As Runnymede embarks on an arts and research-based project with Creative Interruptions, academics Sarita Malik, Panayiota Demetriou and Photini Vrikki explain what the initiative is, and why it's important.
Art is a catalyst. It can drive people, and add energy to advocacy and civic agency. It can reach communities and individuals on deep emotional levels, conveying through action what cannot be said with words. Art provides a space in which stories that are often overlooked or misrepresented by mainstream media find a voice.
Meanwhile, problematic representations of migrants, refugees and those deemed to be racially ‘other’ are widespread. Real people are being caught up in hostile policies and environments and this is impacting on their everyday lives.
With this in mind, Runnymede and Creative Interruptions are working together towards a festival event in June, which will explore how marginalised communities use the arts, media and creativity to challenge exclusion.
The event will be the culmination of the 3-year Creative Interruptions initiative. Bringing together activists, artists, academics and policy-makers. The festival aims to create new networks and facilitate local, national, and global debates surrounding the arts, media, diversity and inequality. It will combine talks with creative presentations and showcase project outputs
What is Creative Interruptions?
Creative Interruptions is a project funded by the UK Government’s Arts and Humanities Research Council. We conduct research and support diverse communities to explore the role of the arts, media and creativity in challenging forms of exclusion, including racism.
We examine past and present political turmoil in Britain and Northern Ireland as well as internationally, in places such as India and Palestine.
The overarching aim is to understand the experiences of these communities and how they are affected by institutional racisms, faith-based conflicts and/or nationalisms.
As well as more traditional forms of research such as interviews and workshops, academics have worked with collaborators to produce creative outputs using film, self-published magazines, virtual reality, theatre, and writing. This has opened up a space to hear stories and perspectives that systematically go unheard. In collaboration with Runnymede, our research findings will provide resources for policy-makers in the cultural and creative industries.
The themes of the Creative Interruptions project, which will be covered in our academic arts festival, include creativity, resistance, race and the legacies of British imperialism. They have never been more relevant. The 2016 Brexit referendum, the Grenfell tragedy, the election of President Trump in 2017, and the 2018 Windrush scandal, alongside the growth of far-right politics, have profoundly shaped the experiences of migrants. From those who have moved to the UK from Europe recently, to black Caribbean communities who have considered the UK their home for generations, no one has been safe from the latent xenophobia bubbling to the surface.
Meanwhile, the 50th anniversary of the Northern Irish Civil Rights movement (2018) has also offered an opportunity to explore how civil rights are exercised. Similarly, as nationalisms intensify in India alongside the 70th anniversary of Partition of India (2017), the experiences of artists, writers and musicians can reveal to us how art responds to past and current circumstances. And as the struggle for Palestine endures, the team has been working on the restoration and circulation of films describing the Palestinian experience, as well as providing some context for this little known cinema.
Creative Interruptions’ other outputs
As suggested by its title, Creative Interruptions looks at how marginalised communities find creative ways to both resist and ‘interrupt’ social structures that cause race and class-based inequalities.
Our research in the east of England provided a space for the stories of people working in warehouses and factories, which you can see in this short film: Workers.
Meanwhile, BME filmmakers and podcasters have used the Creative Interruptions platform to discuss how they use the media as a tool to resist racism in the UK. For example, BAFTA-nominated director George Amponsah has been specially commissioned to make a documentary tracing how black filmmakers have used screen culture to address racism in the UK since the 1970s.
In India, Creative Interruptions has offered a temporary home for a group of artists based close to the India- Pakistan border in Preet Nagar. Including living memories of Partition, the work is responding to issues of memories and loss across borders.
Through these outputs and many other, Creative Interruptions is demonstrating that theatre, film, and other creative forms can and do build important spaces to share and enable social change.
If you are interested in finding out more, please check out the project website: https://creativeinterruptions.com/.
If the Creative Interruptions project excites you and you would like to have a presence at the event in June, find out more here: https://creativeinterruptions.com/festival/