Tuesday, 31 January 2017

A Moment's Dramaturgy: Lewis Hetherington

A Moment’s Peace has announced its exciting programme of February events as a culmination of the common ground project, unearthing stories about how we live now, and how we might live in the future.

These events – a combination of installation, discussion and performance – see the work we have created with participants over the last seven months travel around the country to open up a dialogue about land and housing in Scotland. Each event is free and open to the public. 

The work has been created with a real diversity of participants in close collaboration with the artistic team, resulting in a beautiful blend of photographs, creative writing, sculptures and sound pieces as a result of our common ground podcast.

Dundee Rep Theatre, Wed 15th Feb, 2-4pm Platform, Sat 18th Feb, 2-4pm Aros Hall, Mon 20th Feb, 3-5pm The Barn, Wed 22nd Feb, 2-4pm
Having worked across Scotland with groups who have had lived experience or knowledge of current issues to do with land and housing, we are inviting everyone to add their voice to the conversation, and to take this dialogue out to their communities and networks. 

At the start of the project, what made you interested in working with a moment's peace?
I've worked with A Moment's Peace in the past, and I find their ethos of working to tell stories which are not being heard very excited. I think the focus on participants is vital in challenging the perception that culture -  both making or engaging in it is for an elite. The desire to provoke, uncover and generally trouble the waters is always hand in hand with a desire to celebrate, to empower and to create.
How did the process of creation differ in a project with these concerns in comparison to, say, working with young people?
I really try not to approach anyone differently, I try to have the same philosophy with any group you approach, they are all artists and they all have interesting or surprising things to say. They may have different tools at their disposal, they may different experiences, they most likely have profoundly different lives outside the room which are perhaps chaotic, difficult, stressful, but in that room where you are trying to be creative together you just get down to the business of that. 

One of the most beautiful moments of the project for me was one man, who fled persecution and violence to come to Glasgow, spoke about the importance of theatre as a space where we are all 'on common ground'. However different we are outside the room, he felt the most significant thing about our artistic endeavours were that in those creative spaces we were shoulder to shoulder, sharing space, story and time. 
Did you find that the different locations gave different experiences?
Very much so, there is a huge diversity of concerns as you travel from mainland to island, from city to country. in Mull for example we were told that the landfill site is nearly full, and they are soon going to have to make a choice to either drastically reduce waste, or ferry rubbish off the island at great expense. 

Now that's a very specific example but I think really succinctly illustrates an Island specific issue, but one which causes us all to think about our engagement with land. 
In broader terms however, there is so much that unifies people, so many ideas that resonate across rural and urban areas -  you can see the way that people are now looking to do community land buy outs in city centres inspired by the success of places like Eigg.
What kind of emotional - or intellectual- response do you think the performances will get?
I think it will be as diverse as our potential audience will be. I suppose one thing, that I always hope art will achieve, is to make something feel relatable, to feel human. There is a danger that when you start talking about land reform, property law - it feels like something quite removed, arcane and specialist - I really hope that the work we've created demonstrate how immediate these issues are to our daily lives and encourage people to be part of a conversation and decision making which is too often done through a too small group of people. I'd hope people might come and realise they have more power and autonomy than they think.
In what ways do you feel that theatre is a good place for this kind of social engagement?
With common ground, so much of what we've done is really far away from any conventional mode of theatre. I think that if you take theatre in it's broadest broad, as a shared space where people come to here or tell stories which try to make sense of the world around them - theatre has the most amazing capacity to offer a space for people to share, empathise and reimagine the world around them. So what we're talking about is much more akin to, I don't know, people telling stories round a campfire, or the spirit of the ancient greek Agora spaces than the Victorian gilded proscenium arch which is conjured up into most people's minds when they hear the word theatre.
We're using theatre in terms of we are finding voices that need to be heard, and inviting an audience to listen to those voices  - whether that is through podcast, a workshop or an exhibition - it's a chance to listen, to sit with someone else in their experience.
 Presented for one day only in each area, this event follows on from workshops and creative sessions in partnership with Dundee Rep Theatre, Glasgow Life, Platform, The Barn, Argyll Youth Arts Hub and INSP and funded by Creative Scotland, Glasgow Arts and Music and Glasgow City Council.
A Moment’s Peace (AMP) has worked with community groups across Scotland and created a series of distinct yet interconnected cross—art form pieces, communicating the complex and compelling stories of our land, our homes and the changing housing landscape. Since July 2016, we have been delivering common ground creative sessions, engaging with over 320 participants across Scotland (in Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Argyll). AMP’s method of encouraging participants to be authors of their own work is carried through in all aspects of delivery: Deep Engagement (working with participants who had had little of no arts engagement over a longer period of several months to years), Intermediate Engagement (working with participants for several sessions to several months) and Concise Engagement (working with participants in one-off invitations and/or sessions).

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