The wealthiest, best-educated, least ethnically diverse 8% of the population are the main producers and consumers of publicly subsidised theatre. That’s what the Warwick Commission’s 2015 report into cultural value discovered.

The Commission’s report found that that “low engagement is more the effect of a mismatch between the public’s taste and the publicly funded cultural offer – posing a challenge of relevance as well as accessibility”. I see this as a social justice issue.

Why? Francois Matarasso argues that being able to shape your own cultural identity – and having this recognised by others – is central to human dignity and growth.

During a time of austerity – with ‘the cuts’ hitting the poorest hardest – we think it’s wrong for public subsidy of the arts to be used in such a way that it results in the production of work that attracts primarily white, wealthy, well-educated professionals to the theatre.

Brighton People’s Theatre is an intervention into this landscape. It’s an attempt to role model a different way of working in the arts by embracing the community instead of the market. The challenge is how to do this in an economically viable way.

Community vs Market

Credit: Diane Ragsdale

We agree with Arts Council CEO Darren Henley that creative talent is everywhere but opportunity is not. We think that one way to create opportunities for people to explore their creative talent is for theatre-makers to co-create work with community groups through a people’s theatre.

We will tour our shows to community centres across the city using a pay what you decide model of ticketing. Alan Lane from Slung Low describes this idea brilliantly in his blog here. We will also tour to theatres and arts centres elsewhere.

It’s an experiment.

Want to find out how we get on? Then get in touch and we will add you to our mercifully occasional and stunningly exciting newsletter. Don’t worry, there won’t be lots of them cluttering up your inbox.