As the process of co-creation draws increasing interest, this seminar examines the role of participation in improving the diversity of the workforce making theatre with communities.

Helen Tomlin, acta Executive Director, has been working with the Company to evaluate acta’s Foundation programme for new drama workers, funded by Paul Hamlyn Foundation over the last three years:

Community theatre, routed in the community arts movement, has always been inspired by people’s stories and the belief that everyone has creative potential. The inclusive approach of specialists, facilitators and theatre-makers, has ensured that communities have ownership of the theatre that they create together. Often with limited resources, the focus has been on the process of creation and to tell the world about their community, their story. Community theatre exists neither to secure a place for these stories within mainstream theatres, nor to help in the diversification of the theatre workforce. Nevertheless, it has lots to offer those seeking a more inclusive approach.

We examine the special in the term “specialist,” to explore what makes a good facilitator who believes that everyone has their own special story to tell? How important is it that facilitators are representative of the communities with which they are making theatre? Is it our place to gift resources to people and communities, to enable them to use their imaginations & creativity, to give people a voice, confidence, self-esteem and community pride? Or should we be looking at how to make and take the opportunities, to preserve the right to be creative?

We are often asked how an acta project begins; whose idea is it and what is your contract with the community you are working with? The answer is, of course, that it depends. Often acta facilitators, partners or participants will identify a need that could be addressed by community theatre. Sometimes, this will be accompanied by a group of people interested in taking part or helping acta do deliver it. At other times, the starting point can be a community leader with an idea. Often, participants are drawn in after the decision has been taken to produce a show, and they come to help acta or the community to achieve the incredible task that they have set themselves.

In our experience, community leaders are often inspired by the power of theatre to make change. They may have attended an acta show as an audience member, been introduced to theatre that they can relate to as something for them and their community, and have been inspired. For many others, however, it is not enough that the theatre door is open and theatre workers are waiting to offer them a warm welcome. For many potential participants, and consequently for workers too, if they have never engaged in theatre, a friend is needed to hold their hand through the theatre door. If the facilitator, the theatre specialist, is from their community, or shares something in common with them, the relationship and the engagement has more chance of success.

For this final seminar in the current series, acta are delighted to welcome back Zahra Ash-Harper, Inclusion Producer, together with drama workers, now acta associates, who have come through the acta Foundation scheme.

The seminar will once again be chaired by Neil Beddow, acta Artistic Director.

Wednesday 25 September, 1.00 – 4.00pm at acta centre.