Where do we start? Reflections on a performance-based debate model

Our case launch event 1st July 2014

The National Theatre Wales (NTW) Assembly is a performance debate event that responds to a local issue in a creative setting. It can be described further as a community-led dramatic experience that nurtures an exploration of one or several issues important to the local community in which the main production is being performed, leaving space during the performance for the audience to debate and react.

Our case launch event  July 1st 2014

The performance debate that launched this case study  followed the well established and successful model developed by NTW;  however four new elements were introduced

  1. First, it was developed in partnership with the Representing Communities Research team This marked the first time an Assembly organised by NTW will be planned in partnership with another organisation.
  2. Second, a key element of the NTW model is for the core question to emerge from the particular community itself. However, although in the proposed Assembly, the core question (or set of questions) will be developed by the partners and by members of the local communities, the Assembly will be rooted in some of the preoccupations underpinning the case study and indeed the Project.
  3. Third, a key theme within the Assemblies has been on a particular geographical area and so the notion of community has been – in the main – linked to those linked by a geographical area of interest that they share in common. However, the aim of the proposed Assembly is to open up discussion about representations of Butetown by exploring the significance of key sites (e.g., churches, community centres, voluntary organisations, pubs) that are of importance in how people have socialised, forged friendships, and gathered to attend significant life events. The Assembly is rooted in familiar sites where people have gathered innumerable times and where they feel ‘at home’.
  4. A fourth consideration will be the fact that although the Assembly will be open to people with an interest in Butetown, the specific focus will be on inviting and drawing out the experiences, perceptions and views of older African-Caribbean men and woman whose social networks are strongly linked with the area.

This was both a challenge and an opportunity which all partners  acknowledged and moreover, embraced. In the four days leading up to the performance the creative team worked hard to create performances that would  create  space for Caribbean migrants to reflect on the role key places and activities in Butetown may have on their lives when they arrived and settled in Cardiff;   to share the varying impact  Butetown has had on their lives through time and changing circumstances and to give people space to share what  ‘Butetown’ means to them today.

In terms of the case study, we also wanted to explore the Assembly model as one creative, participatory approach  of generating evidence about the everyday lives of communities. All members of the team creative reflected on this and their video interviews provide vital insight into the model that was used, as well as placing into local  context the links between the Caribbean and Butetown as linked to notions  community, of  (re) presentation and of  meaningful engagement.

It is from this point – by drawing on the insights of artists who have for years worked in Butetown and who are intimately aware of the links between Butetown and Caribbean migrants in Cardiff – that we began our move towards developing a framework of engagement and practice that would foster  meaningful co-productive exchanges.

Images: Liz Chambers, Simon Campbell  Videos: Tara Wyllie


“Butetown is the Caribbean and the Caribbean is Butetown” -Anthony Paul Corria aka Wellar, Performer

“Re-presenting ourselves” -Adeola Dewis, Visual Artist, Dancer, Performer and Assembly Artist

“Everybody THINKS they know Butetown…the people of Butetown are exemplars of community” -Keith Murrell, Assembly Director and Community Arts Activist

“The Assembly?…Hopefully they can inform what has people in Butetown’s best interest at the forefront” -Humie Webbe, Performer and Creative Arts Practitioner

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“Capturing the stories of my parents generation” -Tony Hendrickson, Assembly Stage Manager

Gavin Porter

“The Assembly Model works” Gavin Porter, Assembly Producer, representing National Theatre Wales, local Butetown resident and creative

 The trailer below,  along with a conversation captured with members of the creative team on their views of representation, community and belonging, provides further insight into the Assembly model as a method of community engagement. 


in conversation with

Caribbeans in Butetown Assembly: In conversation with the members of the creative team

asembly trailer a

TRAILER: Caribbeans in Butetown performance-based Assembly, 1st July 2014



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