‘Artists of Change’ take up residence in Lewisham Council

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Lewisham based, site-specific theatre company Teatro Vivo and London-based Arts Curator, Dima Karout, have taken up residence at the heart of Lewisham Council.

As ‘Artists of Change’, they will work directly with people on the frontline of some of today’s most locally and globally pressing issues: Teatro Vivo on the Council’s call to action around the Climate Emergency and Dima with those delivering Lewisham’s vision as the UK’s first Borough of Sanctuary.

The programme, which is running in partnership with Counterpoints Arts, has been designed to open up two-way conversations between the Council and its diverse communities. It will capture different perspectives and provoke new ways of thinking, highlighting the power of creativity to bring about change. The residencies were designed to culminate in artistic work, co-created with communities and presented publicly in LewishamThese outcomes will amplify voices of residents and spark conversations around migration and climate justice.

Over 6 months, theatre company Teatro Vivo was in residence within Lewisham Council’s Climate Resilience team, opening up ways of talking about the climate emergency and what it means for Lewisham in the context of London Borough of Culture.

The aim was to start a dialogue between the Council and wider Lewisham communities to explore and ultimately influence ways of working and the impact of policy. Actor-led street conversations and targeted community workshops took place in all 19 wards

In response to this experience, a new participatory theatre piece was devised that incorporated research from within the Council and feedback from across Lewisham’s communities about our relationship to climate change.

The project created new ways of listening and learning for everyone involved and a focal point for future conversation:

• 5-month research period within the Council and its residents
• Actor-led street conversations and targeted community workshops in all 19 wards
• 44 performances of Lewisham Speaks in public places across the borough – professional actors joined by a community chorus

Dima Karout’s project will culminate in an exhibition at the Horniman Museum from November and art book recording the process of her residency.

Dima Karout said “In a world shifting balance constantly, it is important that we ground ourselves within a vision of solidarity and welcome. This collaboration with the Council and communities will shine a light on the voices and actions of different local residents and groups working to make Lewisham a “Place of Sanctuary”. Together, we will reflect, exchange knowledge and cultivate our collective intelligence. We will work to adopt and empower a culture of generosity and inclusion.”

Mark Stevenson and Kas Darley, Joint Artistic Directors of Teatro Vivo said: “The Climate Emergency can seem overwhelming. Where do we start trying to tackle it as individuals and a community? We want this project to empower the residents of Lewisham to discover what is already being achieved and use the collective knowledge of the Borough to push for more, to share how people can get involved and finally to create a performance that shows local peoples’ aspirations and hopes for the future of Lewisham.”

Cllr André Bourne, Cabinet Member for Culture, said: “This exciting project will engage our diverse communities, provoke new ways of thinking and help identify creative local solutions to complex global problems. Tackling the Climate Emergency and creating a Borough of Sanctuary for all are both key priorities for the Council and I look forward to seeing how our Artists of Change can work with residents to inform our decision-making in these areas.”

Counterpoints Arts said: “We’re delighted to be working in partnership with the Lewisham team to consider what change we can imagine when designing a project that brings together artists, neighbourhoods, community organisations and local civic bodies. What we’re seeing already is that the Artists of Change programme, led by the work of Teatro Vivo and Dima Karout, has started developing entirely new collaborative approaches and ways of reflecting on how urgent global issues are experienced on a local stage.”