This blog is about Made By Mortals approach to coproduction and how it has been informed by the ‘Be More Pirate’ movement.
When you hear a word that you’ve heard before but in a new context- and where other people seem to understand what it now is/means- you panic. I know I did when first hearing the word ‘coproduction’ in a health and social care context. I nodded along and hoped that there wasn’t a quiz at the end of the meeting. My confusion was then compounded when I heard it in reference to Sam Conniff Allende’s brilliant book/movement ‘Be More Pirate’ – a book I had listened to and been inspired by after hearing the author being interviewed on ‘The Reasons to Be Cheerful’ podcast. Coproduction? Health? Social Care? Pirates? Coproduction has now become a central part of our organisation’s reason for existing, and here’s why:
Recently I met with fellow pirate Cat Duncan-Rees, coproduction advisor for ‘Think Personal Act Local’. She said, “coproduction is something you have to feel to understand.” You might say that this explanation is a bit fluffy, but then, I’m a person offering musical theatre based solutions – often dismissed as fluffy too. And I ask, how can you personalise public services without feelings? How can you humanise professional practice without compassion? The anti-fluff brigade can walk the plank, I’m with Cat. And I’m proud to co-run a whole company built on the bedrock of pure 9 carrot ‘fluff’. After all, I’d argue, a personalised and humanised approach to care delivers more effective outcomes, for more people and for less money- fluff and pirates is where it’s at me hearties!
The pirate code laid down in Sam’s book (I recommend you read it) has an emphasis on challenging authority and the ownership of ideas, innovation free from the ordinary, power sharing and how focusing on the micro can inadvertently create macro solutions. This is what coproduction is all about. It is what Made By Mortals is all about. We make people powered musical theatre shows and workshops forged by crews of community story makers with a diverse range of lived experiences (aka ‘real people’).
Our work provides organisations with a creative platform (a deck if you will?!) that helps people:
Feel that they have knowledge and experience that can meaningfully change policy, strategy and practice – irrespective of rank, education or status.
Feel listened to and heard by the people who provide their services.
Feel the joy of putting a ‘real person’ at the centre of how you think/talk/act around your practice.
Feel strength from understanding that everyone is on the same side.
Feel the support of their peers and community
Feel comforted and in safe hands knowing that multidisciplinary teams are able to work together in their interest.
Feel happy that the people delivering their public services are human beings too and can communicate with them in that capacity as well as offering them their expertise and professional help.
But more than this, Made By Mortals work aims to embed that pirate coproduction philosophy into the very make-up of our artistic output. What I mean by this is, our shows are an inclusive, immersive and collaborative experience. We use techniques that challenge people’s perceived understanding of theatre and how theatre works, of stories and how stories work and what an audience does and how they can interact within a performance. We challenge ourselves to innovate within our art form and discover new ways participants and audiences can engage with our work and through it drive the change they want to see. We create work that blurs the lines between performer and audience member- work that shifts the power dynamic and shares out the roles and responsibilities for the show’s success and content between everyone present in the room. ‘Real people’ perform in our work because the connection and investment an audience can have with that performer is more profound and life affirming than any professional actor can muster. ‘Real people’ work with us in the development of our work because then they are empowered to perform in it and share their experience from a place of leadership. ‘Real people’ take part in our work because they inspire others to take part and understand that their voices can and will be heard.
For us coproduction, is more than just about putting the right well-meaning people in the room together, it is part of the very fabric of our artistic reason for existing. It’s about providing a shared theatrical experience that simulates and celebrates the true meaning of coproduction and its power to bring about meaningful system change.