July 13, 2020

The Uncomfortable Truth of our Personal Role in Combating Hate

Rebecca Friel
Odd Arts

Odd Arts uses ‘non-traditional’ theatre to challenge the way people see the world.  Our projects and workshops specialise in working with vulnerable, disadvantaged and excluded groups including within the criminal justice sector.

We aim to empower people to see their own world and the wider world in new ways.  Our theatre-making process and performances are influenced and underpinned by a number of psychological and behavioural theories or approaches (including non-violent communication; restorative approaches and are trauma informed).  We are always mindful that we are theatre practitioners and not psychologists, but at the same time we understand theatre is at its best when it changes or challenges the way people think, feel and behave....  Perhaps even more important when theatre exists within the criminal justice sector.

We create performances addressing challenges in society, such as radicalisation, domestic abuse, cyber-bullying, mental health (anxiety & self-harm), and sexual assault/consent. We deliver performance workshops to around 20,000 ‘non-traditional’ theatre-goers and venues, including:  Trainee construction sites, secure units, prisons, homeless shelters, schools, youth centres and religious institutions.  We also deliver longer therapeutic theatre programmes in various secure settings.

The workshop ‘Blame and Belonging’, which we are sharing via Insights, (in non-Covid times, a live and interactive theatre workshop; in Covid times an interactive online performance workshop) explores how individuals come to hold a belief so strong they are willing to hate, harm and even kill people that see the world differently to them. 

The workshop explores both the far right and DAESH inspired radicalisation (We try to refer to ‘DAESH’ rather than ‘Islamic State’ to avoid it being confused as something reflecting or influenced by Islam). It uses an interactive theatre technique to bring in audience members to try and influence the outcomes and prevent the harm being done.  Participants are asked to explore the process and vulnerabilities leading to radicalisation, seeing them as something that exists in our communities rather than an event that is separate to society. 

Often radicalisation, radicalised people, and those that commit terror are depicted as ‘aliens’ that land without warning.  Our work aims to unpick this and understand that all of us have the power and ability to combat hate, support vulnerable people and contribute to the prevention of radicalisation. 

Accepting that we all have a role to play is hard work, uncomfortable and takes ongoing consideration of how we challenge and engage with people we do and don’t know.   Sometimes we may even need to consider that the grievances of a radicalised person may be legitimate, and in order to prevent unacceptable hate and extremist views, we may need to take the time to support and understand the people who could potentially offer the greatest risk.  However, in these times of uncertainty, fake news, and division we think the belief that hate is not inevitable offers hope and a sense of empowerment.

If you are interested in finding out more about holding challenging conversations with people at risk of radicalisation please sign up for our Insights workshop on 21st July.


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