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Co-creation, theatre and collaboration for social transformation in Belfast
Michael Pierse, Martin Lynch, and Fionntán Hargey

This chapter assesses, from a range of angles, the successes and challenges faced by practitioners, academics, community workers, activists and participants in co-creating a theatre project focusing on civil rights issues in Belfast. The chapter’s three authors, one a playwright and theatre director, another a community worker and the third an academic – all of whom worked together on the project – each provide perspectives on the project. In the third section, we look at data from the project, including audience surveys and participant interviews, in order to better understand the ways in which co-creativity happened and where it was limited or failed. The ‘Creatively Connecting Civil Rights’ strand of the wider Creative Interruptions initiative on which this chapter is based produced a commercial play, but also a range of smaller outputs, including a radio play, short film and monologue. The chapter therefore also facilitates some consideration of different creative contexts and related approaches.

in Creativity and resistance in a hostile world

What can culture, and its manifestations in artistic and creative forms, ‘do’? Creativity and resistance draws on original collaborative research that brings together a range of stories and perspectives on the role of creativity and resistance in a hostile environment. In times of racial nationalism across the world, it seeks to connect, in a grounded way, how creative acts have agitated for social change. The book suggests that creative actions themselves, and acting together creatively, can at the same time offer vital sources of hope.

Drawing on a series of case studies, Creativity and resistance focuses on the past and emergent grassroots arts work that has responded to migration, racism and social exclusion across several contexts and locations, including England, Northern Ireland and India. The book makes a timely intervention, foregrounding the value of creativity for those who are commonly marginalised from centres of power, including from the mainstream cultural industries. Bringing together academic research with individual and group experiences, the authors also consider the possibilities and limitations of collaborative research projects.

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Creativity and resistance in a hostile world
Sarita Malik, Churnjeet Mahn, Michael Pierse, and Ben Rogaly

In this chapter we offer the critical and theoretical backdrop to Creativity and resistance, a project designed to understand the connection between creativity and resistance for marginalised communities. We begin by discussing the context of the ‘hostile environment’ in the UK and the rise in xenophobia and racism which has accompanied Brexit. We extend this discussion into a broader consideration of ethnonationalism and histories of racism and empire to understand the value in connecting different geographical case studies in order to read a continuity and commonality between types of artistic resistance. Through a discussion of grassroots creative movements, we consider how different kinds of power structures have the potential to create more inclusive models for society and how creativity can become a crucial tool for enacting social change. Finally, the chapter introduces the chapters in the volume, all of which explore different dimensions of the arguments raised in the introduction.

in Creativity and resistance in a hostile world
Churnjeet Mahn, Sarita Malik, Michael Pierse, and Ben Rogaly

In this chapter we outline the theory and practice that undergirded our solidarity in the project. The chapter contains some of the readings, the references, the routes, that we all brought into the project to understand how creative forms of resistance have responded to hostile environments and why. We consider in particular how our work was inspired by bell hooks’ concept of ‘radical openness’, reflect on border art as resistance and expand on what we mean by interruption. At the end we consider some of the potential contradictions entailed when salaried academics attempt to engage in work that is radically transformational.

in Creativity and resistance in a hostile world
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Michael Pierse, Churnjeet Mahn, Sarita Malik, and Ben Rogaly

The conclusion brings together the range of learning across the book in relation to co-creativity, radical openness and creative interruptions in a hostile world. It suggests where the project has succeeded in developing creative interventions that disrupt the political status quo, while also conceding those areas where its attempts at doing so were scuppered or constrained by ideologies, orthodoxies and material practices. The chapter considers Henry Giroux’s concept of the ‘disimagination machine’ of neoliberalism and how the creative interruptions surveyed create resources and strategies with which to challenge the mechanisms of disimagination; it asks how we have used creativity to envisage alternative futures and connect with radical pasts.

in Creativity and resistance in a hostile world