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Annual Report


Theatre for Social Change

our mission We believe that the arts are vital to a healthy, thriving society; that great art has been at the heart of all great civilizations; and that all people should have the right and the opportunity to engage with high quality art that helps them make sense of their world. We believe that the arts hold both intrinsic and instrumental value: that they enhance capacity for life, experience of life and that they have powerful applications. We believe that our world is undergoing huge changes, and that we face unprecedented environmental, economic and socio-political challenges. We believe that in these difficult times, the arts are more important than ever: they can help us to question our ways of life and the systems that govern us; help us to feel better about ourselves and our communities; and help us to recognise ourselves as agents of change. In this context, Collective Encounters uses theatre as a tool for social change: to explore problems and solutions, to empower our citizens and their communities, as a rehearsal for change. We use theatre to excite, entertain and stimulate debate; making new work for new audiences in new spaces; tackling pressing social and political concerns; telling the hidden stories of our time and giving voice to those who are seldom heard.

contents Our year in context


Where we work


Songs for Silenced Voices


Our purposeIn Our Times


Live and Learn




Our VisionYouth Theatre


Research Lab


Our ambitions for 2012


Our ambitions for 2015


Thank you


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A theatre for change In 1936 a group of radical theatre makers wrote in their manifesto “Theatre must face up to the problems of its time; it cannot ignore the poverty and suffering which increases every day. It cannot with sincerity, close its eyes to the disasters of its time.” We believe that this is as true now as then. During its long history, theatre has been central to the workings of democracy; offered a safe way of talking back to power; provided a space to challenge received wisdom; and told stories that represent the breadth and depth of our communities. Today our theatre buildings are either the preserve of the elite, or palaces of distraction. They reinforce not resist the status quo. But across the world theatre processes and performances outside of the mainstream are being used as tactical interventions in the battle against poverty and inequality and in the fight for social justice. Collective Encounters is part of this struggle. The work across our programme is designed to contribute to change in three ways: • personal transformations: where participants develop new skills, improve their confidence and wellbeing and achieve self-empowerment; where participants and audience members experience attitudinal change •

civic transformations: improvements in social capital and cohesion, increased sense of group identity and sense of belonging; and again attitudinal change – where a wider community’s attitudes might be changed about a marginalized group

political change: in terms of enabling participants to impact on policy and provision; changes in culture and political activity.

2011/12 saw us develop our thinking about change further and in establishing our research lab we underlined our commitment to find new ways of connecting our theatre into the wider struggle for social justice. Our work has taken on a more strident political edge (look for instance at Transparent Truths, our Youth Theatre’s latest production, and In Our Times, our cross-programme initiative). To support the development of our programme we’ve undergone significant organizational change this year too. We’ve doubled our staff team, extended our board and produced a new 3 year business plan that sets out our vision and explains how we hope to achieve it through continuing to deliver a responsive, innovative programme of work. While the funding climate is more challenging than ever we continue to deliver all our work free at the point of use, which means that we can continue to engage people in our workshops and performances who would otherwise not be able to access the arts. Our tenacity has paid off and we were fortunate in 2011/12 to become part of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio and a Liverpool City Council funded organization, as well as receiving a significant three-year grant from Big Lottery Reaching Communities.

Collective Encounters 2011-12 Annual Report

where we work Collective Encounters is based in north Liverpool. From here we run many aspects of our participatory programme. We work with the local communities here to tackle and explore some of the root causes of poverty. We use theatre to change the way people think about themselves and the communities in which they live. We do this through researching and consulting local people to find out about their needs. We then develop creative projects to meet these needs. The people we work with through our participatory programme are surrounded by poverty. Liverpool still has the highest level of deprivation in the country, and the north end of the city ranks particularly high. Worklesseness, illiteracy levels are high and educational attainment is low. In some areas of north Liverpool 87% of children are living in poverty. These are some of the reasons why our participatory programme is based here, to use theatre to tackle some of these issues. We give local people a voice and an opportunity to see the local issues they face within a national or international context. We accredit much of our work through Arts Awards and the National Open College Network. These are some of the ways we make a difference to people's lives. The professional theatre we make and the research we undertake has a wider national and international remit. We offer training in theatre for social change to community leaders and theatre makers nationally. We undertake and disseminate our research internationally. We mount our professional performances on national platforms. In 2011-12 we delivered cross-programme work in Canada, Newcastle, London, Manchester, Wirral, Sefton, St Helens and Liverpool. Collective Encounters 2011-12 Annual Report

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songs for silenced voices A professional opera exploring the experiences of the UK's homeless population. With a timeless, epic quality Songs for Silenced Voices tells the story of a homeless woman and her journey across an unnamed city. Through her brief encounters with others we come to understand more about the nameless souls who inhabit our streets, and realize just how close we all are to a very different life. Following successful performances in shopping centres in Liverpool in 2009 and 2010; 2011-12 saw Collective Encounters commission composer, Patrick Dineen and librettist Dic Edwards to transform this 10-minue production into a full length opera. With professional singers and a virtual orchestra, the extended version of Songs for Silenced Voices will be touring to shopping centres, playhouses and site specific spaces in northern cities in winter 2012-13.

Collective Encounters 2011-12 Annual Report

"Songs for Silenced Voices stopped busy shoppers in their tracks. Not just because of the high professional production values, but also because of the immediate, guttural, appeal of the piece. It could not fail but engage everyone who saw it. This may be a small work but it is performed with a big heart, by a company with big ambition and the ability to make the normal extraordinary."

Arts Council England Theatre Officer

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in our times

In 2011-12 we put out an international call out for people to contribute ideas, thoughts and creative material about poverty and inequality where they live. The year saw unprecedented local, national and global protest with England experiencing its most serious bout of civil unrest in generations and civil protests bringing down governments in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. Also in the year the first Occupy camps, Occupy Wall Street, achieved global news coverage in September 2011 and triggering a further 695 camps to be set up in 82 countries across the world. Using this material submitted we then worked with singer-songwriter Simon James to produce a folk song and film, Keep Pushin'. At the same time we worked with a group our Third Age Acting Company; Youth Theatre and Homeless Theatre to write three new folk songs along the same theme. The result of this work was In Our Times; an interactive event incorporating folk music, film, discussion and social and political passion which took place at The Casa Bar, Liverpool to a packed out venue in June 2012. Like the Occupy, In Our Times highlighted the corrupting effect of money on politics. It asked why does the gap between the incomes of the richest and poorest people in the UK, which is greater than at any time in the last 30 years, continues to grow and what does this mean to the one third of the children in the UK who live in poverty. Collective Encounters 2011-12 Annual Report

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live and learn This Baring Foundation funded project was launched at Tate Liverpool to an audience of arts practitioners and health and social care policy makers in November 2011. Over three years Live and Learn will develop the creative methodologies to engage people with dementia and their carers. Live and Learn will

- develop carers' capacity to deliver arts activities with the people with dementia who they care for - allow for multi-disciplinary arts work to take place in care homes, day settings and private homes with people with dementia and their carers - develop a toolkit aimed at arts organisations and care homes interested in embedding this type of work into their practice. Following the launch a series of creative workshops and events took place in Redholme Memory Care centre and at PSS's National Dementia Awareness raising week. Each event was led by professional poet and theatre maker, Karen Hayes and the outcome was a series of poems written by people with dementia. All poems have been recorded as podcasts by our Third Age Acting Company as part of the 'Bits that stick to your mind series' and are available via the Collective Encounters website. .

It gets to the stage a poem by Chris Brach

When I was down in Hereford, When I was stationed down in Hereford, A town with a capital H, I saw three girls come walking along, And I said “I am lost”, but I wasn’t lost. I talked to those girls, “Do you live here?” I asked the one who I thought was the prettiest, It gets to the stage where you think That maybe I shouldn’t have said that. When I got back to Liverpool, When I got de-mobbed, And found my way back to Liverpool I thought she is not coming up. She was eighteen and I was twenty-one And her uncle did not want to lose her, But she came and we had a very nice time. It gets to the stage when you say the best bits Are when you love each other. And when we were married We loved each other for a start And when we went to the Broadway pub And I had a little wine I thought that was the best bit, living together With that girl from Hereford Who came up to Liverpool. It gets to the stage when you say Oh! That was a nice life. And when she passed away two years ago, And when she was buried in the cemetery And when you didn’t realize, or when you did, When you met that girl in Hereford, It gets to the stage when you know That ordinary life is finished. It gets to the stage when you say I wish that May was alive.

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transitions Transitions is a three year project which will use theatre to support people with experience of homelessness to make the transition from street to hostel and from hostel to home. This project has been made possible by a grant from the Big Lottery Reaching Communities Programme. We launched this project in early 2012 at The Brink, Liverpool to an audience of 120 people, with our core group performing poetry, song and drama. Transitions extends the work we do with homeless people by enabling us to - deliver creative outreach workshops in hostels and temporary accommodations in Wirral, Liverpool and Sefton - establish a weekly, professionally led and accredited theatre for social change group at The Whitechapel Centre, Liverpool - offer mentoring and work placements in arts management and the performing arts to people with experience of homelessness.

S S attends the regular theatre workshops that we run out of Liverpool’s Whitechapel Centre. The Whitechapel is Liverpool's largest centre for homeless people and it runs a wide range of services. Within one of the workshops the group were asked to act out one thing that would change their lives. Participants said “winning the lottery” and “getting a flat and a job”, and S said “finding a way to deal with my anger“. Steve wanted to find a way to control his anger. He improvised bumping into to someone on the street, shouting at them, swearing at them saying “Watch where you’re going to you f***ing tw** ...I’ll have you, you cu**’re f***ing dead”. He was so angry. The room went silent. It was venomous, irrational. There was a sense of fear in the room. He continued to attend the weekly workshops. A few weeks later he was asked to bump into the same person. This time he said, “I’m sorry, I have real problems with my anger and I am so sorry if I offended you, I hope there are no hard feelings”. He then hugged Peter, who was playing the man in the street. The whole room erupted into applause. Collective Encounters 2011-12 Annual Report

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youth theatre We run weekly youth theatre sessions every Tuesday evening for young people aged 13-25 at Liverpool Hope University. In these workshops we use theatre to develop confidence, broaden horizons and explore current issues with young people. In 2011 the group decided they wanted to explore the issue of poverty, what their experiences are and what poverty means to other people living around the globe. This exploration led them to reading real-life testimonies from victims of slavery and uncovering a world of which they’d been previously unaware. Out of this research Transparent Truth was created.

“I didn’t realise how oblivious I was to the issue” “Why are these issues so underplayed by the mainstream media” “How are these vulnerable people allowed to be exploited? Look at the Morecombe cockel pickers. This is happening right on our doorstep” Audience responses to the youth theatre show, Transparent Truths

Transparent Truth is a physical theatre performance re-telling some of the stories of the 1.2 million children who are trafficked each year for the slave trade. Transparent Truth performed to sell out audiences at the Bluecoat Arts Centre, Liverpool in July 2011. In January 2012 an application to the European Union to extend and develop the project was successful. This young acting company will now work with a team of professional artists to refine the piece ready for a regional tour in Summer 2012. In 2011-12 our youth outreach programme worked in partnership with voluntary sector organisations and statutory services to access the most vulnerable young people across the city. Through this we hoped to give the most disengaged young people the chance to take part in creative activities and tell their stories. In 2011 we ran a programme in partnership with Local Solutions working with young men who had experience of the Criminal Justice system. “I was a bit of a mess when we started, it’s helped me know where I stand, in week one I was sofa surfing now I have stayed off the drink for three and a half weeks, bonded with my family more and moved into a flat.... The theatre course helped me focus and got me on the right track”. Collective Encounters 2011-12 Annual Report

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research lab In 2011-12 we took the first steps in setting up our Research Lab. Our Research Lab aims to ensure the professional and participatory work we undertake is of the highest quality and can be placed within a national and international context. Through it we will be researching and evaluating international models of theatre for social change and experimenting with new ways of working and new kinds of practice, finding different ways to use theatre as a tool for social and political change. Through international research we will also identify artists, companies and agencies with whom collaboration might be meaningful and productive. We’ll be seeking practical creative collaborations as well as digital projects. In 2012-13 the lab will be undertaking research into - models of theatre for social change practice across the globe - the most effect ways to influence policy and decisions makers through art - the evidence available on the benefits of art in dementia care

“It made me realise that I could, with support, do an arts project even though I constantly doubt my skills and capabilities, but after the course I feel more confident” “For me it has been one big learning curve which I have enjoyed” St. Helens Community Arts Training Project

It is also through the Research Lab that we disseminate our experiences of theatre for social change. We do this through offering masterclasses and papers and by delivering capacity building and training projects. In 2011-12 we -- presented papers at the International Creative Expression, Communication and Dementia Conference in Ontario, Canada; and at McMaster University, Ontario -- presented a paper to national academics and artists exploring place-related challenges and the barriers to participation as part of the Knowledge Exchange seminar series -- made a formal presentation to Arts Council England’s People and Places of Least Engagement working group -- ran a 10 x session training course in community arts practice for emerging community artists and community leaders in St Helens - engaged in on-line debate around quality, participation and political theatre with other NPOs and national/ international arts organisations.

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our ambitions for 2012-13 Throughout the year we will continue to Create opportunities for people who would not ordinarily access the arts to experience drama processes and theatre products of the highest quality Present meaningful theatre that excites, entertains and stimulates debate; transforming unloved and unlovely urban spaces into magical performance places. Develop innovative ways of using theatre as a tool for change; pioneering new models of practice and new ways of engaging those on the margins Produce research that analyses and disseminates our practice, pushing the boundaries of Theatre for Social Change regionally, nationally and internationally. We will achieve this through the realisation of a multifacaeted programme, highlights of which include July

With One Voice: Transitions to perform 'Seize the Day' at the Royal Opera House


Transparent Truth: youth theatre embark on north west tour of this re-worked piece


Report into the Benefits of Art in Dementia Care published


Accredited outreach programme for young people launched


8th poem in the 'Bits that Stick to your Mind' podcast series released


Transitions group perform a new piece tackling mental health stigma at The Brink


Songs for Silenced Voices: Northern Tour and Theatre for Social Change residencies


Youth theatre international exchange


Report published into best practice in capacity building in places of least engagement

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our ambitions for 2015 Our aim is that by 2015 theatre will be highly regarded as a valuable weapon in the armory of change, and that Collective Encounters will be respected internationally as an innovative leader in the field.

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thank you We would like to thank our participants for their dedication, time, talent and their ability to amaze us every week with their capacity for creativity. We would like to thank our staff team for all the hard work and commitment they give throughout the year. We would like to thank our dedicated board who give up their free time to steer the organisation in the right direction. We would like to thank all the artists who have worked with us throughout the year in particular Simon James, Tim O'Shea, Patrick Dineen, Dic Edwards, Carl Cockram and Mark Loudon. And finally, we would like to thank all our partners for their positive and collaborative approach that makes the realisation of our projects possible. In particular we would like to thank all the staff at The Whitechapel, Sue Shelley at Local Solutions, Tate Liverpool, Bluecoat Arts Centre, Redholme Memory Care, PSS, Liverpool Hope University, West Everton Community Centre, The Shewsy, Rod Dixon at Red Ladder, Ann and Eamonn at Fazakerly Special Needs Project. Owen at St. Helens Council and Sophie Brown and Catherine Simmons Partners in Participation. Annette Burghes Executive Director

Collective Encounters The Creative Campus Liverpool Hope University 17 Shaw Street Liverpool L17 1HP

0151 291 3887 Charity number 1105790 Company number 5062035Â

Sarah Thornton Artistic Director

Photo credits: Page 1 and 8 Curtis Gibson; Pages 5, 6 7, and 12 Ged Fleming

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Collective Encounters Annual Report 2011-12  

Collective Encounters Annual Report 2011-12