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Cardboard Camp Plymouth

Here in Britain’s Ocean City, Plymouth, we have a thriving artistic hub. Many local artists, and arts organisations use their skills to reach out to varying pockets of the city where creativity can be an entirely foreign concept. As a city Plymouth is ranked fairly high up as one of the most-deprived areas nationally, with the Stonehouse area of our city in the 1% of the most-deprived in the country. With this in mind it isn’t a surprise that socially engaged artists in the area frequently come face to face with the recurring ideas that arts activities are only for the elite, that creative opportunities are only for those who can afford it, and that generally being creative ‘isn’t something for me’. Though we recognise that there are many barriers that prevent people from engaging in creative activities, we at the Theatre Royal Plymouth, alongside many others in this city, are working hard to break those barriers down for the benefit of all.

As the Community Development Producer at the Theatre Royal Plymouth, I am part of a large Engagement and Learning department where participant centred outreach is at the heart of what we do. We know that taking part in creative workshops allows crucial time for self-expression and reflection, provides a safe space for socialisation and creative experimentation, and overall promotes individual and collective wellbeing. Introducing accessible and inclusive creative opportunity to people of all ages, and walks of life, is at the forefront of our mission.

Creating partnerships with invaluable local charities, and support services allows us to take one step closer to breaking down some of the aforementioned barriers. We work together to change perceptions, shout loudly about the work each other are doing, and sign post people to one another. A large portion of our partnerships are made up with local homelessness, housing, rehabilitation, and mental health services, meaning a lot of our work, like our flagship project Our Space, aims to engage adults with multiple and complex needs in theatre workshops and performance opportunities.

Aside the important everyday creative engagement we encourage, we are also passionate about creating authentic performances which put untold stories, from unheard voices on our stages. Providing a platform for people to feel valued, and tell their story on their own terms. So when the opportunity came up for us to partner with Cardboard Citizens on the Cardboard Camp project, we knew this would be an exciting opportunity to create a national partnership where shared learning would be ample.

The beginnings of this project which took place at the start of this year, proved that the Cardboard Camp was going to bring about an exciting shift in how we use theatre to tackle social and political change. Asking the question often: how can arts be utilised more by community, voluntary, health and social sectors to help amplify their voices, enhance their day to day work, and benefit the lives of their clients?

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© 2015 by Alexandra Ogando

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