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D&D Roadshow 2013 - BRIGHTON

Theatre, creativity & protest

Sian Rees - 9 September 2013

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This session is about considering whether theatre and creativity can create more effective and sustainable protest.

Some people felt that disrupting the everyday with spectacle could make a difference.

Greenpeace this weekend are drawing on these aspects with their ‘Walk with Aurora’ where they are using giant puppetry in a promenade walk. Whilst this may be a beautiful interruption to the everyday - what can we hope to achieve with this? Some people felt that, accompanied by information, this kind of event can give people more to consider.

It was felt amongst the group that it was important to break down barriers between protesters and people and engage with people in an accessible and non threatening way.

The branding of performance was raised as well - if a performance is challenging or aims to disturb its audience, should it be branded as political or challenging as this could alienate people from the beginning. Does performance of this nature always preach to the converted as well?

Deciding how to measure whether creative dissent was effective though, we decided, was extremely difficult. Some felt that gaining media attention and coverage was important. Others felt the overall aim was smaller - in shifting someone's opinion, or asking questions was enough.

The performance aspect of oppressive regimes such as the Nazis was considered as well - their parades, use of spectacle and performance helped to create a sense of purpose amongst people which had a huge impact.

The issue of climate change was raised - perhaps people have difficulties in issues which are extremely difficult to consider - the end of the world, for instance! And this may be why people aren't keen to engage with this kind of debate.

As creative people, we can find creative ways to express ideas. How do you transmute revolutionary motions? Perhaps in subtle ways, in opening up questions.

“To create a place where a question wasn't before.”

It's about creating a dialogue. There's a history of successful protests working through the medium of culture - not just through their subject. References were made to Greenham common, Improv everywhere, flashmobs, UK uncut, Reverend Billy, Pussyriot.

The issue of how much we risk when we protest also was raised - elsewhere, activists risk their lives when they protest for instance.
It was felt, overall, that creative protest could and should inject hope into activism, where protesting could become a beautiful, inspiration and joyous occasion.

I am extremely interested in meeting people with experience of, or those who are interested in exploring the boundaries between creativity, performance and activism. Please get in touch if you are also interested in these areas as I am keen on creating work of this nature.

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