It’s true. In the debating chamber of the Scottish Parliament yesterday a majority voted in favour of a maximum wage, a cap on bank bonuses and renationalisation of the railways. Whatever will the News Group do tomorrow?
OK, this is the Festival of Politics and yesterday the chamber was occupied by people who had come to hear Annie Lennox, Martin Bell and Mark Thomas discuss Power of the People. It was Mark Thomas who put the ideas to the vote: “Can I be a little cheeky?” he asked. And how was deputy presiding officer Alisdair Morgan going to refuse the man who has toured Britain collecting some wonderfully progressive ideas for his People’s Manifesto.
So anything can happen in the Festival of Politics. And on Day 5 – Saturday 21st to be precise – we are about to find out what lies in store when you invite people to bring the news stories that are making them mad to an experimental drama workshop.
Leith Open Space is joining ACTive Inquiry, the radical theatre group, to present News Group, a drama workshop exploring topical issues. The idea is to encourage people to take an active part in events rather than passively consuming all the media throws at us 24 hours of the day. (In the monthly workshops we have grappled with the public sector cuts, the global response to the Haiti earthquake, and the Big Society.)
News Group uses drama techniques to analyse current affairs but it also employs Open Space democratic processes and everyone in the group is equally important. The Open Space process began with Harrison Owen, an American consultant who has specialised in mediation work with large and diverse groups. His work in Africa taught him that people communicate most freely when they sit in a circle where everyone has an equal chance to talk and listen.
Interestingly, at yesterday’s discussion in the debating chamber Mark Thomas also commented on the significance of the seating arrangement; the chamber’s semicircular plan deliberately encourages consensus in contrast to Westminster’s confrontational layout.
On the way out of the Parliament we took a quick peek in the Education Centre where the News Group takes place on Saturday. It can fit a maximum of 30 people so it will be a tight circle if the room is full. But it will expand to accommodate a world of news. And who knows what will happen.