Can art change society? Here’s news of an exciting new community theatre project in Leith which aims to get people actively involved in society by taking part in art. No theatre experience needed but an enquiring mind is useful. 

It sounds like a theatrical version of Leith Open Space, the voluntary group I am involved in, which is why Gavin Crichton got in touch.  Gavin is  director of the very innovative ACTive INquiry Theatre Company, who have just secured lottery funding to run Space workshops in Leith exploring what ‘public space’ is and what it should be.

People taking part will help shape a brand new piece of theatre for performance in April and at Leith Festival in June.  What a pity the workshop clashes with the women’s event I am helping to organise the very same day (Saturday 14 March).

For me art is now by far the most powerful way of engaging with people. Politicians are too afraid of confronting prejudice, too fearful of public opinion to tackle  big questions. (How do we achieve fairer taxes, rights for migrant workers in a global economy, meet both opportunities and threats of climate change…)

In Brazil, according to the ACTive website, Theatre of the Oppressed, uses theatre as “rehearsal for reality”.  As Gavin explains: “We work  in a type of theatre called Forum Theatre which actively engages the audience by enabling them to question what is happening in a play and even change its outcome!”

And not just the play. When spectators become actors the play can become reality. Incredibly in Rio de Janeiro, laws have been changed with the help of Legislative Theatre, a pioneering project developed by Augusto Boal, artist, activist and founder of Theatre of the Oppressed.

Could this be Edinburgh’s future?  Seems unlikely right now but one of the many things I like about Leith is the claim that it is “twinned with Rio de Janeiro.”


ACTive INquiry in action

Space workshops are free, from 1-5pm, Saturday 14 March in St James Hall, 12 St Johns Place, Letih. For more information or to book a place: email phone 0771 4321 629 or check the website

[a slightly different version of this blog is also on the Leith Open Space website]