Rediscovering the Radical, Theatre and Social Change.

Rediscovering the radical.

(Performers from the young company at Collective Encounters sharing what they feel strongly about and telling personal stories that support their beliefs and choice for activism.)

Ok, so a few weeks ago we attended a conference in Liverpool called ‘Re-discovering the Radical, Theatre and Social change’ ( which had been organised and created by a proper inspiring lady called Sarah Thornton (Collective Encounters). It was a game changer for Mighty Heart and we would like to share some of our notes and things we have learnt with you in the hope that you might benefit from it like we have.



This blog post will look and feel a little different to our usual, we are going to share both of our notes/ramblings/scribbles of thoughts from the conference and links to the seminars on YouTube so that you can dip into anything you think will help you, your practice or your work.

NOW IS THE MOMENT TO LEARN HOPE – A key note speech by John Holloway (Sociologist, philosopher and professor at the autonomous University of Puebla)

John set the political frame for the conference. Rooted in his experience from the Zapatista movement through Occupy, and his deep thinking around radical change, John shared his vision for building a post-capitalist future.

Johns Speech:

Our notes:

  • Hope is in danger of becoming extinct, what can we do about it?
  • It’s all to do with walls going up/in our minds/barriers closing in our education system/ boarders closing/ walls going up to stop our capacity to think and feel things.
  • To just say ‘no’ is to block and close our minds, we must have open minds to make positive change, to dream of a world beyond capitalism.
  • ‘Radical’ is not saying how bad the world is, opening our minds to something else is.
  • Everyone is a rebel! Remember that when you make your work, you are speaking to people. Use your art well.
  • Hope grows from anger, hope is the most important thing to stick hold of, as anger can only get you so far when you are trying to make social change and be radical.
  • Capitalism and social media. We are creating a brand for ourselves, Facebook profiles etc. are basically an advert, a product that we create. Capitalist society = Sell your self. Is there another way? Social media: creating a ‘self’ to be marketed/ commodified.
  • Now is the moment to learn hope
  • Combat & reject neo-liberalism
  • Positive opportunities for change
  • The Principal of Hope- (A BOOK!)
  • Our grandparents know more about hope than we do
  • Borders are becoming stricter
  • Money is being used as barriers to any thoughts that do not conform to money
  • “To learn hope is to say no to closure. Open our minds & senses to a possibility of a radically different world beyond profit & capitalism”
  • Why do we accept that money is our axis to social interaction?
  • “To learn hope is to have a concept of what we are hoping against”
  • “The commodification of everything that can be commodified”
  • Dogma is not interesting. We have to talk & listen.
  • “How do we reach the contradictories that are within everybody?”
  • Refusal. Love. Nerve-endings. Dream.
  • “We who refuse to abandon hope- what are we DOING?”
  • Theatre is an attempt.
  • Theatre can promote.
  • “Hope is unthinkable without anger. But anger does not necessarily lead us forward in what we are doing.”
  • “It doesn’t get us very far if on Saturday we break the windows of the banks & then on Monday we have to go to work to help rebuild the capitalism”
  • “We won’t end war until we access the peace in ourselves”
  • “How do we say a society based on money is grotesque & awful?”


PERFORMING HOPEFUL ACTIVISM ON THE STREETS – Rev. Billy & Savitri D (The Church of Stop Shopping).

These guys led a workshop which illustrated their practice of “non-violent creative action that ruptures the absurd realities of the mono-culture”, by creating an eco-action with us the participants, which was performed in the center of Liverpool.

Video of the performance:

These guys show us that you can create work in a way that incorporates people from the community in a really safe way. They used a technique called ‘MIC CHECK’ which consisted of someone whispering in a performer’s ear what they want to say and a performer (or someone comfortable with speaking publicly) delivering it to the audience, like a human microphone. It was wonderful to have so many different people performing together.

(Rev. Billy & Savitri D working with participants in the workshops)

(Participants performing in ‘Privatisation is our Blitz’)


(Sam’s ‘Selfie’ as part of the out door activist performance)

Rev.Billy also did a performance at the conference called ‘Happiness Makes its Comeback’:

‘Happiness was always the claim and object of advertising, the language of the corporate state.  Buy this product and you will be happy.  And if you don’t buy it, you put your power, your looks and youth and freedom at risk.  But now consumer society has come down crashing, and happiness is not necessarily associated with the accumulation of products.  We don’t think of conspicuous consumption as a thing to desire.  The violence of consumerism that was always there is now overshadowing the middle-class conveniences.  The whole system has broken down.The system has broken down so completely, with neighbours shooting neighbors and computer bombs in the air, with everyone hacking everyone and talk of our general anguish – now happiness is radical.  Happiness is the stuff of change, after being hijacked by products for so many years – deliverance to a smile is coming with equality, liberty and love of the Earth.’

POLITICAL THEATRE IN THE MAIN STREAM: featuring Prototype Theatre Co, Vital Exposure, Unity Theatre, Red Ladder Theatre Co


Our notes:

  • Theatre needs to extend the public conversation.
  • Putting heart back in to the centre of theatre.
  • MAD Pride project- check it out!
  • Shine a light on the stories of the marginalised.
  • Attracting new audiences is about truth.
  • Make love and mischief and bust down the 4th wall”
  • “Theatre can help us explore possible futures”
  • “Theatre can say things that aren’t being said or can’t be said”
  • It’s about truth- not propaganda.
  • Big buildings are a hierarchy; it takes ages to communicate with them because no one is empowered- How can big theatre buildings move away from a hierarchy in order to facilitate artists?
  • Don’t be reliant on a theatre space



Our notes:

  • Actors for Human Rights. Script readings that happen around the country, you can get involved and give your time to help peoples voices be heard.

Actors for Human Rights:

  • Shared verbatim code of practice: see and agree with making public, anonymously if requested, make changes/additions at any point, interviewee can withdraw permission at any point, post interview involvement, our actors will not imitate.
  • The challenges we face: reframing the enemy, how we avoid preaching to the converted, connecting folk with polarised opinions, our own inherent prejudice, what is adequate change? You cannot teach anyone anything- if this is your objective you are going to face resistance. Living in the liminal space.
  • How do we measure change? Tangible results; YouTube videos, events, workshops.



The Vacuum Cleaner is an art activist, he shared with us the journey he has been on with his work and activism.

Check out all his work here:

Our notes:

  • You can’t always know how people will respond, don’t let that shake what your doing. People won’t always like your work, don’t let that change your voice and what you have to say.
  • MAD LOVE. Mad love is the Vacuum Cleaners latest project:
  • Ethical capitalism
  • The built in limits of the mainstream
  • How difficult is it to not use economical growth as a measure of success?
  • The Church of the Immaculate Consumption:
  •  100,000 Pieces of Possibility- There is always a healthy risk. You can’t always plan what will happen and how people will feel. Check it out here:
  • It’s important to do things sometimes for the love and FUN
  • Make sure that you are kind to yourself as an artist, give your self time off. Factor time to recover into the budget of your projects, this is as important as making the work because if you are burnt out you cant make your best work.


KEY NOTE CONVERSATION: Professors Jan Cohen-Cruz and Tim Prentki share their most recent thinking and draw on their exceptional wealth of experience in all aspects of theatre for change. Jan opens with Common Ground: Uncommon Partners reflecting her deep interest in cross-sector collaborations; and Tim follows with Joking Apart: The Social Performance of Folly, in which he argues that playful, foolish theatre can challenge the neoliberal monoculture.

Link to discussion here:

Our notes:

  • Partner with people that want to make the same changes cross sector, people that can help you from different sectors to yourself.
  • TALK, TALK, TALK – people internalise oppression, give people a space to talk.
  • Folly is the key to our social health.
  • Play is so necessary, we need to have play in our lives.
  • People talk about being ‘deadly serious’, deadly! We need to embrace plaing and folly. We need to actively seek it out.
  • “Blessed are the cracked for they shall let in the light”

RADICAL ,ETHICAL PRACTISE: conversation with Jill Heslop (Open Clasp) and Sarah Thornton (Collective Encounters).

Heavy on the issues but gentle on the people; and the liberal/radical dichotomy.

Open Clasp:

Collective Encounters:

Our notes:

  • Always create a safe space for your audience and those participating in your work, that is paramount.
  • Perform in places where your audience (the people you want to see the work) gather, take the work to your audience don’t expect them to come to you.
  • Detach from emotional attachment, when talking about sensitive topics people can talk about their own experience by describing them as a character, as somebody else. This helps keep story sharing safe.
  • Work with service providers.
  • Dream possible futures.
  • Commit to long term work with people, if you start a project or arts engagement try your best to give it a legacy.
  • Ask yourself, what are you trying to change?
  • No one should ever perform their own stories, don’t have people working on their own stories.
  • Solidarity not charity
  • Collaborate with communities.
  • We have to look after ourselves

THE TOWN MEETING, an interactive performance by Cap-a-Pie.

Check out the link to Cap-a-pie:

This project involves the audience as co-investigators in a town planning process, offering an innovative approach to democratic theatre and an exciting, responsive process.

We participated in The Town Meeting with our mate Dave, which was really lovely.

We also spent time looking and buying at the pop-up independent bookshop, ‘News from Nowhere’. This is a wonderful book shop ran by a co-operative of writers and we will continue to support them, we think you should too! Check out their website:

We really hope this blog and sharing is useful to you, and thank you for giving it a read! If you fancy chatting about it feel free to give us a bell/email. We feel like this conference has added fuel to our fire and we hope its ignited your passion for activism and social change too. 

Peace, Love and Activism.

Sam and Lisa



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