community arts unwrapped aims to discuss community arts, past, present and future
Hi – I’m a newcomer to this blog. My history includes involvement with the Community Arts movement as participant, practitioner, funder and manager from the late 60s to the late 2000s. But my early career was theatre focussed.
Reading the “Where have we come from” seminar I was struck by the inter-connections and parallels. It’s worth recalling that the first ‘kitchen-sink’ / ‘angry young man’ drama (Look Back in Anger) is only 9 years old in 1968!
So in that same late 60s – early 70s period there were significant resonances in the theatre world (in addition to the Littlewood/ Wesker etc work). In addition to Brecht & Boal’s Forum Theatre attempting to see power in the hands of the (formally) subservient audience; the rise of documentary theatre (epitomised by Peter Cheeseman’s work at the [Old] Vic Theatre in Stoke) telling stories by, about & for their communities; the nascent Theatre in Education movement born out of the Belgrade Theatre (ending not unlike the CA movement); the growth of socialist campaigning theatre (7:84 etc); the early stages of the Street Bands movement from which would evolve the Street Choirs’ movement where even this month in Hebden Bridge where they held their annual festival there was debate (follows Gramsci) in challenging the establishment position on what is a ‘good’ voice. In the ‘big bad world Lucas Aerospace shop stewards had produced their Alternative Economic Strategy in 1978; in 1986 (when the CA movement worried at the “not enough or too left wing” dialectic) Tony Benn was hosting the Socialist Conferences down the road in Chesterfield. These were my Bread & Circuses.
I suspect many of the same strengths, weaknesses, dilemmas, factionalism (Equity & the SWP is a pot-boiler in its own right!) and misunderstandings which you ascribe to the CA movement would be applied by those from that theatre movement.
You refer to Gramsci’s argument that change is gradual – I guess in terms of the improvements in my lifetime in reducing gender, race, sexual orientation, abilities discrimination that’s been true. But there again, it’s a Tory Government that’s legalised Gay Marriage. I don’t see the celebration of more female, BEM & gay capitalists as any solution – because it is all about the values that underpin such changes. The same may well be true for the CA movement.
Brilliant parallels, Tony, thanks very much for making the connections!
Thanks for your comments Tony. It’s good that you’ve sketched in the wider sociocultural, political and economic conditions of the time. That’s so important. I’m thinking about boundaries at the moment because I’m writing a book proposal based on this research. You mention the way that that TIE movement ended and the possible similarities with the end of the community arts movement: when would you place this? I’m thinking of working up to 1984/5. What do you think?
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