We recently caught up with our Participation Manager David Gilbert to ask him about Windrush Time Capsule, a Decolonising The Archive theatre forum piece that he's been busy directing. WTC is an immersive and energetic theatre project analysing African and Caribbean legacies through performance an visual display. Using a range of media and drawing on archival material, the play asks the question "what happens to a marginalised group that suffers the trauma of collective amnesia?"
Tickets are available now - Friday 26th October and Saturday 27th October. Get them now!
How did the collaboration with Decolonising The Archive (DTA) and The Africa Centre come about for Windrush Time Capsule?
The Africa Centre are close partners with DTA, so my first contact was mainly with DTA. It actually came from us doing SKFEST last year in Hackney. I randomly met the founder of DTA in the Hackney Library, when we were running our drama workshop in one of the library spaces. He comes up to me and was like "what are you guys up to?" We bonded quiet organically after that question and that led to me to writing his email in my dusty notebook at the time. Then, honestly, the rest is his/hertory. DTA is day to day run by Curator and Archivist, Connie Belle. We meet a few months later and really found a creative alignment in each other’s work and vision for the world.
Has Windrush influenced or informed any of your works before? If not, why now?
Hey... if you mean the time period of the Windrush specifically, I can't say it has or hasn't influenced my work. My work is influenced/informed by people more than the content - I'm always interested in things. I tend to work with a vast range of people from different backgrounds. However, I do remember looking into Windrush out of interest a few years back - there's a really cool photography book (that I'd recommend) about people of colour in London/UK in the 1950's; it explores the Windrush period, and gives you sweet visuals of how people swaggered then. I was just amazed by how cool peeps looked in there suits and that. Found it cool to know people like me have been here in London/UK way before me. Now doing this project I've come to realise that African and Caribbean people have been integrated into Europe many, many centuries ago!!! Your history is only as good as you know until you know more. Then you're like what?!! I'm more excited to see how doing this project affects my work in the next 10 years, as we're still developing it. It's too early to say now.
What was your favourite part of the piece?
For the version of Windrush Time Capsule we did at Africa Centre in June, there was one moment in the play that was just crazyyy! It's hard to explain with words but here goes... it was a dance sequence between a father and his son with a book about the history of pre-colonial Africa. The father was passing on this book to his son. *mic drop*
Windrush Time Capsule is a forum theatre piece. How effective was the audience participation in WTC and is that something you typically incorporate in your work?
I think we're still working out the best practice with how we can get audience participation vibing in the show. We had some really enriching post-show discussions with our audiences, which brought some good points for us to develop the idea of the Windrush Time Capsule as a forum theatre piece. In those post show discussions that we had, we learnt who the audiences' favourite characters were and why. We challenged some audiences to offer different behaviours for the characters to re-enact - which started to deconstruct the craft/ the separateness between the actors and audience. Opening it up to the audience to gain agency. From this space we could offer a few brave audience members the chance to jump up themselves on stage, and act out their desired behaviours in the context of the story of the Windrush Time Capsule. This is where we could explore more how to best do it I think. It's a very hard skill to get an audience member to get on stage without feeling like this is too weird!!
Why do things like this? I have done similar things in past work because I just want people engaged and excited when they see theatre. The shows I've always enjoyed have been the ones that have a really nice way of making you feel like you've been deeply considered and thought of it in the performance. That doesn't mean they've always put me on stage, no. But for me...yes a great way and simple way to create this welcome atmosphere is through forum theatre; inviting change and challenge - to get people involved a little.
Is there anything new you learnt about the Windrush generation after working on this project that surprised you?
When the Windrush Generation were back in the islands, they'd received a 'British' but, nonetheless, a good 'British' education. So, when they arrived out here in the UK - they obviously! - had high expectations for their children to get first hand 'British' education. But they got a shock, because what eventually became clear to them was, despite the discrimination they were immediately experiencing, they saw a lot of Britain's own people hadn't even received an education like what they had back in the Islands! So they tried to capitalise on this and send their children to these schools. However, discrimination wasn't going anywhere, even for their children. So the Windrush generation took it upon themselves to open up 100+ Pan African Saturday Schools across London/UK (not too sure on this) to make sure their children knew their history and were getting proper provision for the lack of it in the main education system so they're being nurtured by on a day to day. MAD!