For the I_Improve project, each partner organisation (of which Intercult is one) must choose a change maker. The change maker can be an organisation or a person with whom the partner organisation will work to ensure the success of the project. We had a long process in choosing our changemaker, as we long deliberated what it was exactly that we wanted to improve. Initially, we were working with three wonderful organisations that all touched our hearts with their commitment to both their art and to their local communities. But after some soul searching, we realized what it truly was that we needed and wanted to improve on: community building. We were all heart warmed when we saw the amazing community our soon to be changemakers had built around them, and how they involved that same community in every step of their art making process. Community and art were one. This is what we wanted to improve, and so we finally paired up with our fantastic changemakers Livet Bitch!
Livet Bitch! (translated as Life Bitch!) is a collaborative project between cultural organisations, stakeholders in theatre, arts and music, organisations and stakeholders that works with equality and representation from civil society as well as the municipality of Södertälje. The very committed leaders of the group are Grete Havnesköld and Johanna Thor, who are two out of six founders. It is their wish for Livet Bitch! to exist for all of the young women and girls in Södertälje who have an interest in theatre and would like to be a part of creating modern performing arts. The aim of this platform is to give young women and girls the possibility to take part of the cultural sector and our public space, regardless of background.
A little bit about how they came to be:
Livet Bitch! Started as a workshop within the framework of a theatre festival in the Swedish town of Södertälje, during the autumn of 2011. At that workshop there were three professional actresses and three 17-year-old girls. Already at the start the project had the vision that it wanted to be of significance to girls and women in Södertälje. Livet Bitch! Saw the need to create a privet room only for women and girls, where it would be safe and fun for them to explore theatre and storytelling. The founders of the project wanted the cultural sphere not only in Södertälje but the whole of Sweden, to be more diverse. This is shown in their work, where they provide and create a space for stories that are not often shown or heard. Thanks to the hard work of everyone involved, Livet Bitch! has since then had sold out shows that are deeply rooted in the local community of Södertälje.
Livet Bitch! has recently published their own method: a 3-step method of how to create a safe and creative space where young women and girls can learn and produce community theatre on their own terms, and where their own stories lay the artistic foundation. As the changemaker in the I_Improve project, Livet Bitch! will work together with Intercult to grow and produce a method based on their existing one. However, this new method will be based on community building for the cultural sector as a large. What we found that many cultural operators (us included) are missing methods to connect and expand our local community. Our developed methodology will help cultural organisations all over Europe to expand their knowledge of community building and audience development.
Livet Bitch!’s own method shows and teaches how to be a safe, inclusive and creative space, where the participants own stories take centre stage. Below follows a very brief presentation of their method, which can be read in full here.
One of the keys in this method is leadership; the person leading the work needs to enable inclusivity, and a participatory and listening atmosphere. That kind of leadership and the participatory process is the premises on which the rest of the method stands upon. From these key factors, an important dialogue and creative conversation with the local community can follow.
The participants from the community share their stories, experiences and needs. At the same time, allow time for everyone to explore the dynamic of the group. Make sure every participant is given attention and room for expression.
Artistic process starts
This is where the leader must choose which stories that are going to be incorporated into the artistic process, and adapt the story to fit the format of a play. Here it is essential that the leader makes the choice in a fair and gentle manner, that the other stories which have been shared but not chosen are treated respectfully.
Artistic process deepens
This step is where the story starts to become dramatized. There is more artistic work with the participants, with a continuation of working with the group dynamic. It is important to be aware of the social norms within the group. Behaviour such as sighs, negative comments etc. must lead to dialogue about why a safe space is necessary and what the group together with the leader can do to ensure this.
As the process now moves to become more artistic and focus is more on forming the theatre play, having a flexible leadership is important. Listen to the groups needs as you plan the drama lessons; what types of drama exercises are suitable for your group and this process? Make sure you have a goal with each lesson and also know what the end goal is.
As a method for community theatre, it is important that the practitioners of this method have an established contact with their local community. The group leader is responsible for the safety of the individuals in the group, and to ensure this a close contact with other stakeholders within the local community is necessary. Social norms and accountability in a community is decided by many factors, and the more information and the bigger the safety net – the more informed you are in order to ensure you do right by your group.
That was our brief summary of this valuable and generous method for community theatre, written by Livet Bitch!. Again, if you want to read about it more in depth, you can find the method book here.
We are over the moon excited to be collaborating with Livet Bitch! and cannot wait to begin developing our joint, new method on community building within the cultural sector!
All images, except the last one, are borrowed from Livet Bitch! and they have full photo credit.