Hi Team,

I’m an over sharer so keeping this a secret for months has been bloody near impossible. I am finally allowed to announce that I am this year’s Our Place – Brighton Festival Artist in Residence for East Brighton. In addition, I have been commissioned to put on my most ambitious community project to date. Re-Enactment is wild, it’s literally wild and I’m so excited.

 “The Earth was made a common treasury for all” Gerrard Winstanley (1609-1676)

Listen, I’m not going to lie, this next bit is going to sound a bit dry but it’s true and it’s bleak. But I can reassure you that Re-Enactment is a joyous celebration of the activists and agitators who take direct action to help those most in need. OK, with that in mind please read on…

Re-Enactment is a project about poverty, land rights, the past and Great Britain. Each week in this country, more families tip over the edge and into food poverty. The Trussell Trust recently reported that community initiatives such as food banks are bearing the brunt of this crisis, with an exponential growth in users seeking support for persistent need, rather than temporary crises. Where once families could rely on the state for support, Britain’s welfare infrastructure has now dwindled to a standard not seen for centuries.

I make theatre about Britain’s enthusiasts. I specialise in bringing together people who don’t usually interact, in order to ask big questions about the society we all inhabit. Re-Enactment is my most urgent project yet: uniting Britain’s anti-poverty movement with English Civil War Re-enactment Societies. The lynchpin to this union is Gerard Winstanley, a radical and political visionary from the 17th Century who founded the pacifist Digger movement and challenged the social inequality of his day.

Winstanley saw the origins of poverty and social inequality in the inequitable distribution of land and set about taking it back. He led The Diggers in acts of quiet rebellion planting vegetables and toiling common land to create a sort of allotment activism. His work exposed the plight of communities left starving by the Civil War, as wealthy battalions focussed on fighting each other rather than preserving the communities they claimed to represent.

Who are the modern-day Diggers? the underground voluntary sector stopping starvation in our poorest neighbourhoods – taking matters into their own hands. The activists and agitators and the people who have been quietly toiling away looking after our land? That’s what I’ve been finding out.

And what happens as a mob when we reclaim our land? Old scrub land, full of bramble, litter and dog shit and turn it into a community garden to grow food. We’re also going to be doing this!!!

How can we recruit more Diggers? Getting people involved who have never gardened before. Creating a new cohort of enthusiasts. The closest to gardening I’d been previous to this project was watering a half dead spider plant. The mental health and physical benefits of connecting with nature and community has converted me. I’m now a confirmed tree hugger, call me Swampy Melody, don’t.

All this is going to culminate in a “Feastival” on 11th May. It’s FREE. And guess what? You’re not invited and that’s the point. It’s exclusively for the people of East Brighton.

For Re-Enactment I have been embedding myself into the Worlds of the English Civil War Re-enactment Society (I’m a musketeer) and vegetable growing. At the Feastival these two Worlds will collide. There will be a historical re-enactment of The Diggers (made up of vegetable growers and food volunteers) reclaiming land, a skirmish with The Parliamentarians (the English Civil War Society) as they try to reinstate the land, a choir singing Diggers songs, an authentic 17th century banquet for everybody cooked authentically over log fires, Mark Thomas, me dressed as Gerrard, performances, allotment activism, mischief and music. It will be part re-enactment, part demonstration and part live art piece.

Then one day once the dust has settled me and Mark Thomas are going to make a show about it all. You are invited to that.

Photo Credits
Top image Matt Stronge
MUA Sian Duke