Who is an outsider? Can you ever be a total outsider? Surely, you are bound to be an insider on some level - be that of gender, race, class, nationality whatever. Even so, if we see identities as creative, transformative acts rather than fixed, i.e. coming together around certain cultural, artistic, ethical and political choices, their fluidity becomes clear. But is being an outsider to do with your cultural identity or is it to do with how you look at things, your take on reality and the choices and actions that inevitably follow from that? Or perhaps a combination of the two? And would outsiders coming together create an ‘insider’ space? Would external support be essential? What is a more creative space anyhow? Safety can lead to complacency but constantly fighting from the edges can be debilitating. Perhaps aiming for (rather than ever arriving at) a balance between danger and safety is where the best creative ideas are actualized.
Aiming for that space recently, I found myself getting restless and wanting to play around with new forms. Synchronicity offered me what I was looking for. I’ve just finished participating in Storm, a cross-genre event at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith, co-organized by the Lyric, Push and Graeae Theatre Companies. It was conceived as a way of responding to ‘outsiders’ within the theatre industry coming together, exploring different ideas and practices from the ones they already engaged with, and forging possible future collaborations.
Around forty people worked closely together, from morning into the night for a whole week. Egos were notably absent. Creative curiosity, sensitivity, action, spontaneity and equality ruled. Interactive workshops, scratch performances, open mike, immersive theatre, spontaneous interactions, Open Space: a ‘parallel universe’ to that of the external world was created. The energy, commitment and support stemming from the participants were almost corporeal. I felt totally inspired, energized and yes, deeply moved.
This event confirmed to me the exciting possibilities that can emerge when outsiders take control and create new, alternative, self-defined spaces rather than expecting things to happen. Nevertheless, support from dominant structures does open things up – the trick is to avoid being institutionalised by them.
BRAND has defined itself from the beginning at a skewed angle to the mainstream, i.e. outside it, but inevitably in relation to it. The space we have created is, I believe, one where outsiders become insiders to each other.
However, this current issue is to be launched at the Blue Room, Royal Festival Hall i.e. right at the heart of the Cultural Establishment. Does this mean we have joined the mainstream? Far from it. We are of course delighted to be part of the London Literature Festival and have a show at the Southbank but our identity, our content, our form are intact. We have not had to change a single page in order to make ourselves more acceptable to the mainstream. We are still both outside it and in creative conflict with it, which is where we most feel at home.