Sunday, 23 January 2011

touched by fire..hospitality

Hospitality,a strange example to bring into the history of Oval House,more so when I'm talking about "resistance". What part did hospitality play in Oval House. It played a pivotal role in the development and concept within which we worked. Making individuals and groups fill welcome formed part of that elusive idea "community" of ideas. How did people felt when they entered the building was of paramount importance. A community of interest embraces diversity and invites an idea of acceptance, not just of the environment, but importantly, it challenges the concept of authority,it welcomes change whilst excepting the problematics engaged in change.We the workers, where placed in a position of being constantly evaluated.We raised expectations within a highly charged creative atmosphere. Hospitality invited conflict of exceptions.People gained a confidence to explore and question. We created a melting pot, boiling atmosphere,which could become explosive and chaotic. We worked in explosive times.
It was a small group of pioneer thinkers who opened the doors to the emerging struggle of Gay politics.I became a target from some groups who felt they had a foothold and position of influence in the direction of the club. Yes CLUB,we were a club first and foremost. The theatre formed part of a creative whole.In fact my concept at the time was to challenge the idea of "the script"and the role of directer.
When I invited Gay Sweatshop into Oval House I understood the challenge coming into the club.
The homophobic backlash took me by surprise, it was a fear which came from a small minority of white liberal groups and the hate they directed at me which I found shocking at that moment,It was the friendship and courage of Judy Knight AND Roz Price,plus the always supportive Pete Freer who helped me through this period of personal abuse.Hospitality is a difficult ideology to hang on to.
The arrival of sexual politics into the melting added fire to the brew.
A whole new political dimension was exploding onto the creative sensibility. Something nasty was coming our way and I still believe we under estimated the share vindictiveness of what we would experience. Not only was creativity under threat but more importantly the whole notion of community,community educational,community identity,community structure where about to be turned upside down.This is what we felt.WE miss under stood the full awfulness of the onslaught.But, luckily some of us had a history of political and community activitasism.We could fall back on the positive aspects of 60s radical idealism.Also we had established ourselves within the local community.Our programming insured we placed a huge importance on community involvement.Oval ran Christmas "kids shows" "Easter kids shows" and a full blown summer programme which embraced the local eastes and playgrounds.
We believed in the idealism of creative play,the ideas of construct and destruct and the right to fail. Play was embedded in the DNA of Oval House.From the days of Pete and Joan Oliver,right through to the mid 90s.Play and hospitality embraced that urge to challenge authority.Part of our weekend workshop programme insured we kept the anarchic elements of play alive and kicking by developing a highly successful Circus School long before such a concept took hold.
We always led the field in exploration and never saw the need to boast.Our ideas stemmed from our membership,it was there ideas and sense of challenge which kept the momentum flowing.
I have already said Oval House was, in those days,never a was a universal home for the imagination.We where known nationally and internationally for what we where. The theatre formed part of a greater whole. And it was this greater whole which helped develop the idealism and radicalism in an age of political attack from a rampant right.
We also ran a dynamic youth educational programme, every thing was integrated in a flexible boldness.Our experience and hospitality set in motion the framework to begin the acts of resistance which are in danger of being written out of history.People to are in danger of being written out. the 70s and 80s where a challenge to the cultural exploration of England, Oval House offered a home to that challenge. That was only one of the many dynamic experiences we offered. A place of safety. A place of experimentation,improvisation,growth,danger,courage,fun,
knowledge, experience,education, a creative volcano.
Importantly,we,the staff where not neurotically concerned with authority.Our role was always to be there and to encourage.We were motivators.

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