DandD Archivist, 10 March 2016

Report submitted anonymously.

No-one’s pretending to know what to do about ISIS, and obviously theatre can’t be the

cure for absolutely all the world’s ills: but it might be able to help prevent some people

being radicalised.

In a city like Birmingham all artists and publicly funded organisations (and just all

people) have a responsibility to do what they can to help other people living in the city

feel welcome, included, fulfilled, at home, amongst a friendly community.

Theatre can provide accessible, positive experiences that allow people to have a voice

and try out ideas / discuss what’s happening / express how they’re feelng, so they

don’t feel the need to turn to extremism in the first place.

People who go to join ISIS not always devout Muslims but often people who feel

alienated from/within their community: looking for acceptance and belonging.

When young Asian men come into cultural spaces they can be made to feel

unwelcome, especially with many venues increasingly ‘security’ conscious: how can

we address that?

Culture joins communities together

A ‘What Can We Do About ISIS’ play would need to be approached inclusively and

openly, not trying to make people think a certain way (sensitive dialectic rather than


Why is this room so white?!?

There are (at least) two Trojan Horse schools in Birmingham who have used theatre

and the wider arts to move forward from that scandal and its complex fall-out

People who are drawn to things like ISIS come from the poorest sections of our

society: these are people who don’t have access to the arts

Need to be wary of parachuting in a narrow (white middle-class) perspective: it’s

important to build long-term relationships and work with people from Muslim cultures

as leaders and facilitators

We have lots of tools in our toolkit that we don’t give ourselves credit for.

Engaging people walking through the building who haven’t necessarily come to see a

play or a concert, but who are just passing through or exploring, looking for fun: we

need to reflect the issues of local people more and serve their needs and wants

Audiences or venue staff can be suspicious of people who come into buildings not

looking like everyone else: how can we engage people instead of making them feel


Invisible communities: there are large numbers of people who don’t speak English or

who don’t speak it fluently, who as a result have very little arts provision.

In 2013, 40% of children in Birmingham schools had English as an additional language

(ie. they didn’t speak English as their first language).

Access problem isn’t just children: older people in immigrant communities often


Learn Arabic (and all the other languages spoken by Muslims) - with better

understanding comes cohesion - and use them in plays

Or make more theatre which is less reliant on verbal language, using a wider range of

communicative techniques which can work for non-English speakers too

Can Shakespeare, perhaps surprisingly, be a language that can reach more easily

across cultural boundaries? Often the content, themes, societies it reflects can seem

more relevant to some non-Western cultures than our own

CommonWealth: No Guts, No Heart, No Glory – starred young Muslim women and

based on interviews with young Muslim women

People want to see themselves represented in what they see – but that doesn’t have

to mean skin colour or obvious cultural accessories, it might mean just people like your

neighbours or friends or those you live around. But if you can’t see anything of yourself

at all, why would you be interested?

Multiculturalism means having experiences together, that’s the basis for your


Are theatres/makers in UK afraid to make bold statements for fear of upsetting

people? National Youth Theatre show about radicalisation pulled last summer

(although someone suggests it was because they were concerned about the content,

not about external responses / risk)

Can theatre present an alternative vision to people who might be radicalised?

Can theatre help people understand more about Islam?

In education the Prevent initiative (asking teachers to report children at risk of being

radicalised) feels like it’s becoming a witch hunt , which breeds fear all round

We need cross-cultural conversations

Arts have the potential to have a positive impact on communities: the point is that

people do things together, which can stop people feeling isolated and excluded

We need to give people a voice: to let them define their own narrative. We’re fed up

with the idea that ‘they’ hate ‘us’ so ‘we’ should hate ‘them”, when ‘we’ are motivated

as much by hatred as ‘them’: theatre can challenge the simplistic oppositional forces

portrayed in the narratives of both ISIS and ‘Western’ media / governments

ISIS is inherently theatrical, so theatre is a good way of challenging their narrative.

Are violent extremists able to dehumanise their victims partly thanks to ultra-violent

films / video-games? Theatre, being live and tangible, is humanising. Or are people

using video-games just playing out the same instinct towards war which we all share

and which terrorists are playing out too?

This isn’t just about ISIS, it’s about other kinds of extremism too, it shouldn’t be based

on religion or location.

Conversation and dialogue is important. Understanding rather than assumptions.

It’s about process: it’s not just about what’s on stage: how we invite people in and

make them feel welcome and like they want to return is really important

People should be involved in the making of things: if they are, that will then affect the

stories that are told, without some arts person saying “right we must do a play about

this issue” – so it’s much more effective inclusion that’s needed

The internet is a great platform for spreading stories and understanding: but it’s

self-selecting, people won’t watch if they’re not interested, filters don’t give them the

chance anyway.

* Reminded of political theatre session where we talked about making sure audiences

include people who don’t just agree with everything you say cos what does that

change V value of expressing and sharing concerns and experiences amongst a

group of people to create hope, relief, sense of community

People who aren’t Muslim aren’t in a position to be making statements about ISIS: you

can’t pull something apart / critique it from the outside

Speaking and listening to people locally and globally can challenge media myths

Play looking at two conflicting experiences – compromise – not one or other being


Non-language based work for people who don’t speak English as a first language

Unpick the myths and challenge the narratives being spread by ISIS and the `Western’


Encourage conversation and collaboration: bring people into buildings / organisations