Search

Devoted & Disgruntled 12: What Shall We Do About Theatre and the Performing Arts Now?

ALL art is community art!

Fergus Evans - 14 January 2017

WHO WAS THERE

ADD A REPORT DOWNLOAD REPORT

REPORT DETAIL

This session came about through frustrations with the way in which ‘community art’ is seen as secondary art form to ‘proper art’, and the assumption that only community, education and participation teams in venues have responsibility for ensuring their spaces are welcoming and relevant.

There was a conversation about what lots of people tend to mean when they say ‘community’ or the dreaded ‘the community’ - which many people in the session was just a way of saying non-white non-middle class people (or really any category of otherness. We talked about how drawing attention to the assumed norm - white, middle class - and the fact that they are also a community could be a political way of drawing attention to the assumptions people make when they say the community.

One person in the group offered a really great suggestion. As a health check, whenever anyone is talking about ‘the community’ insert ‘the group of people’. If the sentence sounds bonkers, you're probably not using the word community in a very useful way. What you may mean is:

- The people who live over the road from my venue
- Young Somalis living in South Manchester
- BAME choreographers

And it can also mean white able-bodied middle class people who see a lot of our shows.

Another point raised was that it's important to remember that some people may not see themselves as part of ‘the community’ you have put them in. Communities should be things people feel a sense of belonging to, not necessarily the groups you put them into. That's another thing that gets obscured when we talk about ‘the community’.

Also, amateur doesn't mean ‘a bit crap’ and professional doesn't mean' excellent. Professional means that you make a living from your art, but it doesn't mean your art is better or that you're more talented.

A REALLY important point is that this conversation was not about sidelining or obscuring expertise - artists and producers who are great at holding spaces, inviting a wide group of people who may not consider themselves to be artists to collaborate on work, or making sure that our venues are relevant and useful. This work is VITAL! We talked about spaces which are great at welcoming in a wide range of people like libraries. Can / should / are arts centres the new civic space now that libraries are closing?

We also talked about how the best work made in collaboration with people who may not primarily consider themselves to be artists:

- makes clear that it is not the artist who presents the work, it's all of the collaborators.

- takes its form and its content from all of the people making it, not the agenda of the artist-facilitator

- isn't always issue-based (unless that's what the collaborators want).

A conversation was had about whether some of this language came from the expectations of funders. But we were also reminded that funders are often smart, lovely people who get it! They don't necessarily think these words work either. Maybe we can be a bit more honest about what we mean, rather than what we think they want to hear.

We had a great crunchy conversation about what happens if ‘community’ disappears from how we talk about some work or some people's jobs. For instance, what would a Community Arts Festival be called? But some people were really excited about that possibility - one person suggested that we think about artists like plumbers. Some plumbers come to your house, some plumbers keep things working behind the scenes. They're all plumbers.

The conversation on the whole was wide-ranging, passionate, and really thought provoking. We might not have reached a consensus, but here are some possible actions we could take away:

- Stop referring to ‘the community’

- If you find yourself talking about ‘the community’ substitute THE group of people. It will sound silly and hopefully make you be more specific about who you mean.

- If you're collaborating with a big group of non-artists, try to step back as much as you can. Don't make assumptions about what the work is about or who it's for. Let it come from the collaboration itself.

- Celebrate the experts - the people who are great at holding spaces, chatting with people and collaborating.

And finally, whether or not All art is community art let's remember that white, middle class theatre goers aren't the norm and everyone else isn't ‘the community’. We all belong to communities we choose and groups we're lumped into. Let's be more considered and thoughtful about our language.

TAGS

EDIT TAGS

COMMENTS: 2

Caroline Williams

17 January 2017

This is really useful. Thanks Fergus. x
Caroline Williams

17 January 2017

This is really useful. Thanks Fergus. x

ADD A NEW COMMENT

Write your comment here

ASSOCIATED REPORTS

LOAD MORE



OTHER REPORTS FOR THIS EVENT

LOAD MORE

DOWNLOAD REPORT

Click here to download a single PDF of this D&D session

DOWNLOAD REPORT

ADD A REPORT

Add a report of a session you participated in at the D&D

ADD A REPORT

JOIN THE SITE

Join the site to be part of the D&D community, write reports, comment, book tickets and create an invitation

SIGN UP