Odd Arts – Blame and Belonging

‘Blame and Belonging’ is an interactive theatre performance and workshop designed to encourage meaningful debate around issues of hate, identity, and vulnerability.

The project is run by Odd Arts, a Community Interest Company which delivers issue based creative programmes with vulnerable and excluded groups. The project has worked with thousands of people in Manchester (of varied age, gender, ethnicity, religion and identity), within schools, Pupil Referral Units, religious centres and youth groups.

Firstly, participants take part in active debate around contentious issues exploring what lies beneath their own values and beliefs. They then watch a performance which explores four characters who struggle to exist without prejudice, discrimination or blame. After the performance, audience members are asked if anything could have been done differently to reduce the harm and hate. Those with suggestions are invited to the stage and try their ideas out (‘rehearsal for reality’) – offering opportunity to try out conflict resolution and communication skills to hold challenging conversations. In every workshop people have felt compelled to respond to the injustice they see on stage. Usually the things people practice on stage are active listening skills, empathy and non-violent challenge; if someone’s first attempt at improving the outcome fails, then they and others keep trying until everyone feels a realistic resolution or improvement has been achieved.

Feedback shows that the thing that most draws and connects people to the workshop is that it’s authentic and realistic to their own experiences; gives people a voice; and avoids stereotypes.