Spotlight on a co-production case study. Roger Davies writes from Golygfa Gwydyr, a social enterprise based in Llanrwst. “We are a non-profit, community led organisation operating a value-based process. Within the context of local community and place, our aim is to enhance social, environmental and economic resilience and to provide opportunities for personal growth and vibrant community relations.” Golygfa Gwydyr run several projects that contribute to the stewardship of community assets, and Caerdroia Theatre is one of them. (I urge you to check out their website!)
Golygfa Gwydyr established the Caerdroia site in 2006 with funding from Objective 1 (EU funding). The Caerdroia is a one-mile labyrinth path along which the audience walks whilst the performers act at specific locations. It is a community led theatre, from inception to performance, which we believe demonstrates co-production at grass-roots level.
Our natural environment can form a dramatic backdrop to any arts event. It has presence (spiritual, cultural and historical) and context (to landscape, community and time). We are part of our environment and our environment is part of us so there is a natural affinity between our creative endeavours, a sense of wellbeing and our landscape. Running an arts event in the woodlands as a co-production exercise with your community can develop this relationship.
The basic principles of community engagement revolve around community ownership and control. The community, and the forest, are our assets and we need to be mindful of their needs and expectations and we must value their input.
Our approach to engagement is to establish workshop events, ensuring the setting is neither formal nor unfriendly, e.g. a community hall or a pub. We make the event fun and interesting being careful to be inclusive; promoting reciprocity and trust between participants. If we have people with special needs or children wishing to participate so we try to enable this from the outset.
Our workshops utilise visual and interactive ways of developing ideas. We are aiming at a consensus, ways and means and next steps. The event will need people to organise, communicate, build, perform, and maybe get funding, so we all agree who is doing what. Co-production requires a flexible approach so we are always open and willing to change as community projects can, and do, generate conflicting ideas. We want our community to fully participate and have a sense of shared ownership; this way will have a better outcome and will have strengthened existing and new social networks.
When the performers are familiar with the theme, and have developed some ideas, we all walk the labyrinth and decide where each performer wants to be located. Many of our performances cover dusk and night so the sensations that come to both audience and performer (excitement, anticipation, fear, vulnerability) become a major part of the experience. We build on this and many report transformational and exhilarating experiences after our events.
In general we aim to have the audience go around the labyrinth one at a time as this really enhances a personal experience. Much of the time individuals are completely alone on the path and when they encounter the performers. This is when they reflect on the performances, theme and environment and generally relate these things to their own lives and experiences. At this point the individual, the woodland and the theme are connected.