Made by Pirates? Our approach to co-production.

Paul Hine talks about Made by Mortal’s co-production approach.

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. That’s what happened to me on first hearing the word ‘co-production’ 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. I had listened to and been inspired by the book after hearing the author interviewed on the Reasons to Be Cheerful podcast. Co-production? Health and social care? Pirates? I’ll admit I was more than a little lost. Still, co-production has now become a central part of our organisation’s reason for existing, and in this blog I’ll talk a little bit about why.

What is co-production?

The Care Act 2014 defines co-production as “when an individual influences the support and services received, or when groups of people get together to influence the way that services are designed, commissioned and delivered.” Meanwhile, the ‘pirate code’ laid down in Allende’s book (which I recommend you read) 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. In short, it’s about disrupting the status quo, and status in general, and bringing about change that lifts up everyone’s voices.

Made by Mortals’s approach to co-production

This is what co-production is all about, and it is what Made By Mortals is all about. We make people-powered music 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.
Mark Warren, Managing Director of Oldham Adult Social Care, participates in a Made by Mortals event.

Recently I met with fellow pirate Cat Duncan-Rees, co-production advisor for Think Personal Act Local. She said, ‘co-production 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 music 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, 24-karat ‘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!

Shifting perceptions of theatre

Participants sit in a non-hierarchical circle during a performance.

Made By Mortals work aims to embed that pirate co-production philosophy into the very make-up of our artistic output. What I mean by this is that our shows themselves are an inclusive, immersive and collaborative experience. We use techniques that challenge people’s perceptions of theatre; how it works, works, 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. This work in effect 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 profound and life affirming, and very different their connection with a professional actor. ‘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 co-production, 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 co-production and its power to bring about meaningful system change.

Perhaps Made by Mortals shows, like co-production, are something you need to feel to appreciate. If so, please come and feel it soon and become one of the ‘fluffy pirate brigade’ and help drive ‘real people’- centred change!

For more details about booking our shows, please email Olivia at for more details about commissioning our work please emailPaul at

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