few of the same participants. I recommend also reading the report from that session and the plans that emerged from it.

Some of the areas we explored in this session and the questions raised included...

- The relative [lack] of awareness of site-specific work but also the distinctions between the categories of 'site specific', 'site sensitive' and 'immersive' kinds of work. There also was a question about the extent to which the space is a prompt for the work performed, and how there are many examples of work that use these terms/categories when they are not really responding to the performance site or space.

- Questions were raised around making 'political theatre' such as:
> Are we preaching to the converted when we make political work in terms of the audience(s) the attend?
> Large-scale site-specific works come with a high ticket price and are therefore exclusive to being with.
> Do we naturally bring in new or other audiences by simply locating it in a different space? Is this an assumption we need to challenge?

- We questioned the relationship between spaces and audiences and, whether/how we can make theatre in space that doesn't have a 'captive audience'? How would that work? How would people engage? Related to this, we talked about activist theatre which takes place in spaces without captive audiences (e.g. the British Museum) and the relative effectiveness of that.

- We noted that often 'political action' is often only an incidental part of a performance/piece which has a political context or content. We also talked about the potential for site-specific work to deepen people's experience which is of value, in and of itself.

- One of the participants raised the idea of whether it would be possible to curate a space that would showcase different kinds of political theatre/theatrical activism - a 'smorgasbord of activism', so that the more active and reflective forms of political work could be performed alongside one another, and potentially in public space(s).

- We also talked about the value/relative importance of Q&A sessions after performances that are controversial/challenging/overtly political, allowing audiences to explore questions that arise. There was an ethical dimension - would it be wrong to "rile up" an audience without a space to process the thoughts/emotions the work had elicited? The Q&A/post-performance activity also provides an opportunity for audiences to come together.

- One of the participants noted the importance of people working in a dedicated way in multiple areas in their political action/activism: 'Like ants in an ant heap, we're all doing our little bit.' To which another participant replied, 'Ants can be quite effective!'

- It was highlighted that theatre and performance provides people with an opportunity to speak, in some cases, gives them a voice - in a range of different ways.

- One of the participants in the discussion works as a designer and developed upon this, asking 'What can you embed into everyday life that amplifies people's messages/voices?' He explained how this is connected to Ezio Manzini's (a professor of design/philosophy/politics) work on this concept of 'social amplifiers'.

- He also asked what are the ways we can 'prick people's consciousness/make a hole in the brown-ness of day-to-day life'.

- We also talked about other spaces where humans exist, such as digital spaces, and the potential to engage there or reclaim those spaces.

- We also explored ideas about how we might manipulate a space to promote engagement, develop awareness within an audience of their own political agency.

- We discussed about how we connect up, widen the conversation beyond theatre and the performing arts. We noted:
> the importance of working in a transdisciplinary way in order to do this
> the importance of involving voices we disagree with/would actively challenge us

- We noted that there are few companies making work that taps into anger (about a range of social issues) but works to shift that anger towards social change.

- Underlying this, we also talked about the pitfalls of theatre where we mistakenly believe it has a political impact, and that 'by seeing something provocative, the audience feel they have discharged their social responsibility'.

- As part of the session, we also talked more generally about:
> Activist theatre making, such as groups targeting oil sponsorship
> Making a play about food/food banks as a way to engage people
> Producing/curating/hosting work in derelict/empty homes and houses
> The role of design and design techniques and where interconnections are
> Art work created around the Paris Climate Conference and its effectiveness
> Guided walks/walking a form of performance/tool for engaging audiences in different sites and spaces