Partisan Productions, in collaboration with Clanmil Housing, has developed an innovative forum theatre show inspired by people living in or near-by shared housing in South Belfast.
Clanmil Housing, one of Northern Ireland’s leading housing associations, provides almost 6,000 homes for people to live well across the region. They believe that shared housing – giving people the choice of living alongside people from many backgrounds and traditions in neighbourhoods that are welcoming to all – is the route to a more shared society in Northern Ireland.
As part of their Good Relations Programme, Clanmil approached Partisan Productions to develop a forum theatre show to be performed in the Ballynafeigh area of South Belfast.
Partisan Productions is supported through the Community Relations Council’s Core Funding Scheme.
And the resulting play will form a series of forum theatre shows entitled Shared? to be shown during Good Relations Week.
Shared? is a thought-provoking, funny and moving depiction of contemporary housing issues and the human lives behind the social housing statistics and stereotypes.
Life in shared housing developments
In 2017, the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey indicated that 78% of people in Northern Ireland would prefer to live in a mixed area. However, most social housing estates across the region are mainly segregated in terms of religious background.
Clanmil Housing Association manages seven shared housing developments across Northern Ireland, including the Port Building in the Ballynafeigh area of South Belfast, and are currently promoting a further two.
This is why Clanmil approached Partisan Productions with the idea of developing the play Shared?
Fintan Brady, Partisan Productions playwright, consulted with Clanmil tenants, members of the local community and other stakeholders during the script writing process.
Fintan said: “We wanted the storylines to genuinely reflect the experiences, issues and aspirations of people who live in or alongside areas of shared housing.
“As a result of these conversations, the scripted part of the play also addresses some issues about social housing in general. Whether it’s real, perceived or rumoured, we gathered a lot of ideas and beliefs about the housing selection process, who lives in social housing, economic and class differences, and gentrification.”
Forum theatre is designed to encourage candid discussion of societal issues, often among oppressed or underrepresented groups.
It takes the form of a conventional play but, after observing the show a first time, it is performed again while a “joker” character invites audience members to intervene.
“Audience members can stop the play at any point, make suggestions, or replace a character and attempt to change the course or outcome of the drama,” Fintan explained. “Spectators can become spect-actors, make suggestions, or they can simply observe and enjoy the show. We certainly won’t be putting any audience members on the spot!”
Lively and participative
Although the play’s storyline delves into substantial issues, Shared? will also be a fun and engaging show.
Speaking of his previous experiences with the theatrical form, Fintan said: “The unscripted nature makes it lively and sometimes very comical.”
It is at heart a show that is led by interaction with the audience, while also delving into important Good Relations issues.
“We are delighted to be able to offer such an innovative approach to improving community relations which we hope will help influence future housing policy in relation to shared neighbourhoods and in general,” Philip Whyte from Clanmil said. “The play is expected to develop over time and we hope to tour it, taking in the other locations where we manage shared housing, such as Banbridge, Crossgar, Dundrum, Newcastle and Newtownabbey.”
Attend the event
Shared? will be shown in a Big Top circus tent at Ormeau Park in Belfast on 20-23September 2022 – during Good Relations Week.
Tickets to the play Shared? are free of charge and available through Eventbrite – book your ticket now
For further information, contact Karen at Partisan Productions by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
About Clamil Housing Association
Clanmil continues to work in partnership with local Advisory Group stakeholders, and with residents to develop each scheme’s Good Relations Plan. The organisation’s Good Relations activities are part of Housing for All, the Department for Communities and Northern Ireland Housing Executive’s Shared Housing Programme, which forms part of the Programme for Government.
Read more about the Together: Building a United Community (T:BUC) strategy
Find out more about the Shared Housing Programme