We need to get our own house in order

Written by Helen Cole

To lead change by changing first from within

In August last year In Between Time produced The Democratic Set with Australia’s Back to Back Theatre. Inviting a cast of extraordinary Bristolians to bring themselves, a simple idea and whatever props they needed. One hundred short performances later the film was revealed – the story of a city told through its people. An elderly couple dressed as Laurel and Hardy; a new born; 5 women leaping about on rebound boots; a man demanding to be seen as himself not as his disability.

Ruth slowly recites the names of 12 people; their ages, country of origin, age at their death. She takes time so that we hear her, so that we hear of them.  This is the only record of 12 people enslaved by her ancestor in Bristol in the mid 17th century. A slave trader’s descendent standing up for a film about the people of Bristol. Speaking their names, holding her ancestor accountable, remembering where the responsibility lies.

On 15–16 December 2014 a lone gunman held hostage ten customers and eight employees of a Lindt chocolate café in Sydney. Although the motivation of the gunman remained unclear, police treated the event as a terrorist attack resulting in 4 deaths and a backlash of anti-Muslim sentiment across Australia.  In a massive digital response, locals used the Twitter tag #illridewithyou to offer solidarity to Muslims travelling alone on public transport suggesting that they would be willing to “ride with” anyone feeling threatened. In her film The Ride Cigdem Aydemir invites us to ride with her, a veiled Muslim woman, shifting this power dynamic through the simple, playful sharing of a motorcycle ride.

Cigdem and Back to Back Theatre are just two of the artists in the In Between Time Summit. Taking place on 11-13 October, a dynamic three-day gathering of people from Bristol, the UK and the world. Interactive, stimulating, urgent, unmissable, focusing on the urgent issues of our day. Bringing together art, activism, conversation to combat intolerance through creativity; building a better and more equal future.

It will not be a surprise if I admit that at the centre of In Between Time beats a radical heart. Roughly every two years for the last 18 years In Between Time has produced an International Art Festival. From fog bridges, to glass kisses we have created incredible constellations of ideas and experiences, artists and people.

We used to feel that art’s job was to tell us things we would not otherwise hear.  But this doesn’t feel enough anymore. We need to get our own house in order.

To change who makes art, who experiences it and who is responsible for deciding what it is and is not. To question what being an artist means, what being an audience means, what being human means. The Summit is our first step towards achieving this.

In the producing of art we look out at the world.  A world we have brought to the edge of Climate Emergency. Patriarchy silences us; capitalism exploits us; globalisation dehumanises us; racism divides, oppresses and violates us. Politicians are untrustworthy, austerity has cowed us, and our rotten class system pitches us against each other. Is it any longer enough to simply look out at the world? Afterall this is a world we have contributed to making. We need to take responsibility, to own it and change it. Otherwise why make an international art festival at all?

At the heart of the Summit lies a series of pledges:

To change whose bodies are seen, whose voices are heard.

To travel less, spend longer, work deeper.

To work with exceptional artists and challenging ideas.

To welcome, listen and learn from hundreds of Bristolians.

To build a better future.

Dorothee Munyanaza has an incredible voice. It rises up through her body carrying raw energy and empathy as it builds. A voice that reveals truths that are horrific to hear. Dorothee tells the story of her homeland, of the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, the massacre of Tutsi’s by their Hutu neighbours from which herself and her family miraculously fled when she was 9 years old. An estimated 1,000,000 Rwandans were killed and 500,000 women were raped. In the UK premiere of her work Unwanted, Munyaneza delves into the unspeakable looking out at the world through eyes that have seen the depths we can sink to. Speaking it in order that her story becomes our story so that it can never happen again.

To start change we must listen.  To the voices of Dorothee, Cigdem and all those who will follow. Every artist, every activist, every speaker in In Between Time is exceptional. Sharing stories that are urgent and impossible to ignore. Filling this city with their voices; sparking tiny revolutions, feasts, conversations, parties, film and song.

If a 16 year old can catalyse a global movement then the power to make a difference lies in each of us.

Welcome to the In Between Time Summit.

With you alongside us, the change starts here.


2010 IBT10 Walking with flower © Manuel Vason