Blog: Summer 2015 – New Writing, New Horizons, New Thinking from Cambridge to Montevideo

The summer is over and a new focus is upon us…A heady mix of theatre, training and teaching.

Following the success of Hotbed, our New Writing Festival in July with excellent new work particularly from Craig Baxter with Pictures of You, a play developed in alliance with Martina Simplicio. This was presented as part of What’s Up Doc? Series where playwrights are paired with Academic Collaborators.

Inspired by the ‘mental imagery’, emotion and the study and treatment of bipolar disorder, Pictures of You presented the intriguing meeting of two friends after many years apart. Full of unexpected lightness, warmth and love, the play explored the challenge of recalling the past and picturing the future…

The partner was Dr Martina Di Simplicio of the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge

The best work from HOTBED in Cambridge was then transferred to London’s SOHO theatre where it ran for a week alongside the brilliant play from last year: bloominauschwitz.

Following bloominauschwitz’s award as the best new play at Brighton Festival it is now heading to the National Theatre Festival of Czech Republic in Brno. The play is now fully matured and ready for National Touring next year. We also hope to perform at The Edinburgh Fringe next year … watch this space. See the awards – we are in at 25 minutes:

and here’s the new video trailer of the play- hope you can catch it next year (or in Brno!)

Meanwhile we are focussing back on training too this autumn including developing new programmes for CEDAR and the Judge . At the Judge I have been made a Fellow in The Arts (Creative Engagement)…

Following its awards as Entrepreneurial University of the Year Anglia Ruskin has been going from Strength to strength and in particular the centre ran by Professor Lester Lloyd-Reason at CEDAR .

This unit remains a beacon in Enterprise thinking and projects and I get such a kick being around these guys. There is always a crazy project around the corner.

This week working with CEDAR I have been delivering Creativity and Curiosity workshops to Managers of Incubators from Montevideo in Uruguay!

Working with Peter Taylor from TTP group, we delivered a workshop about how to bring creativity into the workplace

Four great managers from Uruguay included “Good Cop” Paola Rapetti and “The Rule Man” Sergio Delgado.

Here’s twelve great stories of entrepreneurs in Uruguay Great people – great ideas and looking forward to heading to Uruguay to meet them again soon and more colleagues.

So, many projects on the go, will get inside them all in the blog over the next few weeks.

Here’s a reminder of what we do and how we do it;




Blog: No Poo? Well bully for you!

We are currently working on an interactive theatre piece in Germany.

It is truly right up there in terms of bizarre ..

So … I have been several times to Germany (alone and with Playwright Craig Baxter) to visit US Army military bases where we are delivering an interactive workshop and play script around bullying!?!

Designed for Middle and High School aged children this is an opportunity to bring youngsters from military families together to watch a play then to ‘forum the action’.

The script is finished, the workshop designed and piloted – all we have to do now is put it in front of kids. If it works it will then be rolled out as an interactive education package that will be developed for Military communities all over Europe then hopefully in The States.

It is a pretty simple model whereby the youngsters get to own the action. One of the key factors is that the performers of the script are local actors (to each community), who themselves may have experienced or been exposed to Bullying.

The approach thematically has been to be universal – with some tweaks specifically for the military context – extended periods of parental separation, stress of environment and dynamic of rank and status. But mostly we have tried to put together a fun universal piece – which as far as I can tell is the first play Craig has ever written which does not involve poo – well not yet anyway!

The interactive activity is of course adapted from our working knowledge of Augusto Boal’s Theatre Of The Oppressed

The power of ownership of ideas sits very much in the centre of my whole approach to using theatre as a tool for engagement – get people involved, get them caring, get them challenging the material and each other and you have a dynamic which has value, depth and impact.

We will see how the project pans out but right now it looks like it will work well – and it actually feels pretty good to be doing a piece which can make a difference to young people who are bullies or being bullied. Certainly as the parent of two teenage children I can see the pressure youngsters are under particularly with cyber-bullying. This element features heavily within our workshop performance – and if we can raise awareness and the participants can establish tactics to prevent and counter cyber-bullying then that has to be a good thing.

Certainly this project is one of those “How the hell did I ever get here?” scenarios… on an American Military base in Germany helping teenagers to not send abusive messages on Instagram!?!

… and as Craig said during our second visit – how the hell did you ever bully me into doing this project .. “ Craig, just fucking do it, or else…”

Blog: Thinking outside The Box Office (part one)

Prague October 2014

So Prague is interesting and challenging – meeting potential clients (on both sides of the fence) for the Arts and Business Connections project out of Slovakia.

This is an engagement project … matching Artists with the business/corporate world.

The ethos for this ABC project is to place Artists in the position to really contribute to, and challenge new thinking with businesses; as they become leaner and meaner or faster and fatter…

It is an interesting model for Artists and Businesses alike. They both have lots to gain but some things to lose too if they are not careful.

For the business, the idea of taking the eye off the ball, of letting Artists run riot, can be a real leap of faith. For some this is done with a strong safety net, for others the net is truly removed. Having a robust intervention plan where artists can influence but not distract business activity – providing training or artistic interventions – has real power at the heart of it.

Interventions such as those at Tilt in Sweden really help to manage the relationships.. The following is a long serious paper but if you are interested in Artistic Interventions it is very powerful:

For the Artist the challenge is over ‘selling out’ or distraction from ‘pure’ activities – why provide training for a company when you could be making art.? Why invest time in understanding a businesses challenges when you should look after your own?

Well apart from financial benefits (these interventions have helped keep my company alive for 15 years) there are new worlds to explore and new people to engage with and the business world is a world of dynamic activity that can benefit from and benefit artists’ sensibilities.

Conceptual Artist Chris Dobrowolski is very much still an artist – take a look at his brilliant work in the link . But he has also supplemented his work by engaging with teaching and inspiring people in the business world. Opening their eyes to his way of thinking. It is always great to share your thoughts, and if you get paid for it too…

Here is the content of the lecture Chris is giving at Bath University, coming up soon. “How Not to make a living as an artist”


one of the best spins on the art world and how to survive in it is Artist Grayson Perry’s talk “I Found Myself in the Art World…”

I remember one quote from his talk when he described the moment he declared he was an artist – when he realised he was making things and getting paid more than a carpenter…

For Digital Artists, Sculptors, Actors, Musicians and Writers there is a world of engagement that can inspire as well as let you acquire…

Prague is of course beautiful and has – yes Czech Beer – what more could you ask for?!

 So let’s make some money and use our skills…


 Back end of two weeks ago – change of scene to Kaiserslautern in Germany to develop a new script and run a workshop on facilitation skills. This is an interesting project for the US Schools in Germany. How weird is this…

So the thing to do here is create a Forum piece of theatre with Playwright Craig Baxter … challenges are to create an interesting piece of theatre that can then be used effectively to teach, inspire and challenge audiences on the dynamics of any subject > This particular script is around bullying…

We will see how it develops but we had three good days in rehearsals with some good young actors.. so there is hope yet! We will develop the script further and see if we can shape something that works..

It s not going to be presented at The National Theatre but it will be a quality piece of writing, it will hopefully do some good and we will get paid!

Highlight of the trip was being in an Irish Bar in Kaiserslautern the night that Poland beat Germany in the Euro championships – a lot of very happy Poles and pissed off Germans – a mild revenge for Poland…?

And so neatly onto Poland… which is where I have been for the last week..

Which hat now..?

Audience Development workshops for an Arts Agency in Warsaw,  then onto the 2016 European Capital of Culture; Wroclaw…

More in Thinking outside the Box Office Part Two…

“Bully Busters”… The Power of Theatre…

So I read the report that confirmed I was right! Luton is OFFICIALLY the worst airport in Britain (see previous Blog from Luton to Goa…)

See report:

This morning heading to Kosice. It was chaos at Luton with total dis-organisation as per norm. But the biscuit–taker was the unnecessary ‘cruelty’ of staff demanding money at the gate from passengers for extra luggage … so aggressively.

Come on WizzAir lets have some sense of compassion, common sense and understanding … you are damaging yourselves and gaining nothing by this power trip of aggression.

Yes you want the money, yes it is printed on the poster and website that you can only take one bag on the plane but this is like some form of Torture Sport and you are trying to take the gold medal away from Ryanair … Yes I know this has all been said before and there are so many ways to approach challenging situations …blah blah blah… but the fact is that the way you act towards someone is so easy to adjust to get a cleaner more efficient response…and I’ll say it …nicer and more professionally handled too.

OK .. breathe …

… better…

So on my way to Kosice again for an Arts and Biz event… Creativity and Business…

And indeed this week has been the week of Slovakians as I have also been working with a Kosice 2013 study group in Cambridge too. More of that later.

BTW I am listening to new Kate Tempest album – great…

Before the Slovakians come and go .. I have briefly been over in Germany (Kaiserslautern) on a big US Army base… !!!

I am working with an “old” friend Dane Winters on a project using theatre as a tool for combating Bullies (should do one for WizzAir never mind US Army).

This project is right up there in terms of left field I have to admit.

But what can’t theatre be used as an instrument to explore…clearly very little!

We are going to work up an interactive Forum Theatre piece which can be used by local communities in American Schools in Europe (Armed Forces families) to help understand and hopefully have an impact on combating Bullying.

We will be working on cyber bullying and the “old school” bullying… “give me your sweets (candy?)”… playground stuff.

Aimed at two age groups 8-11 and 12-16, we will create a framework theatre piece that kids will then take ownership over and promote their own solutions for each of the characters and situations.
I am working with Playwright Craig Baxter to produce a quality play and hopefully a quality product. Craig has written many pieces for us and a while back won a v. prestigious award for his play The Altruists (and $10,000!)

Working within sensitive but dynamic boundaries I hope we can create something of real value that the kids have ownership over.

This type of Forum Theatre – interactive style – has of course been used for centuries in community environments.

At College we study Augusto Boal as the architect of modern forum theatre where social and political issues would be explored on the streets of Rio or Sao Paulo. Essentially he sought to make the people /audience/witnesses active participants in the theatrical experience:

His work fusing theatre with citizens had a great impact – establishing large and small-scale work on the streets of Brazil focusing particularly on issues of Human Rights through the Theatre of the Oppressed:

Our bullying forum project is more controlled/sanitised and certainly on a smaller scale, but using these techniques we can get closer to this community approach and potentially have a high impact through “ownership of ideas” .

Indeed my maddest use of interactive discussion was at the British Consulate in St Petersburg, Russia where we explored “Bullying and Harassment in the workplace” as part of staff professional development. This sounds strange, but of course is as relevant to train people in all elements that can put pressure on organisational culture. These challenges arise in a Consulate as in any other workplace environment and in fact it is sensible and important to explore. It just sounds weird taking the phone call … “can you do a work a workshop on Bullying and Harassment for the… British Consulate, Russia.”.

 In workplace scenarios “bullying” can often be about mis-understanding of culture and expectations. For example additional workload which is acceptable for one side is not for another and tensions can easily rise.

When tensions rise in a Consulate, the Playground or the Airport – it is about communication – and making sure that the communication is clear and fair and yes … even empathetic!

It is not about being just nice to people, it is understanding the impact of your actions.

The saying goes you are being bullied if you think you are being bullied.

So our focus is to establish measures to understand the dynamics and not allow outside pressures (time, money, culture, background, looks etc.) to prejudice us in our interactions.

Yes… we feel stressed, angry, mis-understood … but the aggression and wilful injuring of a 2nd or 3rd party is then when it becomes bullying.

And then what…? Well you need the power of theatre to solve the problem – of course!

Bully Busters are on the way..!