Radio Europa, Brega Park was about politics and waste - a trans-continental concept rooted in working-class culture and making something out of nothing. It culminated in VIVA THE LIVE! which brought together artists and participants from the project in a live global broadcast on YouTube.
The year of 2021 – the second year of the pandemic – was a time when circumstances demanded innovative methods and ways of working.
This project took place within this context, looking back to an era of low-fi television before the internet and to the future with a world in which physical travel and therefore international collaboration will need to be conceived of differently. In this way, it made creative use of existing technological devices and platforms, finding imaginative ways of fulfilling the aims of the project.
This was an excellent opportunity to deepen our international relationships in ways that would have not been possible without this funding.
It also was egalitarian and democratic in its conception, featuring the work of hundreds of artists and creative facilitators who enabled audiences to be makers and performers, contributing their own perspectives from a diversity of cultural contexts and perspectives. It was multi-lingual (English, Portuguese and Spanish) and multi-artform, working singularly / at distance but joining together using the digital architecture available.
The primary innovation within the project was the dynamic use of WhatsApp not only as a platform to connect people but as a means to guide creative practice.
The result was a divergent range of outputs that reflected on the global challenges of the time, notably the impact of Covid-19 and what it demonstrated about the state of the world today.
- The project used a series of ‘labs’ in which participants were treated as creatives, rather than participants in a workshop. This gave them respect and credibility as contributors to the overall project outputs, whilst also ensuring that they progress and learn new skills.
With this project, every participant was a maker. This meant that we had to brief all facilitators that they weren’t there to teach, they were there to provoke and support. They were teaching some things but only with a purpose of empowering the participants to make their own things.
- By working collaboratively with partners in different countries, it becomes possible to tap into their contacts and networks. In this way it isn’t a centre and periphery but an overall network collaboration with different centres or nodes which are then connected to the other points, increasing speed and efficiency.
Each creator also then becomes a new node, becoming the new centre of another network.
- The technology in this project was almost entirely ‘pre-existing’, globally available and relatively inexpensive. This meant that artists and participants could make use of it without needing high spec technology, so they could use it on their mobile devices immediately and without much training, so they could concentrate on using the technology to enable and provide ways of being creative and expressive that could be carried across the world.
- The project partners paid special attention to the way that the technology needed to be adapted for disabled people, meaning that everyone had an equality of input.
The new digital skills and capacities were specifically focused on the inclusion of disabled artists via WhatsApp [which included a] tailored workshop to make sure they were familiar with all the features of the app and felt comfortable with some of the elements we would ask them to do such as sharing photos, videos and voice notes. […] we adapted the script and activities to be accessible for each participant. The access varied. For example, blind participants were offered alternate tasks such as creating audio descriptions.
- This project demonstrates the power of ‘asymmetrical collaboration’ in that each partner has a different sort of contribution in which they bring their own strengths and expertise. It is not necessary to try and align partners so that they are all the same, meaning it can also work at different scales and with varied sizes of partner sets or organisations. Related to this, there should be delegation of responsibilities and curation, which also makes for efficiency of operation. It is about equal valuation of contributions rather than similarity of type.
- Keeping the outputs or end of the project open allows space for different contributions and varieties of content. It also gives participants the freedom and confidence to overcome any obstacles or preconceptions that they might bring to the situation.
- The project demonstrated that a project can be serious in intent, enabling international collaboration and artistic exchange, whilst also being humorous, entertaining and enjoyable. This helped to create an environment which, in the final output (Viva The Live!), could be imaginative without being pretentious and incisive whilst also being funny and engaging.
- The record and archive of the project are available online (see below).
- The Viva The Live! streamed output demonstrated a way of sharing the work which could be reproduced and/or used again as a platform, though this would be funding-dependent.
- Follow-up projects developed out of / built on the work will be presented during the summer and autumn of 2022, for example at the LIFT festival.
Project Offshoots: ZAPLAB
The WhatsApp-based instruction-led creative laboratory model of Radio Europa, Brega Parque has since been developed and adapted into four further facilitated sessions titled ZAPLABs. ZAPLAB is a series of prompts, instructions and activities, over 3-8 days, delivered via WhatsApp, asking participants to take on a new ‘role’ in their relationship to their work, questions and context. Each day invites a concrete creative output from participants, some visual/image-based, some text-based, some sound-based, asking participants to engage with their environments in different ways. The tasks start from the individual, encouraging introspection, and work outwards.
The ZAPLAB model is easy to re-write for various collaborative context and was developed as a means of connecting and cross-pollinating mixed artist, practitioner, researcher and artist-researcher communities. This has been deployed as a creative community-building catalyst in four different arts and arts-research contexts:
- a scoping workshop for the development of a new Research Institute at the University of Greenwich, London
- a build-up event to the launch of PARKE (Practice As Research & Knowledge Exchange) Café (University of Greenwich, London)
- a forum for sharing, developing and hybridising provocations and creative responses as an introduction for a group of performance-researchers working together as a Performance As Research Working Group at the IFTR (International Federation of Theatre Research) World Congress 2022 (Reykjavík, Iceland)
- a digital laboratory for Portuguese-speaking people (ZAPLAB BR), bringing people together from within a challenging and polarised national political situation as part of the Oi Futuro Cultural Program (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil).
Participants’ daily mini-artworks are shared with the guide-facilitator via WhatsApp and the process culminates in a flexible sharing event (via Zoom, in person, or hybrid), where the content created is amassed, presented as a larger patchwork entity, and interrogated.
Project lead quotation
It helped us to develop what we call our ‘post-immersive manifesto’ as we believe there are problems with the idea of immersive theatre. It [immersive theatre] tends to cater to an audience that can afford really expensive tickets and it promotes this behaviour of greed and pleasure-seeking individualisation of audiences. So, what you have is an opportunity which could be transformative but becomes a way of training how to become the worst version of yourself, elbowing your way out of the way to find a secret location or have a VIP experience.
Instead, we use game design as a creative tool and have spaces where anyone can engage without feeling uncomfortable about its cleverness. Then, once people have not been put off by the way these things are set up, then they can be wild and offer depth and take them on a journey.
Evaluating a Salford cultural and education partnership which co-creates theatre with children and young people.
How The Audience Agency is innovating to help art galleries find out more about their visitors in a fun and interactive digital way.