Black History Month at Theatre in the Mill

I’ve been giving a lot of thought over the last few months about whose stories get told.  And about who gets to tell stories.  These are linked but separate questions, to my mind anyway.  They are, also, not questions that I have any formed answers to.

I do have worries, very significant one, about who gets to go to University and study theatre (and that is an already narrow field that will have got even narrower in the last month or two) and about the provision for those who aren’t going to/can’t/don’t want to study but may well want to make theatre.

I wrote here about how Theatre in the Mill is, in some senses, making things up as we go along, or – to put it in a, perhaps, more acceptable way- creating an organic system that tries out ideas and measures worth/durability……  The longer I am in this job, the more confident I am, the more comfortable I become with not knowing…yet.

Which is why we have put together a programme for Black History Month. It’s there for our audiences, to support the artists – this is all work I believe in – but also for us to watch and, most importantly, to listen.  Someone considerably brighter than me pointed out a couple of weeks ago and in the context of something completely different, that men do not notice the patriarchy.  That stuck with me and, whilst it wasn’t the motivation for putting this little programme of work together, this thinking has resonated with me in relation to this programme. As a white, middle class male, what don’t I see?

Any venue that distributes public money has to seek a relevance to the community that surrounds it and as much as I think that the work we stage does have that – the haunting ‘Someone Come Find Me’ by Invisible Flock explored loss and how one mediates significant change – I do wonder if we have done enough to overtly say “this is for you” and if not, whether that is best served by work created by artists who come from ‘you’? I am also aware of the ‘dangers’ of putting Black, Asian, working class, disabled, whatever artists in a box and expecting them to ‘represent’ through their work.

These, and other questions that I can’t anticipate, are what I’d like to explore.  I’d like to think y’all would too. I think it opens on to fundamental questions of (self) representation through the arts; who partakes in this and how. That is not limited to a question of identity, ethnicity, class or anything else but a broader issue that affects us all.