Describe your role, how is it different to a theatre producer?
I set up and look after the work we do with communities, both whilst shows are being made and after. I liaise with individuals, community groups and academic institutions to ensure our work speaks with communities. This could mean holding advisory group meetings or delivering post show workshops as well as Q&A's with the creative teams.
The participation activity responds to and feeds into the overall producing timeline, but focuses on the participants involved.
You work with lots of different communities, how do you make sure you build meaningful relationships with each group?
I think it's about all parties in a project understanding that they can learn from each other, and as much as possible trying to dismantle hierarchy so that artists and participants have a genuinely mutual and beneficial exchange when feeding into work together. It's about being flexible and interrogating process throughout, adapting and improving each project for each community group and recognising that every individual and group that you work with will be different and will require a different project model, which requires flexibility and responsiveness.
Mainly I think It's about asking questions that you genuinely don't know the answer to and listening to the answer.
I think it's also about having a genuine interest in working with people and building trust and slowly peeling back barriers to find the human common ground which lays within all of us. Fundamentally I think it's about holding the participants experience of a project and their wellbeing at the centre of any decision that is made. Oh and and being kind.
For Odds On, our interactive short film exploring online gambling, you facilitated a Lived Experience Creative Advisory Group to inform its development. Can you describe that process and how their stories fed into the film?
We reached out to the gambling harms community with our idea for Odds On as we wanted to build the film around peoples lived experiences. People were really generous with their time and keen to share their knowledge and experience and spread awareness on the issue. We connected with individuals, organisations and experts in Salford, Reading, Medway and surrounding areas and put out an open call to create our Odds On Lived Experience Advisory Group - a dedicated group of individuals with experience of gambling harm who fed into and fed back on the process of creating Odds On. The group met monthly and were supported by Wellbeing Practitioner Julia Hall.
Were there any key learnings in this process that changed the course of the work? Anything that the creative team wouldn’t have known otherwise?
Lots! In addition to our existing research we gained invaluable insight into a) the nuts and bolts of online gambling - down to the detail of what wins are realistic and how gambling "support" advisors can speak to and lure people to continue gambling, and b) the personal journeys and emotions that people with lived experienced have faced and the incredible strength they have. Fiona Watson who facilitated the Lived Experience Advisory Group and performed the protagonist in Odds On, had the undertaking of applying all of our learning in monthly meetings into her performance - and was brilliant.
Can you share any feedback from the group on their experience? What’s it like to be part of a theatre project in this way?
“My experience of the odds on creative advisory group was ‘out there’ wacky, fun, experimental and humorous. At the same time it was hard hitting, emotional and brought back some memories of my former self and playing online slots. Fortunately it reminded me why I never want to go back. It’s been great working with a fab group of people.” - Feedback from an Odds On Lived Experience Creative Advisory Group member.