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Human Rights, Bloody Human Rights

Business human rights abuse was explored through participatory theatre, allowing audiences to engage with the issues on stage by suggesting potential solutions.

Human Rights! Bloody Human Rights!
  • School/Institute/Department: School of Law, School of Drama
  • Subjects: Participatory Theatre, Human Rights, Law, Drama
  • Audience: Policy makers, NGO’s, Lawyers, Private Corporations, the Interested Public

“Human Rights! Bloody Human Rights!” integrated Queen Mary research on the corporate exercise of power with participatory dramatisation, using a novel approach to inform and engage both core communities of interest and also a wider public about complex recurring legal drivers of business human rights abuse.

The project worked with others within and outside of higher education to create interactive performances that captured the core of the most complex problematic case studies of corporate power violations of human rights. 

The centre piece consisted of three plays written by Professor Alan Dignam, Professor of Corporate Law. Through interactive forum theatre, developed by Brazilian playwright Augusto Boal, the three plays encouraged audiences to participate by suggesting solutions as ‘spect-actors’, taking part to try and change outcomes by either suggesting alternatives or coming up on stage themselves (see an example here). 

These sought to engage target audiences (policy makers, NGO’s, public and private lawyers, academics, private corporations, students and the interested public) in feeding back their perceptions and potential solutions to the problematic case study dramatized in front of them.

The plays, based on a fictional British company’s attempt to privatise a community well in India, were performed over seven nights in Belfast, Dublin, London and the Festival of Ideas in Cambridge. Over 500 members of the interested public attended, got involved in the issues, produced, then voted for 10 clear aims for future legislation to achieve to help solve key aspects of business human rights abuse.

Researched and developed over 2 years, the outcomes that came out of this collaboration include the successful researching, writing, developing and performance of the plays, as well as the audience engagement and impacts on legislation that came out of these.

Through working with Amnesty International, Alan Dignam came to a greater understanding of some of the central problems in the area which will inform his research programme in coming years. Likewise, Amnesty International learned about academic research processes and the potential of forum theatre to engage the public. Indeed, the project created a strong internal and external partnership between all collaborators, which is intended to continue. This building of networks within communities of interest was a key outcome of the project.

The project was documented through film, photo and text and developed as a partnership website with resources and videos of all the performances feely available online at www.HumanRightsAndBusiness.Org.

It is hoped that the website will also draw in more of the community of interest around these themes, and inspire others to develop public engagement projects through interactive forum theatre.

The project was funded by a Queen Mary Centre for Public Engagement Large Award

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