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Immediate Theatre – addressing social issues

Immediate Theatre – addressing social issues


How can theatre help discuss, explore and potentially resolve the ever-expanding social issues young people face in the UK, asks Tamara Siddiqui

Unemployment, drug abuse and knife crime are just a handful of the social issues  young people in the UK face today.

A theatre company based in Hackney east London, aims to try and address some of these social issues.

Set up in 1996 by Jo Carter, Immediate Theatre works with young people offering them theatre programmes and projects encouraging debate around some of the most prevalent issues and then creating dramas around their responses.

There are a variety of ways in which Immediate Theatre helps and allows people to express these social issues. Each project, such as Breakout/Exposure 2014 and Speech Bubbles focuses on specific issues while working with professional services to try and find resolutions.

A recent project saw the company delve into the issue of sexual exploitation. Once the group started on this project they realised that a lot of the young girls who had been involved in previous dramas with the theatre group, were getting excluded from school, which led them to discover they were at higher risk of sexual exploitation.

Carter explained: “We got the young girls together and said, ‘this is an issue, we want to create a play, for other young women about it.’ So they started working with us and with various specialist organisations about the beginnings of sexual exploitation, it got people talking.”

She continued: “By exploring issues such as this in a play, the young people are actually reflecting and learning through that, allowing them to make changes in their own lives or to recognise that they need to speak up about a certain problem and say, this isn’t right.”

Using art form and engaging with a company like Immediate, to interpret and discuss different issues, gives people a platform to express themselves, or tell a story.

Don’t Stop the Music is another of the company’s recent successes. It is an inter-generational project and film which saw youngsters aged 12-19 brought together with parents and grandparents to explore what they did for ‘going out dancing’ in the UK, from the 1950’s to date. The young participants interacted with the older generations by interviewing and filming them.

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Creating this film allowed the participants to explore the social issues surrounding the gap between generations. By joining together to share their experiences the people involved helped bridge this gap, while also learning many new skills.

Natasha Williams, a young participant in the film said: “The Don’t Stop the Music project opened the eyes of a lot of young people. I think they were surprised to see that many of the dance moves we use today actually came from the times of the older generations, so in a way it’s connected us all. This is an example of how Immediate helps resolve social issues and bring people in the community closer together.”

Majeeda Goodall, a project coordinator for Immediate, lists just a few more of the issues that the company has explored: Young parenting, gang violence, hoax calls, inter-generational problems, bullying and unemployment.

As well as being a way to address problems, Immediate also looks to improve employability for young people and create pathways for them in the field of arts. They aim to develop young people in order to build thriving communities for tomorrow. One of their methodologies is to seek long term opportunities, in the realisation that vulnerable young people need time to develop the confidence to reach their potential.

Jo says: “Immediate Theatre’s main work now is about providing the opportunity for young people living on estates, young people who are not supported by their parents to take part in arts activities.”

Although there are other organisations which help to combat issues through creative arts in London, for example Art Against Knives, Jo explains why Immediate stands out from the rest:

“The thing about us that’s different from other organisations is we don’t specialise in one subject, we specialise in understanding our local community. We may work with a group of people and know that there are domestic violence issues or sexual exploitation issues. We also know that there’s a mental health issue, it’s that very in-depth knowledge of a community that is our speciality.”

It appears that by giving the youngsters a way to interact with each other and discuss issues that affect them, they are able to develop and change as people. This is then the foundation for a stronger and better community for themselves and the next generation, which will only continue to grow.