Brilliant Speakers with Brilliant Ideas – but is that enough?
At the ArtsWork Conference in Dundee the other day there was a call from the real David Cameron , the Scottish presenter, trainer and consultant, to create a movement/institution, to change perceptions about community arts.
In another presentation from Alain De Botton at ‘La Ciudad de las Ideas’ 2013 , he argues that we should look at religion as a model to create such an movement – he suggests that because religion has been the most powerful institution to spread ideas through the world we should look at how it educates us. He believes that culture can replace religion, as the new way for people to receive ‘meaning, consolation, the difference between right and wrong and the sense of community’. He argues that we should examine the way that religion works in order to learn how this idea might become wide spread.
He says that one person cannot do that alone and we must create an institution, a movement to make these ideas a reality.
I really enjoyed listening to the real David Cameron, a brilliant presenter of ideas. I also enjoy listening to Alain de Botton. I heard him speak live at The South Bank Centre in London last year and he was very inspiring – but I am nervous of institutions and movements.
‘Owning our own truth is possibly the hardest thing we have to do’
I recently found this quote in an article about my friend Mark Clements, a british theatre director living and working in USA. It struck a cord.
At the conference I felt uneasy about the idea of another movement, another institution. My fear was that it would create another place for the articulate, the experienced performers and people who were confident – to shine – and it would leave the outsiders, the fearful and the powerless – in the shade. In the field of community arts we often express the idea that we represent people who are disadvantaged in some way, yet at the ArtsWork Conference I didn’t meet any participants from any community project. I was only there for one day and of course I didn’t meet everybody and maybe there were people there who had become engaged in the arts through one of the projects – but they certainly were not centre stage on the first day.
A lot of brilliant people doing wonderful projects but where were ‘the changes in peoples lives’ that are often quoted as a ‘raison d’etre’ of community arts projects.
For me it was great being back in Dundee and seeing the amazing developments happening in the city. I loved the Pecha Kucha presentations and I enjoyed David Cameron’s provocations and I met some great people. But the dilemma for me is to find a way to have less of the people who think they know about community arts and more from the people who have experienced something, who want to share that experience with others and have found new ways to communicate ‘their own truth’ by being involved in the arts.
Recently Dundee lost a brilliant advocate of the city with the early death of Singer/Songwriter, Michael Marra. In his quiet way he was able to express his admiration and love of the people who were outside the mainstream because he, himself, felt outside it.
I worked with Michael on his first steps into ‘professional theatre’ – ‘from the outside to the inside’ – another well used phrase of the ArtsWork Conference – and last week I was reminded of this teachings. In our first production together “They Fairly Mak Ye Work” at the Dundee Rep he sang a song that will always be with me and teaches me that I need to listen to the voices from the outside more than those on the inside because they give me comfort in my search for my own truth.
I don’t know how to embed this video but please click on the link to hear
According to religious teaching “the weak will inherit the earth’ – I don’t see that to be true. From the typhoons in South East Asia to the refugees from Africa and the Middle east to the homeless to the infirm to the challenged to the Bedroom Tax in the UK the weak across the world are suffering.
Are we still waiting for that moment when the weak will be strong – Is that one of the promises that religion offers to help people believe that things will get better?
Can the weak express themselves through religion? Can their voices be heard?
Or can their voices be heard louder through culture, through arts?