22
Feb

Introducing... Outside the Frame Arts

Posted on: 22nd February 2017 at 00:00
Posted by: PANDA
Location: NW
Discipline: Performance Art

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Who are you and what do you do?

We are a new arts collective based in Manchester which aims to raise the profile of underrepresented and marginalized communities by providing a platform to those absent from the mainstream, using the arts to challenge the status quo. We specifically want to counter the misconceptions about Muslims in Britain and other parts of the world that have contributed to the rise in Islamophobia. We create art projects that dovetail artists and activists.

Can you give some background about Outside the Frame Arts?

Our collective was formed in January 2016 when we came across a new anthology of plays called ‘Inside/Outside: Six Plays from Palestine and the Diaspora.’ We developed a project called ‘Platform for Palestinian Arts’ which aimed to shine a light on and explore the work of Palestinian playwrights and poets with diverse communities. A series of creative writing workshops to inspire new writing were delivered in different spaces working with Palestinian playwrights and with local Black, Asian and Minority Ethic (BAME) artists. We have delivered workshops in collaboration with Manchester Muslim Writers, Hard Rain Poetry, Young Identity at Contact Theatre, Apna Women’s group in Haslingdon and with Commonword.

How did you get involved with Outside the Frame Arts?

Myself, Nikki Mailer (applied theatre practitioner), and Hafsah Aneela Bashir (poet and spoken word artist) wanted to collaborate on a project and we formed Outside The Frame Arts because we had a shared vision of wanting to explore unheard voices and to use the arts to challenge the status quo. Hafsah is Muslim and I am Jewish which underpins a lot of what drives us politically. Through this project we connected with Mahboobeh Rajabi who is an Iranian digital artist and is our digital content producer. We did not have the intention of forming an arts collective at first but this happened naturally through our current project. Outside The Frame Arts was born from a love of collaboration and a strong pull to continue the work which has had such a positive impact. We have had so much support from Anne-Marie at Panda Arts and Ruth Daniel from In Place of War and many other mentors and supporters. It would have been very hard to take the work forward without positivity and practical help from others. We are looking forward to continuing our work.

Why is this type of work important?

We felt it was important to question the gatekeepers of knowledge because the more we looked for different narratives we realised how narrow our education actually was. By engaging with the Palestinian narrative through plays and poetry, it bought us closer towards finding out about the whole human story as opposed to the sound bites given to us through the media. Also, it gives us a chance to interrogate the fact that the arts have and continue to be inherently white spaces and we feel it's really important to challenge and change this so that many more diverse communities are included and engaged with the rich fabric of Manchester and beyond. It’s a place where we believe connections and a better understanding of each other develops and in this current climate of fear and othering, this is extremely important to us.

What are you currently working on?

We are at the end of our project ‘Platform for Palestinian Arts.’ We have received funding from the Radical Arts Fund to continue exploring Palestinian arts and stage one of the plays and also a project that explores connections between the partition of Palestine and the partition of India. We will also be researching and developing a new piece of theatre to not only challenge the misconceptions about women and the Hijab but to explore the complex relationship women have with the cloth based on a spoken word piece by Hafsah.

What do you have coming up?

On March 11th we have our celebration event for our project Platform for Palestinian Arts. In the morning there will be a creative writing workshop with Palestinian playwright Hannah Khalil. In the afternoon there will be readings from the Palestinian plays we have explored, people will share the writing they created inspired by the plays and there will be a Q&A with Ahmed Masoud and Hannah Khalil - two Palestinian playwrights from London. Here is a link to the event.

Why are the arts important?

The arts are a powerful political tool that allow us to imagine other possibilities of how we want to live in this world. The arts have the ability to connect with people in different and powerful ways. At a time when people feel more and more afraid and disillusioned we need to come together to hear stories that have not yet been told and inspire hope for the future.