In this episode, we talk to Nancy Hirst and Dan Canham about Co-creating with Communities.
Building cultural communities is at the heart of Arts Council England’s Let’s Create strategy and for many organisations, this kind of work is at the very heart of what we try to do. But it’s not easy… it takes time, patience, diplomacy and care to do well. And sometimes, the funding and expectations of stakeholders around us, plus perhaps our own over-eager enthusiasm causes us to make mistakes. So we ask our guests to tell us more about how we might do this work better.
We start off with vocabulary… what and who do we mean by the all-encompassing word ‘community’ and indeed what do we mean by co-creation? None of us feel very comfortable with either terms but find ourselves using them anyway and so we explore the reasons why we do and the complexities that arise for us when we do.
We talk a lot about telling stories and the ethics of doing that, the juxtaposition of local stories linked to national conversations, of being authentic, of being of a place or an outsider to it and of finding a common purpose. We delve into Dan’s epic gig-like work Session which he undertook in partnership with Empire Sounds and Steppaz Performing Arts in Tottenham, and we look at the ways in which Nancy and her company Icon build theatre around local tales such as The Chatham Witch and The Silk of 1000 Spiders with her Medway communities.
Both Nancy and Dan share some of the tools they use, show us where some of the traps and pitfalls can lie, and muse on the complexity of this work which we all agree felt different to simply ‘seeking out stimuli’ and mining material. The issue of ethics comes up for us, as does legacy and how we can continue to support a process even after the final curtain on the show has come down.
And finally we reflect on the joy – the moments where the stars align and the work comes together and the magic truly happens…