Alright? My names Rosie MacPherson, I’m Artistic Director of Stand and be Counted (SBC) Theatre – we are incredibly proud to be the UK’s first Theatre Comany of Sanctuary, committed to making work with people seeking sanctuary. This month we turn 10 years old! PARDY WOO.
It’s a strange time to reach such a milestone. Anyone making their own work, trying to find their way into this weird ol’ industry, trying to do something different or trying to keep going in whatever pocket of the industry you exist in – will know that feeling of consistent uncertainty and push to keep going all too well. For the first time in the ten years since we created Stand and be Counted it feels like the rest of the industry understands too – nothing is guaranteed, none of us are essential.
And we all know how wrong that feeling is.
We all know the value we add, the difference we make and the impact our work has on people. People who don’t just want us around, they need us.
At a time when perhaps, maybe, possibly I should be looking at the next ten years with the same uncertainty, I genuinely feel the most sure I have ever felt about the fact that whatever happens we will get through this and we will support as many as we can to do the same. Because we have to make this work, the industry has to reset and I am sure as hell not going back to the old way.
Companies and artists developing engagement programmes that are intrinsically linked to their professional practice are needed more than ever. We don’t just support and connect communities, we create them. We’ve got all these random skills accumulated from years of ‘making it work’ that we can share beyond our performances. Artists are the most agile thinkers in the world. Don’t @ me.
SBC’s work has often been coined ‘too political’ by some venues and critics, we are told we are risky. No audience member has ever said this and we sold out our last three tours so… (stage whisper) what could it mean?? Here’s some stats, I love stats – on average 62% of our touring audience are new to the venue we present in – they took a risk to come to the theatre that night, on average 95% of them stay for the post show discussions. Theatre land! There is a giant pool of untapped audience on our doorstep ready to keep our industry alive if we welcome them. If you say this work is a risk you say those people who want to see that work are a risk and that’s just bad maths. It’s our audiences that keep us alive, it’s not risky to genuinely invest in them. Beyond our performance work we deliver various programmes to support confidence, wellbeing, activism and develop English language. Our Creative Skills for Employment programmes (part of STEP) have a 30% success rate for refugees entering the job market – 10 times the national average. The major difference in the support given? Theatrical techniques. These are the approaches to learning that remove judgment and build longerlasting connections. They are incredibly valuable tools that serve as a life line to so many in our society. You know what? Artists are super heroes. Don’t @ me.
We live in a toxic climate of blame and are consistently encouraged to punch down and hold the more vulnerable responsible for what the few with power choose to do on our behalf. Theatre is empathy and activism, by platforming and empowering members of communities that are consistently ignored and silenced we can undermine fake news, ugly rhetoric and harmful governmental policies such as the Hostile Environment and we can shift attitudes and stand up for each other. Theatre in all its variations is a crucial method for making things better for everyone and as I look back at the lest ten years of Stand and Be Counted and my own career in the arts I am only feeling excited, for the change that is coming, the difference we can make and for all the collaborations still to come.
Keep going theatre family, we got this.
Check out our 10 year anniversary programme here and thank you CPT for always shouting so loudly for us!