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Taking the Lead

Taking the Lead

Funded by the Getting Creative with Sustainability programme at the University of Warwick, this project focused on Underground Lights, a member-led and trauma-informed community theatre organisation for people experiencing social disadvantage, homelessness, and/or mental health issues.

Underground Lights was a springboard company at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry from 2019-2022, and still runs its creative workshops in association with the theatre. Through participant observation, conversations, semi-structured interviews, journal entries and photography, the project fostered conversations and knowledge sharing around what it means to be a values-led and lived experience-led organisation, how that's evident, and what alternative working models this demands. It was about exploring with Underground Lights staff and members how their commitment to core values (identified as being Creative, Community-led, Compassionate and Connected) played out in their workshop processes and performance events.

Broadly informed by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (especially: SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being; SDG 10: Reducing Inequalities; and SDG 17: Partnerships), the project explored how both organisations contributed to the health, well-being and resilience of citizens in the city, and played a part in reducing inequalities in terms of cultural access and participation. It also considered how the partnership between Underground Lights and the Belgrade enabled both organisations to evolve through mutually reinforcing values, goals and practice, contributing to future sustainability.

The project report will be of interest to policy makers, as well as arts and community organisations who aim to be member-led and trauma-informed in their practice.

"I think being in Underground Lights has definitely helped me be more forthright…More able and willing to stand up and speak because you have to do that in drama anyway - there is no getting away from it and I guess you just get more used to standing up and speaking or performing or doing something so that kind of moves into your real life then, you know, I think I can get up and do a silly movement in front of a group of people then surely in my real life I can stand up and say something that is important to me, so that has definitely helped my confidence"

- Hayley Harman, Underground Lights

"From our perspective I don’t know if the member-led aspect of UL has affected this building in terms of how we interact with UL, but we have learnt a lot about our own practice through watching that journey of them becoming a member-led organisation…It’s been brilliant to be able to see that journey and to learn from it and borrow from it ourselves"

- Hannah Barker, Belgrade Theatre