Fun Palaces: and a new partnership between Battersea Arts Centre and the Katherine Low Settlement

Fun Palaces: and a new partnership between Battersea Arts Centre and the Katherine Low Settlement

On the 4th June 2014 a meeting was held between David Jubb, Artistic Director, Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) and Aaron Barbour, Director of the Katherine Low Settlement (KLS).  Also in attendance were Liz Moreton, Senior Producer at BAC and Naomi Alexander, freelance consultant, who initiated this work last year.

The purpose of the meeting was to explore and articulate why we want to work in partnership with each other.

This blog post is the first of many which will be shared simultaneously on both BAC’s and KLS’s website, documenting the evolution of the partnership and the work we produce.  If you live locally in Battersea and would like to get involved we’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch with us here.

Through this partnership we hope to find new ways of creating theatre with local people from Battersea. We want to tie the public celebration and sharing of this work over the next few years with the new annual Fun Palaces initiative as we feel that what we are doing is very much in keeping with the spirit and ethos of Joan Littlewood. We want to capture what we learn along the way and share it with you here.

Beyond that, we don’t know much at the moment. This is a conscious choice. We want to involve local people in shaping the project and expect it to grow and evolve as we do so over the next few years.

A bit about our local area – Battersea is an area in South London with a radical past. In 1913 John Archer become London’s first black Mayor for Battersea. Battersea’s old motto is still seen on buildings and schools throughout the area ‘Not for Me, not for You …. But for Us’.  Although in modern times it is known mostly for its wealth, Battersea remains characterised by economic inequality, with council estates being surrounded by more prosperous areas.  BAC and KLS are located in the middle of a number of areas of significant deprivation in Wandsworth where there is poverty, poor housing and low levels of employment. Our neighbouring wards of Queenstown and Latchmere, rank in the most deprived 10% nationally.

On July 2nd we are bringing 10 staff and artists associated with BAC together with 10 staff and local residents associated with KLS to begin the process of creating a new kind of theatre that places local people and the possible role(s) that a theatre could play in its locality at its heart. We envisage this as the first step in a longer process of community engagement, which will culminate during the first Fun Palaces weekend on the 4th and 5th October this year.

So, why are we doing this? So glad you asked. We have many reasons for working together in this way. They include:

For the Katherine Low Settlement:

  • To bring people living in Battersea together with others they may not know, in order to build new relationships and build trust across communities by creating theatre together
  • To create new relationships between artists and local people
  • To create high quality theatre, in whatever form that may take – just because people live in poverty it does not follow that they will create poor quality work and we believe that local people deserve to experience the best quality process leading to the best quality product we can create
  • To regularly take stock of what we’re doing, review, learn, evaluate and share
  • To raise our profile locally so that more people can access our services

For Battersea Arts Centre:

  • To extend our journey in co-creation and co-production with local communities through this partnership
  • To explore Joan Littlewood’s idea for rooting work in our locality, by developing a ‘figure of 8’ relationship with the communities in Battersea, where both content and form of theatre is created through mutually beneficial relationships with reciprocity at their heart
  • To acknowledge and address the difficulties and challenges inherent in this work
  • To capture and share the learning and create principles of how to work in this way
  • To develop new relationships with community groups in the surrounding area
  • To open up the knowledge and resources of BAC to the local communities surrounding it
  • To share the process of this collaboration transparently, not least for other organisations who are interested in undertaking similar collaborations

If you have any comments or ideas or questions or would like to get involved, please get in touch.

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