“Chief of the Adinkra Symbols”
Symbol of greatness, charisma and leadership
I want to talk about circles. The Devoted & Disgruntled Open Space started with a circle, it tries to. Some will always be more comfortable slightly outside the circle, whilst others take centre stage as if it were their rightful place. The kids at school have circle time where they can talk about their feelings and stuff. I’m sure there have been studies upon studies about circles.
We are more natural than we allow ourselves to believe.
Last Thursday 27th February 2014 the Actor and Writer Tyrone Huggins, alongside Improbable Theatre, created and invited a Devoted & Disgruntled event with the following question;
Devoted & Disgruntled: What are we REALLY going to do about Race and Diversity in UK Theatre?
And with that we answered the invitation we moved towards a movement and sat on a mountain called the Southbank Centre for the day.
Lemn Sissay welcomed the circle, allowing for nervous energy to settle, he then took us through the process with kindness, grace and heartfelt expectation. A hopeful moment shared.
We broke out from the large circle to create smaller ones dotted around the room. These circles often had a listening circle surrounding it.
I joined the following discussions.
‘What on earth is Black Theatre and does it still exist?’
‘If money equals power where is it and how can I get it?’
‘Why is it that BAME (Black Asian and Minority Ethnic) Theatre companies are generally useless?’
‘How can we gain more BAME Artistic Directors in the Mainstream Theatres?’
‘Is anyone else just tired of all this shit?’
Reports are being uploaded as we speak
We sat in an open space full of people who talk and listen for a living, who flex their imagination muscles on a regular basis, who clock body language and costume in a heart beat. Who calculate every spilt or considered word. The meticulously minded. Many took the plunge and shared their insight, whilst others were left exhausted because of the strength it takes to actively listen, taking it all in.
New school or old school life is not a rehearsal. We are living now.
One of the strengths of the day appeared to be a genuine will to share insights to avoid past mistakes. Well walked activists stated “know your history, this is not a new question or road you have joined.” A question was asked “how many BAME theatre companies are in the UK today?” A wonderfully powerful retort from a long traveled woman was “that we should not only ask that, but how many are regularly funded?” and “how is it the UK had so many in the 1980’s compared to now?”
I was inspired by the clarity of thought from those who have just got out of school, sharing their experiences of training at Drama School. Maybe there will be those who join who will take it some place else we’d be happy to follow. Age ain’t nothing but a number after all, insight from all journeys is going to be needed for this level of change.
It may be what we choose to do today helps others to keep going, to help others to get it, to continue making the work despite all the odds and not give up.
This Devoted & Disgruntled event gave us context, a chance to catch up, clarity and for some maybe even strength. I’m hoping it gives us courage to continue to engage with the question and we don’t keep coming back to this same point again and again just going round in circles talking to ourselves…that way madness lies.
“This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”
Dr Martin Luther King