WHY ARE WE NEEDED?
Our planet today is divided and divisive. As we struggle to respond to shifting global political realities, and grapple with new technologies which promise to connect us, people feel increasingly atomised and bordered in their countries, towns and societies.
We’re aware of a primal need for spaces where people can come together, rub shoulders, breathe the same air, and thrash out new ways of understanding each other: safe spaces where dangerous conversations can happen. Places of disagreement, discussion and debate, where all our different voices are welcome and counted.
It’s time for theatre to rediscover its ancient power: to connect, unite and reclaim our individual and collective narratives.
WHAT IS THE CHANGE WE WANT TO SEE?
A society which relies on cultural differences to move forward; a society in which people are treated according to personality, not as a label or symbol; a society in which all voices are required to tell the story; a society that emboldens different people to act within the world; a society in which the experience of living together is more exciting, deeper and more meaningful.
HOW CAN THE ARTS HELP?
As the British Council reports in a 2014 paper Culture Matters: “Culture creates the space where individuals can express, explore and re-imagine complex and difficult issues. This can allow received views of the world to be questioned and enables the development of genuine understanding and the building of new communities. It is able to bring together protagonists from intellectually or culturally disparate or opposed groups, and build trust and dialogue in a way that nothing else can.”
As the makeup of our communities changes, integration and understanding are essential to stimulating constructive dialogue rather than destructive conflict. Theatre and the arts are more vital than ever in facilitating this, and in ensuring everyone whatever their circumstance has the right and ability to freely express themselves.
A UNHCR researcher reports in Force Migration (2013) that the arts “contribute to the overall flourishing of adults and children alike, affirming the possibility of joy even within the context of camp life... Such personal and cultural interactions [through the arts] may play a role in engendering mutual respect, challenging stereotypes held by both sides, and fostering cooperative ventures... Artistic activity could help create bridges between refugee and host communities and create a sense of community with other refugees.”
If you’re a teacher, here you can see how documentary storytelling can help to explore the complex topic of forced migration. Doc Academy and Comic Relief have teamed up to produce a free toolkit for classrooms and tutor groups, after-school groups and as part of assemblies and year-group projects.