I’m struggling to find the right words to talk about the research I’m doing.
I’m not comfortable with participatory literature. Or participatory writing. This is partly because ‘participatory’ feels like a dramatic way to describe the act of joining in with something.
Creative activities that bring local people or gather together those with a common link is community arts. An artist makes work alongside a community, rather than for them. An artist facilitates the experience, not using the experience to stimulate their own work. Often, it’s not appropriate for one artist to have a louder voice than the others who share their stories. But I also am excited by projects that offer the lead artist to both support others and also create new work.
I hear performing artists talk of Applied Theatre. That is, using theatre practices in less traditional spaces. For example, with communities, with schools and in prisons. Applied Poetry could work, following similar principles, perhaps.
There’s other ways of describing this work, too. Writing in a Community Setting. That’s direct. Although should I say, Writing in, for, by and with communities? What is a community anyway? The word seems to negate the sense of individuals. And my writing always comes from life, from one-to-one conversations I have.
One term I do like is collaborative writing. It suggests working with others, innovation and embracing the unexpected. Authors and poets generally, historically, write books alone, but this is a different approach that creates different kinds of work. It fits with my previous projects, which try to bring people together or offer new ways of reading, or sharing writing.
What do you think?
(Image from a recent workshop I ran for emerging writers)