Common Wealth Theatre is a company based in Bradford that makes site specific work, centred around political and contemporary issues. One of the defining features of the company is the use of community elements within their shows. Often involving a community chorus alongside professional actors, Common Wealth seeks to diversify the theatre landscape through the involvement of working-class people in the creation process.
As part of this mission Common Wealth also run a political, creative and social space led by girls and women called Speakers Corner. They hold regular events that are aimed at bringing people in the community together to create positive action around themes such as mental health, female empowerment and international activism.
As part of their recent programme I attended a panel discussion event, International Activism: Solidarity with Kunan Poshpora. This took place on 5thFebruary at Speakers Corner. As marketing and communications assistant, I was asked to produce a podcast of the event for online distribution to spread awareness and a message of solidarity to a wider audience and those members of the collective who could not be present at the event.
Saliha Rubani (producer for Speakers Corner) addressed the room – “Protesting and activism is all a part of our history. We are all women, so look at the suffragette movement, then you look at the civil rights movement in America and look at the protests that we’ve had constantly in this country. We are able to have these protests. The fact that we can get stories from different parts of the world, without threats of violence, makes it so important that we carry on talking about these things and trying to make a difference.”
The event was attended by 15/20 women aged 15 to 50 who all took part in a group discussion based around themes of sexual violence towards women. After hearing an account of the mass rapes that took place on 23rd February 1991, a map of Kashmir was cut into sections and attendees wrote messages of solidarity for the brave women who continue to fight for justice. These were then sent to members of the Kashmir Solidarity Movement in an attempt to provide hope through the knowledge that the international community was still thinking of them.
At the end of the session the girls grouped together to make banners to march in Bradford town centre on the anniversary of the Kunan Poshpora Incident. This event demonstrated the desire of the young people in Bradford to learn, help and make a difference, highlighting the power of the arts to inspire active change within communities and across the world.
Ella Dufton is an MA student in Arts Management, Policy and Practice.