From the community, for the community

by Humira Imtiaz

I moved to Middlesbrough eight years ago and it took me a while to set down roots, so Stockton is a recently discovered destination for me. But it’s also become a favoured destination due to my relationship with Stockton ARC Centre. It’s led me to pursue creative writing and become a member of ARCADE, their network for performance artists, which allows me to see many performances for free. Being able to watch as much performance art and theatre as I have over the past year is helping my writing exponentially.

With this membership I have become a regular visitor of Stockton and discovered that this ‘lovely’ town is host for a variety of performances and holds its own cultural art festival, Stockton International Riverside Festival (SIRF), annually. The performances I have been to see range from surreal to breathtakingly awesome – of course you always see one which disappoints, but if it inspires you to do/find better and allows for intense discussions with friends, any performance can be enjoyable to an extent. Going to the theatre or odd social club to see a performance has helped me become part of a community, befriending people whom I may never have met due to never stepping out of my comfort zone.

My personal tastes have also been challenged and I feel like I have discovered a part of myself. At times I have been surprised at what I have enjoyed, and what I like in performance pieces. There is something pure and personal in these intimate performances, which can be cherished by the audience. I really think we as a community need more performance art in our lives, to help aid in building friendships and discovering different experiences.

Performances within large cities get a level of promotion from the national newspapers, such as the Guardian or Independent – but this is not how I am able to get the information I crave about what is happening locally within the community, particularly Stockton and Middlesbrough. We need to showcase the amazing work that is happening to more extensive audiences. Art is for all and not those who seek it and we need to encourage the public, who think performance art is a little too different for their tastes, to be a part of the audience and discover these unique performances and experience the magic of their local community – especially Stockton where they have such amazing facilities. We need to encourage the public to have an input in what they wish to see within the public sphere of art and performance, not only local to them but nationally.

This is why I wanted to join the North East Artist Development Network’s Reviewers’ scheme (have a quick look at this lovely website full of reviews!). One of the big positive aspects of this scheme is how it encourages the local community to take part in the performance process, even if that’s just letting others know what is out there. Plus, from a personal perspective, the scheme let’s me see what other performances are out there, beyond Stockton. So far I’ve seen one performance piece in Newcastle, but I am sure there will be more to come soon!

But my friends and I are also trying to raise awareness about performance within the Teesside area. Our vision is to have a platform where all artists can freely promote their work, performance, exhibitions, etc. This is a shameless plug, but: Arts Events Teesside has been set up on Facebook to share dates and times of events for the public, and a few critical thoughts on performances we have attended. We are hoping to encourage the community to join in on what is available right on their doorstep, whether is it big events such as SIRF or some small performance down at the local pub. Once I myself had a small taste of watching performance pieces, I began looking for ways to keep actively going to more events but at times I have found it difficult to find information on what was on within my locality and beyond. I really feel that by joining up with others in the community, we can share what is within our area and show others the talent of Teesside.

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