An Exciting Collaboration with the ice&fire theatre Group

The end of November 2018 welcomed a very exciting pilot: an ice&fire theatre group collaborative project with Z2K and South West London Law Centre’s Stepping Stones project. The project is a participatory theatre group drama workshop with a focus on using arts and creative activism to explore human rights stories through performance. Z2K's Caseworker, Vier Baptiste, writes about the project.

Vier Baptiste, 13 February 2019

The end of November 2018 welcomed a very exciting pilot: an ice&fire theatre group collaborative project with Z2K and South West London Law Centre’s Stepping Stones project. The project is a participatory theatre group drama workshop with a focus on using arts and creative activism to explore human rights stories through performance.

Having previously collaborated with Z2K in the past on a podcast episode called ‘Fit to Work’ it felt like a natural progression to embark on.

The aim of the project is to work with clients who have a shared experience of accessing Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP) benefits and having had at least one work capability assessment and had been found ‘ fit for work’.

The group is being run over a period of 9 – 12 months in a participatory way to inform the wider public about the main issues affecting their lives. The group meet twice a month and the focus is on being a client to encourage the group to create a platform for their voice and to capture their lived experiences of living on benefits.

Although the group is facilitated by Christine Bacon, the Artistic Director of ice&fire, clients are encouraged to come up with many of the ideas and themes and steer how they would like to communicate their issues and concerns to the public. This has been a great way to empower the group and co-produce as they go along and has so far included singing, dancing and choreography. Christine talks about the project:

“At ice&fire, we produce a podcast series called Life on the Edge and in one of the episodes I met several Z2K clients who had successfully challenged a negative PIP or ESA decision with Z2K’s help. Many of the people I met reported feelings of social isolation so I later met with Z2K staff to propose a regular creative expression group for people who shared the experience of having to prove and reprove to the DWP that they were unable to work. From the very beginning, there was a real sense of solidarity and acceptance from everyone. And we have laughed a lot! So far, we’ve tried creative writing, singing and song writing, and expressive movement, with lots more planned”.

While it is still a new group it has already been received positively by the clients and the feedback has been very promising. One attendee said:

“coming to the groups has not only allowed me to meet new people but also to find my voice and discover different ways to express myself, I look forward to coming to every group session because I feel like people listen to me, and my ideas are encouraged and not ignored and I get to learn new skills like song-writing”.

As the project continues to grow, I have already seen first-hand some of the positive impacts that the workshops are having on the clients who have attended. As a Client Support Caseworker for Z2K in partnership with South West London Law Centre, I see the different issues that clients face and the effects that these issues have on their lives. Having a safe space where they can go to socialise with others who have a shared experience really helps to promote overall well-being, confidence and also a forum to creatively address their views and experiences.

My hope is that out of the project, a greater awareness can be made to inform and influence the public’s perceptions of what it is like to live on benefits, to be assessed as “fit to work” and what the reality and implications of these decisions and outcomes mean for clients who really are in need of the very benefits they are denied.

 

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