Called by Helen Tennison
Discussion with Annabel Barnston, Helen Gush, Paul Whitlock, Anushka Tay, Sarah Grange, Regina Mendes.

Summary of discussion
First thoughts:
Recent play at the National that aimed to do exactly this- listen – Written by Stella Duffy and based on interviews with people across the country. However this received negative press.
It was suggested that this was because it took place in an art establishment that could be seen as only for a certain type of person, ie there was an end product that served a different community.
We talked about the importance of long term relationships with communities rather than dipping in and out if art was to have an effect, as discussed in a recent Stage article about class in theatre. We suggested that to be authentic, perhaps the final product could and should only be known once the process had begun.
But funding needs an outcome so how do you phrase funding to say that you don’t yet know what the product will be?

We then spoke in general terms about the Brexit vote with the following observations:
Accept it and move forward in most positive way possible
*Opinions on Twitter tend to be defensive, emotive and attacking.
*The vote has revealed deep seated and institutional prejudices – How is British History taught in school? Through education and media we are taught to celebrate the UK as the hero of World War Two, we don’t consider the events of World War Two beyond Europe or spend much time considering the Allies, similarly for empire and colonialism, and Ireland. Recommendation “the Irish Passport’ A brilliant podcast on Irish history and all the stuff Brits don’t know.
*This moved into a discussion on critical thinking, it’s necessity and how Brexit had heralded in a suspicion of experts.
*We identified a difference between those who voted Brexit on the basis of false facts (such as more money for the NHS) and those in full possession of the facts.
Who should the work be aimed at? = Both.

When does listening to someone become giving them a platform?
-When those views breech human rights and are in xenophobic, inciting hate or violence etc.
-There is a difference between a conversation and a platform.

Is it possible to debate with clear facts rather than hyperbole and false facts?
Lots of false facts circulated during the referendum and still circulating.
There are many misconceptions on immigration.
Maps of UK showing areas where people fear immigration are actually the areas of UK with lowest immigration. Areas of high immigration are more likely to have voted remain.
Already evidence to suggest fewer seasonal fruit pickers has led to loss of fruit in Kent, with no locals willing to take the work.
Fear of immigration is huge in the UK, yet across the EU people were mobilising to great and support refugees arriving in huge numbers at train stations. This didn’t happen in the UK.
Huge problem in the way the media portray this.
Experience of greater racial prejudices outside London/large city centre's.
We used to talk about the positive benefits of multi-culturalism – but now the talk is that it has failed.

An overwhelming sense of how huge the work is!!
Underlying prejudice has come to surface where it can be addressed, we’re having conversations now that we couldn’t have 5-10 years ago about diversity (and equality)
Maybe it’s not about politics, it’s about increasing self-esteem, self-respect (giving respect) happiness, lessening fear?
So maybe, rather than directly addressing Brexit, it’s about making work that rather encourages people to develop critical thinking. (We discussed reading between the lines in news reports- awareness of the use of descriptive language and how adverts affecting thinking)

The London Bubble:
- discussed how the privilege of working in Europe shapes views. Will not being able to work in EU means we’ll work more in the deprived areas of the UK? Perhaps this is a very good thing. But more work within UK is more introspective and is that really what we need right now! (The Erasmus programme is underused by the UK, we are inward looking and rely on everyone else speaking English, in the rest of Europe students average 3 languages).

The concept of the artist:
Perhaps we need a different way to engage people with what the idea of an artist is.
Reference to a practitioner who declared themselves Artist in Residence in their street.
This linked to a discussion about the structure of parliament- architecturally, the parties are pitted in opposition to each other. The Norwegian parliament sit in a circle. The importance of this circular, non-hierarchical structure in having conversations, collaborating and listening, rather than fighting.
Suggestion of an Artist in residence in Parliament – the important role of satire!

Individuals who may be anti-immigration, racist and/or nationalist, often make exceptions for those they know personally,
How do you apply the warmth that people can feel towards one person to include large groups? Can theatre increase human empathy?
Can it remind us that we are all flawed, fallible, life is difficult and unpredictable- Yes!
So all theatre helps to build bridges!

But much theatre is not asking difficult questions or attracting a diverse audience- there is a lot of diversity tokenism, such as encouraging an ethnically diverse audience for one specific production, but not building a fully inclusive, long term theatre programme. This requires fundamental change in programming and marketing.

The future:
The system we were born into in terms of values, architecture and systems is increasingly redundant- so why engage with it?! The young are creating their own systems, their own creative worlds, the young voted to remain, those that can’t yet vote, tend toward remain sentiments, they are a truly inspiring generation and we should invest in them.

Summary of possible next steps
I found it difficult to identify clear actions, but these are some of the key areas to look further into:
The importance of long term relationships rather than dipping in and out/tokenism.
Non-hierarchical, lateral structures for the work, so that the process is one of listening and conversing.
New ways to engage people in the idea of what an artist is.
Address the knowledge gap in British history.
Can we support critical thinking?

Those that were part of this discussion- please do add further comments, corrections or actions to expand on this- thanks!