Convener: Guleraana Mir @g_ting
Participants: Zooby, Steve M, Chris, Imogen (briefly) and another lady whose name I did not catch- sorry.
Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:
Convener’s note- I chose Narnia as the place for the session as I thought it would be a quirky play on the idea that Essex is a little like Narnia. It proved to be a bit of a bad move as the area is secluded and I was worried no one would show up. However, the destination attracted attendees who were finding it difficult to hear and be heard in the main space and a fruitful discussion arose from the circumstances.
We began by speaking about internal marginalizations and how the labels/issues we give ourselves may differ from those that society imposes upon us. I mentioned that I was interested in creating a piece of work that dissected our perceptions of marginalization and allowed people to express the way that our own ideals and desire oppress us.
Chris talked about an LGBT film he had worked on in Suffolk, where the youth involved had chosen to turn stereotypes on their head. We agreed that this was the kind of thing that works well in breaking down barriers.
Steve offered a few examples of projects he had participated in, including AIDS education in schools (which was inept) as well as some of the prejudice he has encountered (even today) regarding his sexuality.
The rise of prejudice in 2012 (after a seeming lull) was discussed and I mentioned the EDL and how much hate from Brits I had witnessed on twitter just a few days ago. We agreed that the system is once again rife with hate and a question was posed-
How do we tackle it? THROUGH OUR WORK.
Why is hate rising again? Possibly fuelled by politicians talking about immigration, unemployment etc. Group mentality is overwhelming and we all believe that bad behaviours are learned behaviours. Therefore, youth who hear racism at home or in school adopt those vicious sentiments and continue to spread them…
It was offered that TIE is a useful way to tackle difficult subjects as teachers are under pressure to reach targets/top league tables and have no time to address humanitarian topics. Therefore dedicated artists should take on the role of educating the youth about certain issues….
Vulnerability was a big word and the importance of creating a space where it is ok to say, ‘that is really hurtful’. One has to be vulnerable and flag inappropriate behaviour and language in order to change things.
Dialogue was another big word. We have to allow the people who are angry about immigration (and other things) the opportunity to ask questions and to learn about why things are the way they are. If someone is uninformed you cannot expect them to understand that their views are hurtful/wrong/outrageous. An idea that I simply adored was to allow neighbours to converse and to understand why they don’t speak the same language, how they ended up in this country and what they want out of their life here. One shouldn’t have to justify themselves, but often, for the greater good, it could be a good tool to strive for harmony.
In my head I saw a play entitled “Mummy, why do our neighbours speak funny?” It may have already been done (I’m sure I have heard that title before, but if anyone is interested on embarking on a project like this with me, please do get in touch- @g_ting).
Jeremy Deller was mentioned and we spoke a lot about his body of work and how he started out as an artist. The concept of re-staging and re-enacting significant events seemed to be a fruitful way of re-writing common knowledge from the perspective of the other and could be used break down barriers.
I was reminded of Pip- A Romany teenager who went viral this week by writing an open letter to Channel 4 regarding their ‘documentary’ My Big Fat Gipsy Wedding. He disagreed with the way his community was being represented and in fact said that it was being wholly unrepresented in comparison to the Irish Traveller community. He wrote how he has been bullied and attacked due to the negative connotations portrayed by the program. If we encouraged people like Pip to create theatre/film/art in response to mainstream programming then would we succeed in overturning stereotypes. Should communities portrayed by every mainstream national mockumenary be given the opportunity to produce a contrasting piece of art to allow the ‘real thruth’ to shine through.
(I would happily watch that. And I can assure you that not everyone in Essex lives for fake tans and vajazzles. There are parts which live below the breadline.)
Community TV (an initiative started by Channel 4) was mentioned as a example of this and someone else likened that process to youtube. We can make programs, films, theatre and broadcast it ourselves, setting in motion the change that we would like to see.
Other People’s Shoes was mentioned by Zooby- a play for young people about questioning your own ethnicity. The young people were asked afterwards- Where do you get your information from (parents/TV)? And how do you question it?
Y Touring put on a play about bullying which allowed students to text their thoughts to a character and the actor would incorporate what he received into the action through improvisation. Private thoughts being made public in a safe way. Isn’t this what we need?
A TV Channel in Romania allowed any and everyone to enter the studio and broadcast. It made for supremely boring television. Thus the realization emerged-
We have all the technology to say things, but need someone to say them in a captivating and appealing way-
THE ARTISTS. Yes, it’s all down to us folks.
Sir Ken Robinson was briefly mentioned. I urge everyone who has not seen his TED talk (Schools Kill Creativity) to do so. Watch it once and then watch it again with the RSA illustrations. It changed my life.
Imogen joined the conversation and stated, “This country needs to be educated about its history” meaning colonization. It was discussed how many citizens of the UK do not know about England colonizing the Indian Subcontinent or even Ireland, which is so much closer to home. How much does this lack of education contribute to the racist/extreme nationalist sentiments floating around today? Could we alleviate some of the issues if we only took the time to explain to our youth our history with other nations?
What would be helpful to organize all these ideas?
A list of good projects that have been implemented throughout the UK so that other practitioners can emulate them.
As we had spoken a lot about working with school groups in order to change views before it’s too late. It was stated that taking youth out of the school environment is more transformative as it strips away the ‘group mentality’ and cleanses all the tediousness associated with the classroom.
Rod Dickinson was bigged up and I just thought I should mention that as it may help alleviate his grumpiness.
Thank you to all who participated in this session.
If you have ideas about devising colonial history workshops to work towards understanding and educating people (youth) about the state of the UK (and immigration today), I would love to hear from you.